The Rabbit Proof Firewall
News Item: Moses, A (2009,02,26). Web censorship plan heads towards a dead end. Brisbane Times, Retrieved 2009,03,02, from http://www.brisbanetimes.com.au/news/technology/web-censorship-plan-heads-towards-a-dead-end/2009/02/26/1235237821636.html
A. Presentation of the Issue
In December 2007, the Australian government revealed plans to initiate an Australia wide filter for illegal and ‘questionable’ content on the Internet (ABC, 2007). Said plans were met with thunderous opposition and criticism (Moses, 2009), not only because of unfair censorship and possible government exploitation, but also because the filter could cripple Australia’s already comparatively slow Internet speeds (Pauli, 2008). The need for this measure to protect users originates from the rapid increase of content on the Internet.
In early 2008, only 18 years after the Internet went public, the Internet reached the point where it had 150 million websites (Agarwal, 2008). This amazing progression of technology does have disturbing drawbacks. While Internet users can find any content, this content may be illegal or disturbing such as child pornography and terrorism advocacy websites. In order to protect people, particularly impressionable children, a number of countries have implemented nationwide, mandatory Internet filtering schemes. (Leach, 2008)
This process also has its drawbacks. The government having control over what its people can and cannot see, may lead to the government exploiting this power to hide criticisms of it from its people. An example of this is the well-documented case involving the internet filter in the Peoples Republic of China, dubbed ‘The Great Firewall of China’.
B. IT Background of the Issue
The man accredited as ‘father of the internet’, Sir Timothy Berners-Lee, an employee of the European Centre for Nuclear Research (CERN), proposed the use of hypertext to allow for collaboration on research in the high energy physics department at CERN. Soon after his World Wide Web was developed, the Internet became available to the public, where its popularity boomed. In the decade since 1991, the number of web servers grew from one to 24,000,000 (Gribble, 2009). Since 1995 there has been an exponential increase in registered websites, with over 150 billion today (Figure 1)
Figure 1 (Agarwal, 2008): graph showing exponential increase in web content.
Sites such as Wikipedia and MySpace can have hundreds of thousands, if not millions of individual web pages within them. The Internet archive, which records the more significant of websites for historical reference has amassed over 85 billion web documents in its archives (Brewster, 2006). This shows the true scope of the internet, an immense information sharing network where a user can find anything they need online, from text to images, audio recordings and video through the ease of Hypertext navigation.
Web content filters work by analysing the packets...