An InternetNZ survey on the public’s view of the Digital Child Exploitation Filtering System (DCEFS) shows that less than half the respondents had heard of it.
In addition, less than nine percent of respondents knew whether their ISP was using the filter for their internet connection.
“The DCEFS has been fully operational for about two years now, and we wanted to see if people knew about it,” says InternetNZ CEO Vikram Kumar, in a blog post.
“When asked who should make the decision to filter, three quarters of respondents (73 percent) stated that they wanted to either directly choose or have their ISP choose whether a filter is applied to their account versus one quarter (23 percent) wanting the Government to decide.”
The survey also showed that one in four respondents with dependant children have installed their own filtering technology.
However, around two-thirds (66 percent) would support extending the filter, and only 22 percent were opposed to the DCEFS blocking access to material other than images of child sexual abuse.
As to whether respondents thought the filter would help reduce the number of children being sexually abused, 40 percent thought it was likely, and 32 percent thought it unlikely.
InternetNZ policy lead Susan Chalmers says public response to the filter is difficult to test in a survey. For example "the question about scope creep is trying to test a very complex sociological issue," she says.
"Difficult thing to test, so difficult results to interpret. We thought about doing this as initial research, but we don’t have any current plans to continue further research into the topic."
The UMR Research Online Omnibus survey, which was conducted between February 24 and March 5, drew on a nationally representative sample of 1000 New Zealanders aged over 18 years.
DIA was consulted during the drafting of the survey, which cost InternetNZ $5,000 to carry out.
Update: 10 am Thursday April 5
The Department of Internal Affairs has suggested a very different interpretation of the survey results.
According to a DIA spokesperson InternetNZ met with the Department and sought its feedback on the proposed survey.
"In response the Department questioned the appropriateness and neutrality of some of the questions in the survey, although the feedback was not reflected in the survey questions which remained unchanged," says the DIA in an email.
Despite these misgivings about question wording the DIA says the survey results showed that: 46 percent of the public surveyed are aware of the internet filter that is run by the Department of Internal Affairs, and two-thirds of respondents support extending the filter to block access of other material. "This is strong evidence of a widespread public awareness of the internet filter and its purpose, and broad support for the concept of filtering the internet to reduce content which harms children as victims of abuse and also children and young people as internet users," says the spokesperson.