Telstra Having Second Thoughts Over Censorship Plan; Fears Reprisals From Hactivists

from the having-an-impact dept

Well, this is getting interesting. While I still don't approve of the tactics of vigilante hacker groups, it's hard to deny that they're having some impact. After reports came out that Autralian telco giant Telstra was going to start censoring the internet by blocking a bunch of sites the government says are evil, the company has now indicated that it's wavering on its support of the plan, in large part due to fear of hacker reprisal attacks. In the stilted English of The Australian:
It is understood Telstra was last night still grappling with the decision as to whether to commit to the voluntary filter because of fears of reprisals from the internet vigilantes behind a spate of recent cyber attacks.

It is understood the unstructured collective of hackers that identifies itself as Lulz Security, which has an agenda to wreak havoc on corporate and government cyber assets, claiming this is to expose security flaws, is one of Telstra main concerns.
While I don't think the filters are a good idea, and am surprised and impressed by the "effectiveness" of LulzSec's efforts in getting Telstra to be aware that people don't like these filters and that there could be consequences, I do still wonder if this is really the best way to go about these things. Lots of folks will cheer this on because they agree with the end result (no censorship), but what if LulzSec (or a similar group, now that LulzSec says it's going away) makes a unilateral decision on something you disagree with? One of the problems of the censorship plan in Australia is that there's no oversight, and no way to appeal. But isn't that the same thing with those targeted by hactivists? Even if we agree with their general outlook, there's still a very real risk of collateral damage in a different way.

Of course, it's not just Telstra rethinking its position on censoring the internet. Apparently some of the other ISPs who had agreed to take part in this "voluntary" censorship are suddenly saying that it's not definite yet as to whether they'll take part. It sounds like many of these ISPs hoped they could just start censoring the internet without anyone noticing.


Reader Comments (rss)

(Flattened / Threaded)

  •  
    identicon
    That Anonymous Coward, Jun 27th, 2011 @ 6:54am

    "It is understood the unstructured collective of hackers that identifies itself as Lulz Security, which has an agenda to wreak havoc on corporate and government cyber assets, claiming this is to expose security flaws, is one of Telstra main concerns."

    They were afraid of reprisal or more afraid their systems are not as secure as they would like everyone to believe?

    While there could have been collateral damage from Lulzsec doing something about this, Lulzsec would have said sorry if they were in the wrong, rather than hide behind the "its for the children" or other silly claims used to encourage people to accept censorship with no oversight. Nothing Lulzsec could have done would have been as permanent as this filter going live.

    And with all of the renewed coverage of this government censorship, the issue will need to be discussed further and they will, hopefully, consider that maybe the Government is not the right thing to pick what should be filtered.

     

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  •  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jun 27th, 2011 @ 6:59am

    One of the problems of the censorship plan in Australia is that there's no oversight, and no way to appeal.

    No the problem is that there is a censorship plan...

     

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      The eejit (profile), Jun 27th, 2011 @ 7:07am

      Re:

      Well, Autralia is mostly made up of criminals from other nations, it's in History and everything!

      So it makes sense to censor those censured in the past for such grave crimes as Sedition, Selling without License and Piracy.

      So yeah. (Sorry, Gerry T!)

       

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      •  
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        Paul Hobbs (profile), Jun 27th, 2011 @ 7:50am

        Re: Re:

        Don't forget stealing loaves of bread. Heinous crime that one. Personally, I'm rather proud of Australia's convict heritage.

         

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          Niall (profile), Jun 28th, 2011 @ 8:11am

          Re: Re: Re:

          I must admit, if I were given a choice between being exiled from these fair shores with a bunch of criminals, or a bunch of religious loonies, I know which hemisphere *I* would choose!

           

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  •  
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    Hugh S. Myers (profile), Jun 27th, 2011 @ 7:10am

    American West and the guys with guns and ropes

    At some point, if history is any indicator, people begin to take serious offense to the actions of those who would abuse whatever system might be in place. In the history of the West we first had vigilantism then moved to a brief period of hired gun slingers then to something vaguely resembling modern police practice. Perhaps what we are seeing here is a contemporary version. I'm fairly sure that it is what is needed, warts and all...

     

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    identicon
    LyleD, Jun 27th, 2011 @ 7:13am

    This is some scheme cooked up by that Government prat Conroy... He's wrangled it into the NBN agreement after his 'official' righteous Christian plans were scuppered last year..

    As an Aussie, I wouldn't mind them offering (i.e. opt-in, really voluntary) a plan like the UK's BT Clean-feed system.. As long as it's 110% got nothing whatsoever to do with those idiots in power..

    But then again.. even that plan's now up in the air with the Mafiaa trying to usurp it;

    http://torrentfreak.com/hollywood-force-isp-to-use-child-abuse-filter-against-file-sharing-si te-110627/

     

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    Squirrel Brains (profile), Jun 27th, 2011 @ 7:29am

    Collusion only works if everyone agrees...

    Of course, it's not just Telstra rethinking its position on censoring the internet. Apparently some of the other ISPs who had agreed to take part in this "voluntary" censorship are suddenly saying that it's not definite yet as to whether they'll take part. It sounds like many of these ISPs hoped they could just start censoring the internet without anyone noticing.

    The only way voluntary filtering like this would work in the market is if all the major players got together and agreed to it. If one decides not to filter, then there is a lot less incentive for the rest to go along with the plan because consumers will gravitate towards the uncensored provider.

     

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    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jun 27th, 2011 @ 7:30am

    It is a sad commentary when "hactivists" become terrorists, and a company starts making choices out of fear. Those people who support (or cheer on) the actions of the hactivists should really start to wonder about their own morals.

     

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      Jay (profile), Jun 27th, 2011 @ 7:49am

      Re:

      This really isn't new though. Look up the Prisoner's Dilemma. It's better to just do the same thing rather than collude.

      With fear acting as an incentive, it keeps these companies from having embarrassing corporate secrets from being exposed.

      That's a good thing since fear of government isn't working.

       

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      weneedhelp (profile), Jun 27th, 2011 @ 7:52am

      Re:

      terrorists!! Ohhh. Be careful, one man's freedom fighter is another man's terrorist. Sad when "terrorists" in your opinion are fighting against government censorship. Lemme guess, you would suggest a hand holding Kum ba yah fest of a gathering? Where? Oh yeah, in one of those free speech zones 20 miles away from anything.

      "and a company starts making choices out of fear." No difference, between "terrorists" fear, and fear of repercussions from one's own government? How are they different? Rhetorical no need to answer. So terror from a government is accepted, but when it is a group of citizens they are terrorists?


      Psssst! Boooo! Terrorists!!!! Gimme a break.

       

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        Hephaestus (profile), Jun 27th, 2011 @ 9:01am

        Re: Re:

        "you would suggest a hand holding Kum ba yah fest of a gathering?"

        Before you begin singing Kum Ba Yah make sure you have you public performance liscence up to date.

         

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      identicon
      Anonymous Coward, Jun 27th, 2011 @ 8:04am

      Re:

      "It is a sad commentary when "hactivists" become terrorists, and a company starts making choices out of fear. Those people who support (or cheer on) the actions of the hactivists should really start to wonder about their own morals."

      My morals are fine. It's the governments morals I'm worried about.

       

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      identicon
      American A-hole, Jun 27th, 2011 @ 9:20am

      Re:

      Hey, if they have nothing to hide they've got nothing to fear, right?

       

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      identicon
      Anonymous Coward, Jun 27th, 2011 @ 10:23am

      Re:

      "It is a sad commentary when "hactivists" become terrorists, and a company starts making choices out of fear. Those people who support (or cheer on) the actions of the hactivists should really start to wonder about their own morals."

      Free trumps morality every time.

       

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        DannyB (profile), Jun 28th, 2011 @ 9:57am

        Re: Re:

        No.

        Free trumps legality every time.

        Free IS moral. Legal may or may not be moral.



        We must criminalize teenagers who lip sync to popular songs in their bedroom and then upload a YouTube video of the "performance". Coming soon to a jail near you: It's Legal! It's the law of the land!

         

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      Niall (profile), Jun 28th, 2011 @ 8:16am

      Re:

      It is a sad commentary when "hactivists" are labelled as terrorists, and a company only starts making responsible choices out of a rightful fear of exposure of its sins. Those people who denigrate (or criticise) the actions of the hactivists should really start to wonder about their own morals.

      FTFY

       

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    Comboman (profile), Jun 27th, 2011 @ 7:38am

    Priorities

    Fear of upsetting their paying customers was not an issue (it's good to be a monopoly), but fear of upsetting hackers who could show up their poor security makes them question their poor decisions. Sad.

     

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    charliebrown (profile), Jun 27th, 2011 @ 7:57am

    Some ISP's are planning to use the filter to prove to the government that it does not work.

    The Australian Minister for Communications and the (LOL) Digital Economy is Senator Stephen Conroy. If you're Australian, tell him what you think of the filter. Not that he's listening.

     

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    PrometheeFeu (profile), Jun 27th, 2011 @ 7:59am

    As much as I tend to be against "hacktivism" as shortsighted and a violation of rights, I can also see an upside. The Australian government has been having its fun coercing and bullying the ISPs into implementing censorship. Ideally, we would like the government and private companies to listen to reason and do the right thing because it's the right thing. But here, what some "hacktivists" are doing is saying: "Look, you want to do what the government is saying because otherwise you'll get beat up by their thugs. It turns out if you do what they say, we'll send our thugs and beat you up. So forget about not being beat up, it's going to happen either way. So now, you're free of pressure, you can just do the right thing." It makes me uncomfortable, but not that much. After all, if the government lets up, such groups will probably mostly fade away.

     

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    Hulser (profile), Jun 27th, 2011 @ 8:01am

    claiming this is to expose security flaws

    Hmmm, maybe I just haven't been following this story closely enough, but I thought the goal of Lulsec was retribution for company's that do stupid shit like install rootkits and that poor security was just the means by which this "higher" goal was achieved. But regardless of what their stated goals may be, based on their targets, I'd say it's obvious that their real goal is retribution.

     

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    Brian Schroth (profile), Jun 27th, 2011 @ 8:13am

    "but what if LulzSec (or a similar group, now that LulzSec says it's going away) makes a unilateral decision on something you disagree with?"

    You mean like if Telstra decided to censor the internet?

     

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    identicon
    out_of_the_blue, Jun 27th, 2011 @ 8:22am

    Hackers rule! -- OR NOT.

    Again, when you see a TINY group appearing to have an effect, suspect it. For instance, I'd bet that /most/ if not all of this ISP's customers would like to see lower rates, but somehow an obviously desirable /actual/ popular effect never comes about.

    This, along with many similar /stunts, may be sheer propaganda to think that ordinary people have power and /can/ effect change -- they DO, but not by on-line stunts; in practice corporate officers like all of The Ruling Class throughout history would have to be dragged out into the street and hung from the nearest tree before they change.

    THEATER can be used against you too. Just because you root for the valiant "hackers" here, don't be blind that it may be sheerly THEATER for the purpose of lulling people to sleep. My bet is that the "voluntary" censorship goes in right on schedule.

     

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      Niall (profile), Jun 28th, 2011 @ 8:17am

      Re: Hackers rule! -- OR NOT.

      What, a TINY group like the **AAs and the government? I'm sure as a percentage of the total population they are pretty small!

       

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    David Good (profile), Jun 27th, 2011 @ 8:23am

    It comes down to money

    A company like Telstra has investors, and if it doesn't, it has clients who have investors. By agreeing to censorship and potentially opening themselves up to retribution, they risk the stock prices of their investors should the hacking have an impact.

    So while their backpedalling may seem like they are scared of hackers, it's as close as they are going to get to saving face in the light of the possibility that a decision based on PR could affect them in the pocketbook.

     

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    identicon
    PRMan, Jun 27th, 2011 @ 9:03am

    What if?

    "but what if LulzSec (or a similar group, now that LulzSec says it's going away) makes a unilateral decision on something you disagree with?"

    Then they'll take a single step down a long path of becoming like my government.

     

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      identicon
      Anonymous Coward, Jun 27th, 2011 @ 10:48am

      Re: What if?

      They already have, except you can't vote them out of office.

      Remember, Australia's government is by the people, 99% voter turnout, open elections.

      lulsec? Oh yeah, they are accountable. not.

       

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    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jun 27th, 2011 @ 9:48am

    This is the best case scenario for these hacking groups. Their hacking raises the costs of business that are doing something wrong ( in this case censorship). The ISP is a business and most likely does a cost / benefit analysis before making decisions like this. The hacking groups raise the cost of censorship since the ISP has to spend more to defend against targeted hacking as a results of their decisions.
    This provides additional incentives for companies to do the right thing for the customer.

     

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    cc (profile), Jun 27th, 2011 @ 10:41am

    Is extralegal censorship not a vigilante tactic on the part of the entertainment industry?

     

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    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jun 27th, 2011 @ 10:58am

    Liberty

    Freedom

    I want both.

     

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    identicon
    FM Hilton, Jun 27th, 2011 @ 1:31pm

    "Remember, Australia's government is by the people, 99% voter turnout, open elections. "

    According to a friend of mine who happens to live in Australia, that "99%" voter turnout is required. You have to either vote or pay for not having voted. A kind of a super poll tax.
    Sure-vote all you want-doesn't make a bit of difference because the private companies aren't elected officials.

     

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      Niall (profile), Jun 28th, 2011 @ 8:22am

      Re:

      Funny how in most democracies the voter turnout is way lower. It is only in dictatorships that they normally 'require' people to vote in order to pretend that they have a semblance of legitimacy.

      For all you know, 50% of those votes could have been chosen at random and therefore not represent anyone's will.

       

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    identicon
    FM Hilton, Jun 27th, 2011 @ 1:31pm

    "Remember, Australia's government is by the people, 99% voter turnout, open elections. "

    According to a friend of mine who happens to live in Australia, that "99%" voter turnout is required. You have to either vote or pay for not having voted. A kind of a super poll tax.
    Sure-vote all you want-doesn't make a bit of difference because the private companies aren't elected officials.

     

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    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jun 27th, 2011 @ 6:00pm

    Mike, whence cometh this word 'hactivist'? The accepted spelling is 'hacktivist'.

     

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    Chris in Utah (profile), Jun 27th, 2011 @ 10:57pm

    Mike?

    "...but what if LulzSec (or a similar group, now that LulzSec says it's going away) makes a unilateral decision on something you disagree with?..."

    You want to get in the grit of it Mike? A great man once said you cannot have freedom without civil disobedience. Next time the hypothetical comes to mind such as if = dislike of something first ask the end result. Was it intended? Is this what this group set out to do?

    If you so dam worried about when the results are finished what happens to this group of skills. How about government (or those sponsoring it) fearing the people as any freedom based culture requires.

    Lulzsec, in my opinion, is needed in this day and age. Need an example? Ever realize you've writ cognitive dissonance more this past month then I care to recall in 8 odd years.

     

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    Paul, Jun 28th, 2011 @ 1:20am

    What Alternative????

    If LulzSec isn't the answer to authoritarian government (like a mandatory national internet filter) then what is?

    LulzSec represent 'the people' and in general are on the side of 'common sense' and 'common good'. They aren't out with heavy arms shooting people in the streets and just taking peoples freedoms by force, they are fight AGAINST such dictatorships and thank goodness are proving to be effective.

    2011 will go down in political history as the year the internet facilitated global people power. The clock can't be turned back by authoritarian governments who want to sensor political opposition (amongst them, the Australian government!)

    LulzSec are the cutting edge of on-line activism, and the thin end of the wedge. This version of people power can only grow from here!

     

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    Luke, Jun 28th, 2011 @ 1:28am

    Corporations Need To Be Taken Down A Peg

    I agree with what you are saying here, that it may not be the best approach but when all other approaches fail against these multi-billion dollar corps, there's not much else left. Telstra have been squeezing the Australian public ever since it was privatised.. nothing's going to change unless they are afraid. It really is the only way with these bigger corps.

     

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    Richard (profile), Jun 28th, 2011 @ 5:40am

    I actually read another article on this story last night (was on ITNews.com.au, don't have a link) where they were saying that the filter was not going to be using the ACMA blacklist, but rather the Interpol list. I actually have a better time accepting that list, as my impression (without research) is that it is maintained by international law enforcement, rather then governments. It has it's flaws (for example, definition of "underage" has been done "by comittee" and so is therefore 13, not the 18 it commonly is in Australia and other countries) but I see it as being a kind of neutral 3rd party, rather then something controlled and run by our government, who definitely have a vested interested in what the people see in the media.
    I am a little concerned that Telstra might decide to start filtering the internet for their wholesale customers as well, thus ISPs who actually don't wish to enforce this filter on their customers will end up doing so simply because they use Telstras hardware. Although I'm not entirely sure that's how it can work, so feel free to point out my error any techs out there.

     

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