Friday, November 21, 2008

Labor Responses to Internet Filtering Outcry

Sent out email last Friday to most Federal and State ALP members of parliament with a link to Internet Censorship Will Haunt Rudd Government. Have received 5 replies so far:

  • From Amanda Fazio, New South Wales MLC, supporting the dumping of the policy. Her speech to the Legislative Council can be found at: Internet Censorship
  • The second was a very private email that went astray, from the office of a Victorian MLA . Didn't receive a reply when I bounced it back. My lips are sealed.
  • A response from Senator Kate Lundy's office, offering to forward any messages to Senator Conroy.
  • From my Facebook friend the Finance Minister, Lindsay Tanner. The text seems to be a media release but was appreciated anyway.
  • Chris Hayes MHR for Werriwa has sent the same response.
They are "aware that the proposal for ISP filtering has attracted some criticism from those, like yourself, who are concerned that it will lead to censorship of the internet. However, the Australian Government has no plans to stop adults from viewing material that is currently legal, if they wish to view such material.

The Government regards freedom of speech as very important and the Government’s cyber-safety policy is in no way designed to curtail this.

The internet is an essential tool for all Australian children through which they can exchange information, be entertained, socialise and do school work and research. The ability to use online tools effectively provides both a skill for life and the means to acquire new skills.

However, while the internet has created substantial benefits for children it has also exposed them to a number of dangers, including exposure to offensive content. As such, parents rightly expect the Government to play its part in the protection of children online.

The Government has committed $125.8 million over the next four years to a comprehensive range of cyber-safety measures, including law enforcement, filtering and education. Measures include:

· Australian Federal Police (AFP) Child Protection Operations Team - funding to detect and investigate online child sex exploitation;
· Commonwealth Director of Public Prosecutions - funding to help deal with the increased activity resulting from the work of the AFP to ensure that prosecutions are handled quickly;
· ISP level filtering - funding to develop and implement ISP filtering, including undertaking a real world ‘live’ pilot;
· Education activities - funding to the Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA) to implement a comprehensive range of education activities;
· Websites / Online helpline - funding to ACMA to improve current Government
cyber-safety website resources and to make them easier for parents to use, and to provide up‑to‑date information. ACMA will also develop a children’s cyber-safety website to provide information specifically for children, and improve the online helpline to provide a quick and easy way for children to report online incidents that cause them concern;
· Consultative Working Group - funding for an expanded Consultative Working Group. The Group will consider the broad range of cyber-safety issues and advise the Government, to ensure properly developed and targeted policy initiatives;
· Youth Advisory Group - funding for a Youth Advisory Group which will provide advice to the Consultative Working Group on cyber-safety issues from a young person’s perspective; and
· Research - funding for ongoing research into the changing digital environment to identify issues and target future policy and funding.

These initiatives will tackle the issue of cyber-safety from a number of directions to help clean up the online environment and protect Australian children from the dangers of the internet now and into the future. This approach acknowledges the key role parents and carers have in the online safety of children, and provides them with the necessary information to assist with this task. This initiative also recognises that there is no single solution to ensure children can access the internet safely.

A key part of the Government’s plan to make the internet a safer place for children is the introduction of ISP level filtering. The policy reflects our community’s growing belief that ISPs should take some responsibility for enabling the blocking of illegal material on the internet. Filtering would cover illegal and prohibited content using an expanded ACMA blacklist of prohibited sites, which includes images of the sexual abuse of children.

Consideration is being given to more sophisticated filtering techniques for those individual families who wish to exclude additional online content in their own homes.

The Government wants to ensure that Australian parents can access a ‘clean feed’ internet service. This will be informed by the technology adopted in countries such as the United Kingdom, France, Sweden, Norway, Finland and Canada where ISP filtering, predominantly of child pornography, has been successfully introduced without affecting internet performance to a noticeable level.

The Government’s ISP filtering policy is being developed through an informed and considered approach, including industry consultation and close examination of overseas models to assess their suitability for Australia.

ACMA recently completed an extensive laboratory trial of available ISP filtering technology. The trial looked specifically at the effect of a range of filter products on network performance, effectiveness in identifying and blocking illegal and inappropriate content, scope to filter non-web traffic, and the ability to customise the filter to the requirements of different end-users.

The laboratory trial indicated that ISP filtering products have developed in their effectiveness since they were last assessed in 2005. The Government will now proceed with a ‘live’ pilot in the second half of 2008 which will provide valuable information on the effectiveness and efficiency of filters installed in a ‘real world’ ISP network. An Expression of Interest will be released in due course seeking the participation of ISPs in the pilot.

The Government is committed to working closely with internet industries to address any concerns, including costs and internet speeds. These concerns will be carefully considered during the pilot and will further inform the Government’s cyber‑safety policy."

As yet there is no response from the Minister for Broadband, Communications and the Digital Economy, Senator Stephen Conroy. Perhaps his email is vetted too well or perhaps not well enough. Or perhaps the reply went astray. It does happen.

By the intensity of the opposition on the blogosphere, his office is probably receiving a lot of hostile email. There are now more than 20 Facebook groups against the internet filtering proposal.

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clarencegirl said...

Basically most Federal Labor MPs are singing from the same song sheet and writing from the same media release.
Received something very similar from my own MP.
'Forget the needs of business or the legitimate needs of adults - think of the poor defenseless childers!'
I've finally resorted to using Twitter and blog posts to get the message across.
Because the announced Christmas Eve starting date of the ISP-level filtering live trial is a bit of a con and individual ISPs can begin as soon as they have signed the agreement, everyone should be getting their alternative systems in place now so that they can survive Conroy's madness.

Kevin Rennie said...

Go clarencegirl!

lauredhel said...

"A response from Senator Kate Lundy's office, offering to forward any messages to Senator Conroy."

So much for representative democracy.

I've had no response from Senator Conroy's office, nor from Fielding's. Bob Brown's office and Nick Xenophon's office both replied, as did Scott Ludlam's (in some detail, and with ensuing conversation).

"Only reply to citizens' emails if you agree with them" seems to be the order of the day from Labor and Family First, on this unrepresentative and tiny sample.

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