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"...public opinion deserves to be respected as well as despised" G.W.F. Hegel, 'Philosophy of Right'

internet censorship « Previous | |Next »
November 12, 2008

I see that the Rudd Government is pressing ahead with its promise of protecting people from unwanted material. It has just called for expressions of interests from ISPs keen to participate in live trials of the proposed internet filtering system. The proposed filtering system is both a mandatory filtering of all "illegal material", and a second optional filter to block content deemed inappropriate for children, such as pornography. The claims by the Rudd Government that it is working within the boundaries of economic and political liberalism are undermined by mandatory filtering.

No Clean Feed - Stop Internet Censorship in Australia

The justification for "mandatory" censorship is unclear---- Senator Conroy is going beyond Labor's election promise on this, as Labor had a policy of an optional filter for those who wanted it. We know that the first tier filters includes a blacklist of thousands of illegal web pages (a compulsory URL blacklist ) managed by the Australian Communications and Media Authority. We also know that Senator Conroy plans to extend the list in future -- to include terrorist material?

The definition of "illegal material" has been left vague, and presumably it is close to what the Australian Family Association and the Australian Christian Lobby define as inappropriate material, or what is needed to keep the internet safe for families. These moral panic social conservatives assume that unfettered access to the internet harms the fabric of Australian society and that anyone that does not want to be filtered, must be for the sexual abuse of children.

The pilot is only about technical implementation, and will not address freedom of speech concerns over what might be added to the blacklists in the future---the 'unwanted or inappropriate material.'

I guess it won't matter for the 2 million subscribers who remain on dial-up, despite the widespread availability of ADSL because their preference is not to pay for broadband; nor for the 25% of all households who do not have a computer. Nor does it matter to "clean feed" Conroy that mandatory ISP filtering inaccurately blocks content which should not be blocked; slows subscribers down even as he proposes to build a faster national network; reduces the ability of parents to adjust their filtering preferences to suit their own parental judgement about what is best for their children.

It is ineffective at inspecting or blocking “Peer to Peer” traffic that comprises over 60% of Australia’s Internet traffic; and is easily circumvented, either using a free web proxy, which acts as a middle man between you and the site you want to see, or an encrypted tunnel to the United States.

There seems to be little argument from the cultural conservatives for why there is a need to shift from a PC-based filtering system to an ISP one or little concern that a mandatory filtering system places Australia in the same basket as China, Iran and Saudi Arabia. They misrepresent their critics as equating freedom of speech with watching child pornography. Mandatory filtering is another example of the social conservative's authoritarianism and antagonism towards individual freedom.

| Posted by Gary Sauer-Thompson at 5:03 AM | | Comments (16)


I had low expectations of a Rudd Government so I did not expect to find myself disappointed at their behaviour. But I am.

Is there anything about this government that would not get the whole-hearted approval of B A Santamaria and the NCC? Looks like the DLP won in the end after all.

the Conroy-led faction of the rightwing Victorian Labor sure looks right at home with Family First. Two peas in the same (DLP) pod as my grandmother would say. "Clean feed" Conroy is playing to the conservative working class (Howard battler) base in classic Karl Rove style. Can he deliver? Or is he going through the political motions?

A question: will the Liberal Party oppose mandatory internet filtering in favour of voluntary PC based filtering in the Senate? Or will their social conservative base cause them to fold?

The Greens will for sure given their persistent questioning of an evasive, dissembling Conroy about what is going on, and their commitment to individual liberty.

"Clean feed" Conroy's understanding of individual freedom is limited to watching soccer on free-to-air television.

"Clean feed" Conroy---love it.

"Clean feed" Conroy is deliberately picking a fight with liberal Australia. You can see it in the way that he responds to criticism----the response is designed to antagonize the critics by characterizing them as porn sniffers and traffickers, desiring to corrupt the innocent and trawling for sex slaves.

"Clean feed" Conroy must reckon that he has the majority on his side against those who base their lives on self-expressive individual liberty. Rightwing Labor has decided to fight the cultural wars against the libertarian impulse of 1968 and return us to the pre-Whitlam days.

In doing so they have also picked up a fight with the entrepreneurial/innovative side of the internet business. A strange strategy given all Rudd Labor's talk about building a high speed national broadband network. Why pick that fight when you can buy off the Christian crowd with a voluntary PC based filtering system?

Who there a passage in the bible about internet porn? Perhaps Turnbull could quote it.

He is an ignorant pig. Like the other Groupers in charge of Labor, he pettiness in big things and greatness in inconsequential things.
An underlying "settler" priggishness travels with the exterior harshness.
Ignorant and arrogant; and arrogant in their ignorance.
And they have done a good job of smashingthe ABC.
Ken's comment said it all for me.
I expected very little also, but the sheer depth and panorama of the treachary gob smacks even me.

Clean feed Conroy.
Can I have that on a t-shirt please?

There's also a flickr thingo

although an internet based campaign seems rather pointless given that the people behind this don't seem to have progressed past scrawling on cave walls with their own clay.

"A strange strategy given all Rudd Labor's talk about building a high speed national broadband network."

That was last week. This week we're rescuing the children and the automotive industry.

There has been liitle attempt to restore civil liberties under a Rudd administration. Conroy is like Michael Atkinson, the Attorney General in the Rann Government in SA.
Both believe that they are the last remaining bastion of hope for the morals of Australia. They look around at other countries, seeing a slide into moral decay, violence and corruption, and decide to take a stand against it all…decay and nihilism. Conroy makes his stand with mandatory internet filtering whilst Atkinson does by it banning video games.

As Hoyden About Town observes:

When Stephen Conroy, Minister for Broadband, Communications and the Digital Economy, first floated the idea of Australia-wide internet censorship, he reassured us over and over and over again that the censorship would be opt-out.

The story kept changing. One minute only homes and schools would have a “cleanfeed”; the next, all internet connections would be filtered unless they opted out. Now, we hear that all internet connections in Australia will be subject to filtering, with people able only to opt for a more or a less restrictive blacklist.

There's a political strategy at work here.

Via Somebody think of the children:

Mark Newton from Internode had a meeting with Kate Ellis the Sports Minister and Member for Adelaide recently. An account of it is here. (Scroll down) Newton says:

It's obvious that there's a set of talking points that has been distributed around the Parliamentary Labor Party, and no matter which member you talk to they'll say the same things. ...The overwhelming impression I walked away with is that the ALP members who support this policy don't know what they're talking about. They haven't researched it, they don't understand the existing law, they don't understand the scope of what they're proposing; It seems that they actually believe the talking points because they don't know any better.

The impression I got from reading the account is that the ALP is not in a listening mood.

Strange that in the middle of this Kevin decides to start twittering and launches his new encouraging us all to chat with him directly.

"Tell me what you think about the education revolution and the economy" he says.

They'll both go backwards if your filtering slows everything even by as little as you say it will, and the web becomes less reliable as your filter makes boo boos.

And by the way, it also makes your attempts at Obama-style grassroots communications look a bit silly.

so we have an education revolution based on giving computers to kids to bring them into the digital world and the knowledge economy with its high speed broadband and we have mandatory filtering of the internet instead of PC based filtering.

The inference is that education is more old style feed them based around limited material, rather than fostering critical thinking and learning to think for oneself by exploring the world.

They do not seem to realize that the internet, digital literacy and podusers does away with the conservative approach to learning and education.

At this stage "Clean Feed" Conroy is willing to allow a three to seven per centoverblockage rate as acceptable. Also existing provisions under the Broadcasting Services Act 1992 are able to deal with suicide related material. Illegal material is illegal material. Conroy understands illegal not just as child porn but as X-rated, pornographic, and violent content.They appear to be up for blocking.

Though the plans have been promoted to “block child pornography”, which is illegal to view they have since the election been expanded greatly, with special interest groups weighing in to attempt to get a variety of legal-to-view material blocked. At this stage whatever the government unilaterally decides is “unwanted” --the blacklist--will be blocked, behind closed doors, with no apparent avenue of appeal.

Bearing in mind that your average uni student is over 18, course requirements/assessments are starting to include stuff that has to be hosted/constructed on the wild internet for various reasons. That's on top of the already established internet research skills that are now mundane.

How would this legislation impact on a student's ability to research and produce a research project on, say, euthanasia for Ethics101?

There was a piece in New Matilda on 'ana' (anorexia) blogs which struck me as an example of an excellent research resource that Conroy would ban.

As for primary and secondary schools and their laptop/broadband scheme, this proposal only narrows the potential of what was already going to be of limited use. On one hand, kids need to learn the skills they'll need in the future, on the other hand it's understandable that you'd want to limit what they can access through formal education. At the moment though, some are already gaining skills that leave adults way behind.

I predict that in the future the most skilled and economically valuable people will be the ones who did the naughty things and learned how to get around the rules that were meant to protect them. They'll be the ones best prepared for the skill sets they'll need in tertiary education and beyond. Today's little criminals will be the leaders of the future.

Gary your point about a top down, the elite-knows-best approach, was also typical of the Howard worldview. It encourages exactly the wrong mentality about learning in an age when most knowledge has a half life of about seven years.

The AFP must be horrified at the filtering proposals. How will they convict people of terrorist offences if they can't rely on heaps of scary stuff that suspects have downloaded from the internet?

At a very basic level I still cannot comprehend that this proposal is being touted by our ALP friends. Where are Kevin "The Saint" Andrews and the Phillip "The Ghoul" Ruddock when we need them. Much easier to demonise them than Captain Clean Feed.

The arguments against it seem much stronger than some others that have been dumped, including fuel watch. Although grocery watch is a waste of money, it doesn't interfere with our lives.

I think those independent Senators look useful on this proposal.