Updated: Some Obligatory Reading On The Internet Filter Issue

Obviously there's a lot of debate outrage at the government's decision to plough ahead with its plans to filter the internet. But there are some responses coming from both political parties and academics that are obligatory reading for anyone wanting to stay informed about the issue.

First off is a report released today by academics Catharine Lumby, Lelia Green, and John Hartley. You can grab the full version here. In the report, entitled Untangling The Net: The Scope of Content Caught By Mandatory Internet Filtering they argue that because the Internet filter is based on the ACMA blacklist of RC sites, which includes not only child pornography but politically controversial sites like pro-euthanasia sites, the Government will in essence be stifling debate about these topics by restricting access to the sides of the argument they disagree with.

Next up are the political responses: The Liberal party support the idea of protecting kids from Internet dangers, but not the idea of a mandatory filter:

The Coalition fully supports measures to protect children from inappropriate internet content, and is of the firm belief that appropriate adult supervision and guidance should be front and centre of all online safety efforts.

The Pirate Party is a little less subtle:

The Pirate Party Australia rejected the proclamation by Senator Conroy (Minister for Broadband, Communications and the Digital Economy) that the filter trial was a success. The Pirate Party reiterates its concerns regarding the impact Internet censorship will have on the community and the insufficient checks and balances for unwarranted governmental manipulation.

The Greens aren't big fans:

The Australian Greens are deeply concerned about the Federal Government's announcement that it is proceeding with plans to introduce compulsory internet filtering.

Despite the release of a discussion paper that tacitly acknowledges the huge concern this proposal has raised and the flaws in the existing blacklisting process, the Government is intent on ploughing ahead.

And the Democrats aren't exactly glowing with praise either:

Our Government has taken a legitimate public concern - the need to protect kids from some of the worst stuff they can see on the internet - and used it as an excuse for a wasteful, secretive censorship program that would fail to block most adult content.

Outside of politics, Google has voiced their concerns on their blog:

Some limits, like child pornography, are obvious. No Australian wants that to be available – and we agree. Google, like many other Internet companies, has a global, all-product ban against child sexual abuse material and we filter out this content from our search results. But moving to a mandatory ISP filtering regime with a scope that goes well beyond such material is heavy handed and can raise genuine questions about restrictions on access to information.

As mentioned yesterday, Electronic Frontiers Australia are pretty staunchly opposed to the plan:

“There are few surprises in this document,” said EFA spokesperson Colin Jacobs. “Given the pilot’s modest goals, it was designed from the beginning to pass. Although it may address some technical issues, what it leaves out is far more important – exactly what will be blocked, who will decide, and why is it being attempted in the first place?”

Mark Newton, Internet guru and vocal opponent to the filter, has just posted a great technical argument against the proposed filter on New Matilda and it paints a dark picture for the future of the NBN:

Conroy has spent two years telling Australia that the only important factor that would justify or inhibit a censorship regime was network performance. Why, then, did his trial fail to test network performance at any speed faster than 8 megabits per second? Since April, Conroy has been touting a National Broadband Network which runs at 100 megabits per second — over 12 times faster than the fastest speed tested by Enex testlab. None of the trial's technical specs, published in Appendix 1 of the report, approach that speed. Most of them actually show notable "flat-spots" between 7 and 8 megabits per second that are indicative of bottlenecks.

What is the nature of those bottlenecks? We don't know because the report doesn't tell us. So we're now confronted with the prospect of a Government marching into a 100 megabit future — with absolutely no idea whether their mandatory censorship system will be able keep up.

Stilgherrian on the Drum descibes the situation as being all about politics and nothing to do with child protection:

If the plan were really about protecting the children, and if it were really evidence-based, the government would have first have figured out what risks children actually face - online and everywhere else. They'd then figure out the best methods of countering those risks. Then they'd figure out the most cost-effective ways of implementing those solutions...

...But this is politics, not child protection.

Stephen Conroy has responded to criticism in The Punch, but to my mind doesn't address the issues, but instead keeps pushing the message that his morals are better than everyone else's:

The Government believes that parents want assistance to reduce the risk of children (including the 60% of 5-8 year olds now estimated to use the internet) being inadvertently exposed to such material on the internet.

Kathryn Edwards at Computerworld tells us that even children's rights groups oppose the filter:

International child rights group, Save the Children, said while it congratulates the government on its attempt to improve the safety of children online, an ISP-level filter is not the best way to offer protection.

Seen any other obligatory reading on the filter issue? Let me know at [email protected]



    it is a sad day to be australian

      Agreed :(

      sad and embarrassing!

    There are ways around it. http://bit.ly/beatcensorship


      Unfortunately that's only for the most motivated. Most net surfers don't know how, and many won't bother. It is a game of statistics; nothing can really keep out someone who is determined and technically savvy.

        "Unfortunately that’s only for the most motivated."

        Not really true, there are some simple methods that work, I received an article for submission on my site after publishing it. I later looked at the logs, most of the incoming visitors are from "facebook mothers groups" and non-tech styled sites.
        Everyone is capable of circumventing filters and it seems that a wide demographic range is interested in doing so.

      @Brad @Luis

      Yes you can dodge the filters with proxies and vpns but they will slow down the internet even further which is one of the main concerns.

      @Brad: Unfortunately, any work arounds would be illegal.

      It's not about working around this system, it's about stopping the proposed legislation that would turn basic freedom of choice into a crime.

        @ A Nonny

        "Unfortunately, any work arounds would be illegal."

        That would mean translation services or any service which acted as a proxy would be illegal. I can't see this being the case. I can see however that articles like the one I linked to above could become illegal or reason enough to get the webpage listed on the blacklist.
        This is something that will get expanded and abused, I checked the last leaked blacklist and a lot of it was gambling sites, there was also an anonymity service.
        Has anyone heard anything about a p2p web browser being developed? That would throw a large spanner in the works.

    Haven't they renamed Victoria Square (Sth Aust)to Tienanmen Square. We are going the same slippery road as the Chinese if this comes in. I'm amazed that the Govt can introduce something that the majority of people and parties don't want. Its unworkable and most tech savvy kids will know how to get around it (proxies, VPN etc)Senator Conroy needs to get in the real world and stop trying to push something the christian minority want onto the rest of Australia.
    I'm ashamed to be a Aussie.

      Hey don't blame all of us. I'm a Christian and I don't want it.

      Blame the technically challenged. They always seem to get elected and mess things up as they don't understand what they are doing when they try to change it.

      I never voted for Krudd and I won't be voting for them next election either! >:(

      Hey, do your research before forking out blame. I'm a Christian with Christian family and with lots of Christian friends (and the more conservative type of Christian), and NONE of them support the internet censorship.

    I wonder what child welfare groups and the like have to say about the news.

    Has there been any evidence presented at all by the other sides, even anecdotal, about kids (or anyone else, for that matter) accidentally coming across say child porn material? I've never heard of such a thing ever happening, and this despite doing my share (and knowing other people who've done their share) of searching for legal porn material.

    I'm all for tracking people who visit known child porn sites and arresting them, but it doesn't seem to me like kids stumbling across such sites by accident is a major threat to child welfare tbh. There are better uses of money if the purpose of the filter is to protect children from harmful situations.

    Oh and Nick, you might want to link and quote Wikileaks' piece on this from May or so. I'm at work right now so I'm a bit hesitant to go hunting through Wikileaks for it on a public computer, but I took a look last night. Ctrl+F for Australia on the main page will get you there.

    I guess we can add the internet to the list of things that religion poisons, eg. everything. http://bit.ly/6KyYBy

    This just keeps getting worse for Australians.

    I am ashamed to be an Australian right now.

    well its good to see all these people are not in support of it.

    How about some info about what we can do about it? We've all signed the Getup petition - who should we be sending outraged (but mature) emails to? Is it better to write to our local member or to Conroy directly?

      Hi, J. EFA has a great list of ways you can show your resistance to this plan via their http://nocleanfeed.com/action.html website. Well worth a look.

    Has anyone actually taken the time to get Michael Atkinson's opinion on this?

    Australia's 'democracy' has proven itself a joke in the last few years, and this could be the coffin nail.
    Nonetheless, Labor doesn't have enough seats to force it through entirely. They still need the support of other parties, who are currently expressing discomfort and outrage at the plan. So who knows which way it will go.

    China 2.0

    Your China!

    So this is why K.Rudd has been hanging out in China? Very Confuscian!

    I hope this never makes it through. I don't see how any of the purported aims of the filter (the non-BS ones anyway) would not be served equally well by an optional opt-in system.

    I wonder when the next federal election will be? This has been the last straw and I've decided who I'll be voting for.

    in fact, just did a search on google, sometime before april 2011... can't be soon enough.

      Or any time next year if there's a double dissolution over the ETS.

    Christian Nazi Net is HERE!!!!!

    The great thing about all of this religious or "culty" guff, is that all the sheeple groveling in their steeple, they all have "opinions" about what their deity is "saying" and righteously so, but the deity in the last few thousands of years of "omnipotence", has never once put in a personal appearance.

    You know like if "JC and the Space Cadets" were a rock band - the clueless would have caught on that while the promoters claim that they play in gigs all over the land, but they have never turned up; while the clueless and stupid keep rocking up and buying the tickets.


    So the same overlording us with more holier than thou drivel, is projected into the area of computer games and internet sites.

    Again while people get slaughtered for fun and profit in the movies and the real world, playing computer games doing the same stuff is just not on?


    Am I surprised that the people thrusting their liturgical loins at the censors office for "standards and decency" are not trying to put the shackles on those who choose to have their own autonomous opinions, by declaring them to workers of the devil, sorcery and witches - starting with the jabbings for the devils mark.

    Am I even further surprised that this is now extending into the Great Australian Firewall.

    Perhaps those who cry loudest are those who look forlornly upon the promises of the bible, such as Ezekiel 23: 21 "whose members were like those of donkeys, and whose emission was like that of stallions."

    I mean who wouldn't want that or to be getting that?

    I mean thank god Conroy is standing up for real Christian family values.

    Jesus said in Revelation 2:22-23 "And I will kill her children with death; and all the churches shall know that I am he which searcheth the reins and hearts: and I will give unto every one of you according to your works."

    So Jesus wants to kill our kids - that's cool cause it is Jesus.

    Timbo says I Timothy 2:11-14 "Let the women learn in silence with all subjection. But I suffer not a woman to teach, nor to usurp authority over the man, but to be in silence."

    So all the women ought to keep their traps shut. I mean it's in the bible - so it must be true right.

    And God digs killing pregnant chicks by knifing them and smashing their kids brains out on the ground; so the christians have got this family values stuff down pat: Hosea 13:16 "Samaria shall become desolate; for she hath rebelled against her God: they shall fall by the sword: their infants shall be dashed in pieces, and their women with child shall be ripped up."

    So Conroy and his catholic buddies have got this right - we have to be protected against them out there on the internet and subjugate ourselves to the righteous christians showing us how their god loves us and how we ought to be kissing his ass, on the basis of their say so.

    Oh did I mention that the old testament is a scammed copy of the Code of Hammurubi? The King of Babylons state laws - and the first 6 books of the bible are bare faced rip offs of this, just rebranded to a diety instead of the king?



    Yep gotta remember them good old christian family values, the true word of god is the bible... except that getting nailed for copyright and plagarisim wasn't invented then.

    In the words of Benjamin Franklin "Any society that would give up a little liberty to gain a little security will deserve neither and lose both."

    I actually have not encountered one person who is in support of this. oh, except conroy the man himself.

    The "Axis of Evil" -China, Iran, North Korea and Burma. Now Kaptain Krudd wants Australia to join them. This of course won't save one Australian child from abuse - just like "police checks" which only expose those who've already appeared on the Police radar (i.e They've been caught before)> Already the 'Christian Lobby', in spite of the protests already published on this thread, is planning further assaults on our liberty. Expect to see the Richard Dawkins site banned next. Any truly honest ISP, who is not a craven coward must immediately blacklist the websites of all Government members - especially Conroy.

    I am ashamed of my government.

    They take the last bastion of free thought in the world and choke it to death with ignorance.

    The 'no worries' easy going western nation has evolved slowly into something so twisted and disgusting I can't even put it into words.

    This is an attack on our rights as free citizens of the world, take your moral panic and your ultra-conservatism and get the FUCK OUT OF MY COUNTRY.

    save the net, send a complaint to stephen failroy


      i did. I recieved a generic letter from stephen a week or so later.

    Not a great day for Australia in the eyes of the international democracies..

    Can i just say who accidently finds child porn or just porn in general you have to be lookin for it

      Child porn, yes. Adult porn, not necessarily.

        But as the mandatory filter is not meant to block out (legal) adult porn...

        That's where it falls down. In so far as there is material kids shouldn't be looking at and might come across accidentally (or if a bit older, might go searching for deliberately), the filter doesn't block it. ISo what sort of gain to child protection is there?

        Parents can install voluntary filters if they want to, to screen out as much as they want to. This isn't just using a sledgehammer to crack a nut, it's trying to crack a nut by swinging a sledgehammer at something else. Lots of damage, no result.

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