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With Tom Worthington FACS, Visiting Fellow, Department of Computer Science, Australian National University
Internet content filtering, 27 March 2002
The Minister for Communications, Information Technology and the Arts, Senator Richard Alston, today welcomed two Internet filtering initiatives, set to improve families’ ability to manage their online experience.
The Internet Industry Association (IIA) has launched its ‘IIA Family Friendly ISP Program’—a trustmark initiative, consisting of a Ladybird logo, that identifies Internet Service Providers who are compliant with the industry Codes of Practice.
ISPs who display the logo will guarantee information and support for customers in choosing the best approach to Internet monitoring, and provide Internet filtering tools to complement parental supervision of children’s Internet usage...
The launch of the program coincides with the release of a joint Australian Broadcasting Authority (ABA) and NetAlert report on the effectiveness of Internet filter products.
The comprehensive study—conducted by the CSIRO—details the performance of 14 products. Each was thoroughly tested across almost 900 web sites in 28 categories.
The report will complement the important role of the ABA and NetAlert in educating the community about the options available for Internet content filtering, providing another valuable avenue for parents to explore when planning for their family’s Internet needs...
Family friendly approach to Internet content filtering, media release, Minister for Communications, Information Technology and the Arts, 67/02 26 March 2002
IIA Family Friendly ISP" (Ladybird) seal
Australian ISPs bearing this seal have agreed to comply with the IIA Codes of Practice. Under the IIA Codes, ISPs are required to provide their users with certain information, plus the option of obtaining a "scheduled" content filter (ie. one that is on the IIA schedule of filters attached to the Codes).
... In general terms, filters are computer programs designed to limit access to certain types of content on the internet. It is important to note that the use of filters is not mandatory in Australia, either under law or the IIA Codes. Users can choose whether or not to install filters, and if and when to activate them. Likewise, ISPs are not required to filter or monitor internet traffic. However, the IIA recognises that some families find filters a useful addition to direct parental supervision, and for that reason supports their availability.
Filters operate in different ways, and different filters will be better suited to different operating environments and age groups. More information about filters can be obtained from either the ABA or NetAlert websites (addresses are shown below). In addition, the list of IIA filters currently 'scheduled' in our Codes is also show below. ISPs must offer a scheduled filter to be compliant with the IIA Codes.
From Content regulation guide for Australian ISPs, IIA, 26 March 2002
Report on effectiveness of Internet filter software
The Australian Broadcasting Authority and NetAlert today released a report on the effectiveness of Internet filter products. The report provides details on the performance of 14 products. Almost nine hundred web sites in 28 categories were used to conduct the tests...
The report shows that available products differ in their effectiveness in blocking certain types of content. Variations in effectiveness appear to be related to the blocking techniques used by different products, with those products that combine two or more techniques generally performing better.
As is to be expected, products that employ 'inclusion filtering' (or 'white lists') are the most efficient at blocking offensive content, as they allow users to access a preselected set of sites that have been assessed for their suitability. However, as a consequence, they also block a significant amount of content that may not necessarily be offensive...
Products based on URL and keyword 'black lists' are effective in blocking particular types of unwanted content in most cases. The research indicates that products that employ human verification of black lists tend to be the more accurate in blocking offensive content, and are less likely to block access to suitable content. Filters of this type are likely to be more suitable for families with older children, with requirements to access a broader range of content.
From Report on effectiveness of Internet filter software, ABA News release, NR25/2002 26 March 2002
The ABA's web site for families, www.cybersmartkids.com.au, contains information for children and parents to help ensure their Internet safety...
The general approach of the research was to answer the following questions for each of the scheduled filters: Is it easy to install, configure, use and update? Is it easy to disable or bypass? How well does it stop access to undesirable content? Does it stop access to desirable content as well? Can it effectively track access?
Filtering effectiveness was tested by installing the product under test and then attempting to access all of the Web pages on our standard test list. This list includes 895 sites covering 28 subject categories, and includes both sites that could be expected to be blocked and sites to which access should be allowed...
In addition to commissioning the report from the CSIRO, the ABA is monitoring international developments relating to filter software, particularly in Europe, where the European Union has funded a range of projects to develop improved filter technologies that can be used by Internet users across Europe (http://www.saferinternet.org/filtering/index.asp). A discussion of these developments can be found at www.aba.gov.au/internet/eufiltering.pdf .
From: BACKGROUNDER, Report on effectiveness of Internet filter software, ABA News release, NR25/2002 26 March 2002
The actual report is a careful 90- page study:
The first two criteria were tested using carefully constructed lists of Web sites, containing both sites with content that could be expected to be blocked and sites with content that should pass through untouched. This standard test list was developed with the assistance of the ABA and NetAlert and covered the following types of sites and content: Pornography/erotica Art/Photography Nudism Glamour/Lingerie models Swimsuit models Sex Education Contraception Abortion Sexual Health Medical/Health Gay Rights/Politics Politics Drug Education Drug policy Free Speech Filtering Information Racist/supremacist/nazi/hate Cults Drug Advocacy Macabre/Gross content Bomb-making/terrorism/– History of facism/racism Anti-racism/hate Atheism/anti-church Profanity Anarchy/revolutionary/ Sex laws/issues/– Redirectors
From 4.5 Determining Effectiveness, Effectiveness of Internet Filtering Software Products, Prepared for NetAlert and the Australian Broadcasting Authority, Paul Greenfield, Peter Rickwood, Huu Cuong Tran, CSIRO Mathematical and Information Sciences, September 2001
Care and diligence has been taken to obtain an accurate understanding of each product's capabilities and shortcomings. However, the necessarily limited time available to install, test, document, and de-install each product makes it possible that some products™ features (or shortcomings) may not have been fully appreciated. Consider, for example, testing each product's effect on performance and stability. Stability and performance of a computer are notoriously hard to test, as they can be affected by numerous transient factors that have nothing do to with any installed filtering product.
From 4.7 Notes on test results, Effectiveness of Internet Filtering Software Products, Prepared for NetAlert and the Australian Broadcasting Authority, Paul Greenfield, Peter Rickwood, Huu Cuong Tran, CSIRO Mathematical and Information Sciences, September 2001
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