Friday, November 14, 2008

Internet Censorship Will Haunt Rudd Government

During the early noughties I was teaching Year 12 English Studies at Katherine High School in the Northern Territory. A very useful website for studying Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice was The Republic of Pemberley. One year the site was blocked by the NT Department of Education. Apparently their black list was outsourced to a U.S. firm in silicon valley.

Presumably the website was inappropriate because it mentioned prejudice or pre-marital sex or shot-gun marriages. It was possible to correct this gross case of censorship and incompetence and have the site put on their 'White List' but it was too late for the students’ examination revision. This is the inevitable result of politicians and bureaucrats trying to decide what we should have access to on the Internet.

Sometime in the near future the Senate may have to vote on the controversial internet filtering regime currently under construction by the Rudd Labor government. For a range of reasons let’s hope that either it doesn’t come to legislation or it is buried there.

Senator Stephen Conroy’s current trials are unpopular with a diverse range of people.

The criticisms include:

  • it goes too far: it is not just about hard-core pornography; it may censor so-called illegal sites such as those advocating euthanasia
  • as an opt-out system it infringes our freedoms, that is if individuals are able to opt-opt at all
  • it is censorship and like all censors they will start small and grow fast especially if there is no public scrutiny or accountability
  • what is being censored is likely to be kept secret
  • it is impracticable according to many of the ISPs
  • it appears to be made it up as they go along
  • it has numerous technical problems
  • it may slow the internet
  • it will not achieve its goals, uncertain as they are, in particular regarding child pornography
A visit to the Facebook group No Australian Internet Censorship will give some idea of the strength of opposition. A quick 'internet filtering' or "clean feed" web search will reveal a host of negative voices.

Now is the time for the government to walk away from this proposal. Keep or modify the opt-in system that exists now, if they wish. My views on that white elephant can be found at Filtering the Internet or my blog archives.

Kevin Rudd and Stephen Conroy have to drop this scheme now or it will haunt them for years to come. It is incredibly unpopular with many of their own party members and supporters. Even anti-Labor commentators such as Andrew Bolt are against it!

Asher Moses sums up recent opposition in an article in The Age yesterday:
As opposition grows against the Government's controversial plan to censor the internet, the head of one of Australia's largest ISPs has labelled the Communications Minister the worst we've had in the past 15 years.
Net censorship plan backlash
Recent articles at GetUp! detail the growing concern.
From Irene Graham:
If Labor implements non-optional ISP-level filtering, which would be contrary to their 2007 election policy, they will prove beyond doubt that Labor is not trustworthy. Accordingly, regardless of the type/s of material Labor says will be on their secret compulsory blocking list, such statements will not be trustworthy either. Labor's intention to mandate non-optional ISP-level blocking must be opposed.
Secret, unaccountable, censorship is incompatible with democracy
From Colin Jacob:
Technologically, Internet filtering is a real nightmare. Regardless of the scheme adopted, a slowdown in Internet speeds is inevitable, and the more aggressive the filtering, the slower the network access becomes.

...But would the scheme protect children? All signs point to no. Even if the bureaucrats could somehow devise filtering criteria acceptable to all parents, the filters would let too much material through, and would be easy to circumvent.
Filtering at Odds with Broadband Revolution
In these dire economic times, save some money. The money would be better spent on the digital revolution in schools.

Sink this before it helps to sink the government’s credibility.

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4 comments:

Anonymous said...

Keep up the good fight.

This is the single worst policy being pursued at the moment.

There's one thing that might pay to add to your argument. It can't work. Sites will be blocked that should not be blocked. Sites that should be blocked will not be blocked. It can't do anything about chat mediums, which are the real danger to your children. It can't effectively deal with most traffic on the Internet, which is 'peer to peer'. At it's absolute best, this is a false sense of security.

Government should have no role in telling people what they can and can not see in the first place, but Conroy's too thick to get that point.

Many of us have been effectively censored by Conroy's power.

--- Censored ALP Member

Peter said...

Well, if enough people (THAT MEANS YOU, GETUP!!) get on Conroy's case we'll beat those bible bashers.

So, tell it to anyone that will listen - comparisons to china seem to be effective.

Anonymous said...

If this government wants to go beyond one term it will walk away from this.

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