Telco slow to act on porn posts

, posted: 6-Apr-2004 22:57

The administrator of a website popular with children claims he has had to ban all TelstraClear subscribers in order to prevent one of the internet provider's users from posting offensive pornographic material. According to Melbourne-based Max Barry, a novelist who runs game site, the TelstraClear customer "spammed the NationStates forum many times over several weeks with the most offensive pornographic images imaginable, mostly from [a porn site with a Christmas Island domain] but other things too, including child pornography".

The NationStates website lets you create and manage your own virtual country, with many children participating in the game, said Barry who wrote the corporate satire Jennifer Government. His online game follows the theme of the book, allowing users to play Government based on their personal preferences.

Due to TelstraClear routing all its customers via a single proxy server, it was not possible for Barry to identify
the offender by a unique IP (internet protocol) address. However, emails seen by the Herald show that TelstraClear's abuse desk is also unable to track its abusive customer due to the proxy server masking customers' IP addresses.

Rob Malda, founder of the popular Slashdot news and discussion web forum in the United States, confirmed that proxy servers were a problem. "We ban proxy servers all the time," Malda said, citing frequent abuse.

Barry said that unlike other internet providers who take swift action against abusive customers, TelstraClear had not reacted despite being sent 13 complaints over a month.

Notified by the Herald about the issue, TelstraClear web marketing manager, Michael Smith, expressed surprise that it had not been resolved given the lengthy time frame.

"We have zero tolerance on this type of abuse," said Smith. However, he admitted the masking caused by the caches was an unintentional side-effect and that he would "stress this to the technical staff".

Smith also promised TelstraClear would endeavour to discover the identity of the abuser but said it would be
difficult thanks to the volume of internet logs generated by customers. Finally, Smith said that he would contact Barry to resolve the issue and hoped that access to would be restored for TelstraClear customers soon.

After the ban on TelstraClear users who are routed via the proxy server, Barry said the abuser connected to the site from Kavanagh College in Dunedin. Barry said he filed a complaint with the principal, who in turn promised to investigate the matter.

The offensive postings ended after Barry banned the IP address of Kavanagh College's network from accessing his website. Kavanagh College principal Paul Ferris said the complaint was investigated immediately but no connection with the school was found.

"It's probable a student was simply browsing the [NationStates] site around the time someone was hacking the site," said Ferris. Kavanagh students using school machines are technically prevented from uploading images to the internet, but the pornographic images posted to NationStates' forums were in the form of html links to other websites.

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The problem with naming and shaming

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