New Zealand Wants to Block Internet

WELLINGTON, New Zealand—New Zealand wants to set up a blockade—of the internet.

The Register reports that policing will be overseen by the Department of Internal Affairs. The prime targets are child pornography and bestiality websites, not adult porn, proponents have said.

According to the agency, the block list will first focus on child porn. The DIA’s Censorship Compliance Unit has compiled a list of more than 7,000 sites containing child pornography. This is said to be an extremely high number if it's just New Zealand. Currently, the country does not block sites, though possession and publication of obscene material falls under the Films, Videos, and Publications Classification Act 1993.

Opponents are concerned about opening the door to web censorship as the DIA appears to have little oversight. There are various other issues as well, and many suggest that some sites with legitimate content could blocked and those who accidentally find themselves trying to access a banned site could potentially face investigation.

The agency has so far refused to release its block list, claiming it could be "likely to prejudice the maintenance of the law, including the prevention, investigation, and detection of offences, and the right to a fair trial."

Blocking will be voluntary at first for internet service providers, though this could change. ISPs that choose to go ahead with blocking will be advised to use the government-sanctioned NetClean Whitebox routing protocol system.

Also, it is unknown whether or not the names of individuals attempting to access blocked sites will have their names passed on to law enforcement. A similar blocking proposal recently surfaced in Germany, but officials backed off.

ISPs that have already agreed to participate include hug, Watchdog, Maxnet and TelstraClear; Telecom (Xtra) and Vodafone are interested but haven't signed on.

Find out more about the blocking proposal here.

In areas of copyright, New Zealand is looking at a graduated response "three strikes" proposal. Such efforts were shouted down—literally—in the government and by the public earlier this year, even opposed by musicians.

Ars Technica reports that the proposal has been revived, with responsibility for cutting off infringers shifting from ISPs to a government Copyright Tribunal as a mediator in cases.

Meanwhile, next door in Australia, where the block list controversy has been going on all year, the politician some call "the most hated man in Australia" and an "internet villain"—Senator Stephen Conroy—is raising ire again, also pushing for a three-strikes policy.

On Aussie TV Tuesday night, the Communications Minister said the government will “facilitate development of an appropriate solution to the issue of unauthorized file sharing.”

Conroy's internet filtering scheme, dubbed "The Great Aussie Firewall," appears to be losing support from all quarters, according to TorrentFreak.

The groups Save the Children, Civil Liberties Australia and the National Children’s and Youth Law Center all called on the government to drop filtering plans, saying it will not protect children from viewing explicit material or stop child pornography.