Updated: Some Obligatory Reading On The Internet Filter Issue

Updated: Some Obligatory Reading On The Internet Filter Issue
 src=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 nick@gizmodo.com.au