The rise of the secret censor

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New Zealand’s internet filtering system went live last month – but the government forgot to mention this to its electorate until its hand was forced by online freedom campaign, Tech Liberty.

Thomas Beagle, a spokesman for the group, said he was "very disappointed that the filter is now running" and that its launch had been conducted in such a "stealthy mode". He added: "It's a sad day for the New Zealand internet."

In an interview with Computerworld this week, he claimed that the filter had gone live on February 1 but the Department of Internal Affairs (DIA) delayed announcing this at until it had met with its Independent Reference Group.

The manager of the DIA’s Censorship Compliance Unit, Steve O'Brien, denied that there had been any subterfuge. The system has been undergoing trials for two years and the media have been aware of this throughout.

He said: "The Independent Reference Group has met and the filter system processes were demonstrated as set out in the code of practice, that is that the website filtering system prevents access to known websites containing images of child sexual abuse."

While the DIA continues to be coy about exactly which ISPs are joining the filter, Tech Liberty understands that Watchdog and MaxNet have already signed-up to deploy the filter system, and that ISPs Telstra Clear, Telecom and Vodafone have said they will do so.

Orcon, Slingshot and Natcom have said that they won't or, in the case of Orcon, that more data is needed as to how the filter will impact customer service.

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