InternetNZ calls for caution on content blocking

Necessity, proportionality and transparency of content blocking need to be assessed

InternetNZ has released a paper examining different options for blocking undesirable content on the Internet. It sets a high bar for any possible government-mandated restrictions on the Internet, but recommends other options that could be pursued to address the problem.

“We think Internet openness depends on ISPs delivering to users the Internet packets that make the Internet work without interference, discrimination or surveillance,” InternetNZ says.

“In the Internet era, using tools that impact the functioning of core Internet infrastructure has important implications for human rights. This includes the right to free expression, affirmed in New Zealand law as the freedom to seek, receive, and share any kind of information in any form.”

It says government-mandated content restriction by ISPs undermines New Zealanders’ trust in the Internet and any government actions need to be assessed against a high threshold of necessity, proportionality, transparency, accountability and due process by a competent authority.

It says any option considered must carefully decide whether the harm prevented is worth the risk that the blocking method might cause to the Internet.

“Make the trade-offs very clear — what is to be gained by implementing filters, and blocking content, versus the risk to core infrastructure.”

InternetNZ warns that any content filtering or blocking proposal faces technical hurdles of implementation, circumvention, and side effects.

It says any legislative options need to be designed on a clear problem definition and should be the least intrusive solution available.

It recommends the option of personal and local network filters and suggests investment into public education and media literacy to increase the effectiveness of such an option.

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