Fight The Filter: Thoughts From Ruslan Kogan, CEO Of Kogan Technologies

I've been following the debate around the proposed mandatory internet filter closely since the horrific idea was first made public. The entire Kogan team and I have been disgusted by the Australian government's blatant infringement on basic human rights. It even led us to create this fictional product launch a few weeks back, the Kogan Portector. Even though it is clearly a joke, it has a serious message. The proposed mandatory Internet filter is quite simply one of the worst ideas ever proposed in the history of Australian politics. 

In my opinion the issue really boils down to whether or not you think that Australians are mature enough to decide how they use the internet. Given that there are already plenty of internet filters available (for free) to concerned parents, it is clear that this is not an issue about making the internet child friendly. Rather, it is about our Government treating adults like children and curbing the last bastion of absolute freedom in our society – the place where a government “classification” isn’t required to make a post, and people need to rely on their own discernment to check fact from fiction and sales from scams.

I regularly travel to China to look at new products and liaise with our manufacturers and suppliers. In China I get first hand experience of a mandatory internet filter. Obviously the proposed filter in Australia is not "planned" to be quite as extreme, but it is difficult to know where the Government will draw the line once they have the power to censor our connection to the rest of the world. Once the policy is in place, there are no restrictions whatsoever on the filter, and certainly no democratic or logical process as to how the filter is mandated.

While I’m in China I feel abused and violated when trying to access the internet. It is an infringement on what I feel to be a basic right. I have to email friends and family back home to get them to email me even the most basic information, such as when a certain port opens so I can get into Hong Kong.

I do sometimes setup an anonymous proxy (such as Freedur) in order to access any site I wish, including Facebook and Twitter. The ease with which I can do this shows that anyone who is tech-savvy will be able to get around the proposed internet filter with ease.

The other problem is the existence of a mandatory Internet filter will simply make criminals who want to look at inappropriate content better at covering their tracks. They will be more wary and this will make it increasingly more difficult to catch them. The Australian government's Proposed Mandatory Internet Filter will fail in its most basic goal: stopping illegal online activity. 

Countries that currently censor or filter the Internet include China, Cuba, Iran and North Korea. Do we really want to be the lone Western Democracy in that list? 

On top of the fact that an Internet filter is just plain wrong, what particularly worries me is the Government’s lack of transparency. They have stated that they won’t release the list of banned websites, which shouldn’t be an issue if they stand by their argument that the filter is 100% effective. If the list is kept private and Government-controlled, who’s to know what is on it?

Many people I speak to about it think that it will somehow stop their children from looking at pornographic or inappropriate content. This is simply not the case. What is needed instead of wasting money on a cheap political stunt is adequate education and support for parents in teaching their children how to responsibly use the internet and not access this material; not a blanket filter which affects everyone and turns us into more of a nanny state.

“Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely.” 

The person in charge of this censorship program will have the power over what Australians can and can’t see on the internet. Even if this person was the most honest, intelligent and just person in the world, do you want somebody else telling you what you can and can’t view?  

While the media seem to be intent on making asylum seekers the key political issue of the election, I'd love to see everyone get behind this campaign to stop one of the worst ideas ever proposed in Canberra. The proposed mandatory Internet filter is one of the most important issues in the next federal election. It is an absolutely insane waste of tax payer money and an horrific infringement on basic human rights. 

Ruslan Kogan is the 27-year-old entrepreneur and founder of Kogan Technologies. In his role as CEO Ruslan regularly travels to China to source the best value consumer electronics for Australia, where he experiences first hand the negative effects of a mandatory internet filter. Ruslan Kogan holds controversial views regarding the consumer technology industry. He is the only executive from a consumer electronics vendor in Australia openly discussing the potential problems with the introduction of 3DTV into homes around the world. Ruslan Kogan is also one of the founders of Milan Direct, an Australian and UK furniture retailer. He is the first Australian to register as a passenger on Richard Branson's Virgin Galactic sub-orbital spaceflight.



    Good post, good point! Well done Ruslan.

      I think Ruslan is right. In fact I think he's doing JB a favour. If they aren't the ceeaphst and even admit that at the highest level then advertising that they are will simply dent their credibility.I've dealt with JB Hi Fi over the years and not because they are cheap but because they offer good service. Their staff know their products and can offer good advice. If everyone bought on price we would all be driving Hyundai's, shopping at Aldi's and flying Jet Star.I think for the most part many Australians will pay that bit extra for good service and a trusted brand name.

    It's a really difficult choice, you can either lose the NBN or lose the filter, but there is no third option
    Is there any chance Gizmodo could get somebody from parliament to comment?
    If they go insane with power, they could potentially employ the same technologies as the DET where every proxy is blocked or will be blocked within a week which worries me

      That's definitely on the Fight the Filter agenda. Stay tuned!

    I'll take an easily bypassed filter, and the NBN. No NBN, and "the classification system needs to be reviewed" announcements made to the ACL are far more worrying.

    Remember years ago when the Government released an internet filter for schools and it was circumnavigated within hours of release by a Year 7 student?
    Its that level of incompetency in their designs that scare the crap out of me.

      if the proposed filter is anything like the filter that was in-place at highschool, then we will soon be seeing hotmail, youtube and other legitimate and legal sites blocked.

    very insightful!!

    fantastic read!, it is great to have young and intelligent business people in australia finally having a say, as opposed to politicians and self interested muppets like gery harvey

    Great post Ruslan, you are totally right!

    OK so how about we issue a challenge to the good senator. He is 100% about the effectiveness of said filter so lets go live on national TV. We'll publish a website - a lone HTML page that has a simple message "This represents Child Pornography". He will block it with his filter and then we'll hand it to him on a plate by showing how within seconds an unmotivated regular user can circumnavigate this filter thus demonstrating the complete and utter BS of this proposal.
    Seriously unless they want to consider methods such as blocking VPN tunnels etc. (which would by the way stuff most of our information economy as we have good people doing good work but we are a long way from the rest of the world) the filter will never perform it's job, and there are far more sophistated methods for those who are really motivated (the actual child pronographers).
    I have an effective filter for the internet at my place .. put the damn PC in an open space accessed by all family members I guarantee your kids will regulate themselves.

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