It’s a shame that some major news organisations were happy to run a rehash of Senator Conroy’s can-do-no-wrong press release about the Tassie filtering trial report. Thankfully, not all media was so accepting.
In Crikey, Stilgherrian points out that even though the report found ‘most’ filters achieved over a 92% success rate in blocking sites, 1 in 13 naughty sites are not blocked.
Similarly, the “low levels” of overblocking (incorrectly blocking legitimate content) are, at best, still 1%. With more than a million registered domain names in Australia (a loose measure of “sites”) even a 1% false positive rate means 10,000 perfectly acceptable websites are blocked. That?s with the best product. Under ideal lab conditions. The least successful of the products tested was eight times worse.
And Stuart Corner for iTWire writes:
Perhaps the most significant limitation of the trial was that it was conducted with a simulated tier 3 ISP, one that purchases outbound transport from other networks to reach the Internet.
ACMA said that it was not feasible in the trial to assess how the performance results for the selected products might scale to a tier 2 ISP – one which directly peers on the same level of hierarchy but must purchase outbound transport to reach some portion of the Internet – or a Tier 1 ISP.
As the latter account for the bulk of Australian Internet customers, one has to wonder just how useful this trial has been.
I also had the opportunity to discuss what I thought about the report with ComputerWorld Magazine. You can read that here, but in short I expressed concern over the high false positive rate of the filters (1 – 8%) and the miniscule amount of URLs tested (3390).
Dale Clapperton from EFA said in the same article that the government needs to provide more information on what content will be blocked. He ‘expressed concern that the blacklists in the trials were set to ban all material rated from R18+ to a “strong” M.’