.....So what is the government up to, when it’s clear that its proposal won’t stop pedophiles creating and distributing their material, or stop terrorists communicating online, only punish legitimate internet users?
The government’s real objective here is to shore up its family-friendly credentials. While the technologically literate may laugh at the trial outcome, and free speech advocates rail at censorship, Kevin Rudd and Stephen Conroy know they’re a tiny minority of voters. This is all about giving ill-informed and often lazy parents, most of whom think that you can "stumble upon" p-rnography on the internet, the illusion that their children are safe, even as their kids circumvent the mechanism and go looking for s-xual material, which is what kids have always done. That parents should be active monitors of what their kids consume in the media is apparently old-fashioned thinking.
It isn’t about changing votes, so much as solidifying the government’s branding in the minds of mainstream voters as morally middle-of-the-road and supportive of families.
The other target is the coalition. Hitherto, particularly under Nick Minchin, the coalition has been hostile to the filtering scheme. But in the end, the coalition -- which in the face of Green opposition will be necessary for Conroy’s Bill to pass the Senate -- may struggle to oppose it. Blocking the Bill will enable the government to portray the coalition as out-of-touch with families and "mainstream values". The value of censorship as a wedge far exceeds any losses that will accrue from a few IT nerds.
And if the technically competent, as the report says, can bypass these filters easily, what’s the issue? Geeks can have an uncensored internet, while your average suburban mum and dad are happy their kids won’t be clicking onto child abuse while doing their homework.
This is where this political stunt has serious consequences, and where the issue stops being about the ineffectiveness of filtering technology and about freedom of speech. Conroy insists that the censorship will only be about RC-material. "So for people wanting to campaign on the basis that we're going to maybe slip political content in -- we will never support that. And if someone proposes that I will be on the floor of Parliament arguing against it.".....
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Leo Laporte Yeah. What's the story with this ISP filtering?
Johnny Worthington Basically the whole issue comes down to is that parents in Australia " and this is where it’s pitched at, parents in Australia don’t really understand the internet. So rather than actually taking an interest in their kids, or monitoring their kids, they are actually " it’s easier for the politicians to go, ‘no, no, wait, we’ll do it for you, you don’t " don’t have to think about the scary computers; let us do it for you’ and then they put in this filtering " and the problem with it is it doesn’t really work.
Leo Laporte That’s the biggest problem with all internet filtering: it’s crap.
Johnny Worthington It is. It’s total " it just doesn’t work because the people who really want to find the stuff are " they aren’t doing it through the normal channels or find things " ways around it. And the people who are looking for it " the people who aren’t looking for it are just going to get caught up in the web. So it’s like, it’s basically just pure political crap, basically.
Leo Laporte Hasn’t this been kind of floating around for at least a year or two?
Johnny Worthington It has. The only problem is they haven’t been able to make it work. That’s the big delay.
Leo Laporte I remember that the first time they pitched this they " didn’t they " didn’t they offer a free filter to all families on their own computers? And it was cracked the first hour, it was cracked.
Johnny Worthington It is. And they " and they actually still have that. And the biggest problem is, is that it’s not opt-in, it’s opt-out. So it’s not a " sorry, it’s not opt-out, it’s opt-in. So everyone gets switched on by default. So rather than educating people and saying, ‘look, hey, I actually think putting a mandatory filtering on ISPs is a good idea. I think if parents can’t understand and look after the kids, this is a really, really good thing to do.’
Leo Laporte But they should choose it, they should choose it.
Johnny Worthington Yes. Exactly.
Leo Laporte So, what is the status now? Is this law?
Johnny Worthington Not really, it’s kind of weird because our parliament’s sort on a break at the moment for Christmas and everything like that, so it’s " they’ve tried to bring it in and it’s not necessarily working and they’ve just finished the trials and now they’ve gone right, this is cool, we’re going to go ahead and do it. But they’ve still got to get it through the Parliament, I believe, the last little bit has got to go through the national parliament. And the biggest problem for us is that geeks in general or people who use lot of computers are very easily sidelined. So if we make a lot of noise they can go, oh, don’t worry, if you speak out against censorship or filtering against child pornography everyone is going to go, ‘hmm, why are you doing that?’ Rather than actually thinking of the issues, and going ‘no, this is actually about freedom of information.’ I mean, I’m a 29 year old male, I should have the right to view what I want on the Internet. The only problem is it’s very hard for me to say that without someone going ‘oh, do you want to look at kiddie porn?’
Leo Laporte Yes.
John C. Dvorak That’s the straw man argument. It’s ridiculous. They’ve made this thing like the be-all, end-all of all decision making.
Leo Laporte Well, it’s, well, because it’s a sacred cow, you cannot, straw man or sacred cow, you take your choice. You cannot…
John C. Dvorak The Sacred Straw Man.
Leo Laporte It’s a sacred straw man; you cannot stand up and say ‘I’m against it’ because then they can easily say, ‘oh, so you believe in child pornography?’
‘Won’t someone think of the children?’
Leo Laporte Yeah, ‘think of the children.’ But that’s not what this is about. The question I have is why does the government want to do this? Is there some other reason or are they just stupid?
Johnny Worthington Because no, it’s actually very smart. It’s so they can say to the parents ‘look, you don’t have to understand the Internet, you don’t have to stand over your kids’ shoulders and watch what they’re doing; we will do that for you.’ Let the big government take care of it for you and it’s kind of funny because the current government in there now is sort of my political leanings, but I’m looking at them wanting to slap them across the face going no; this is stupid.
Mr Newhouse said Google agreed to take the link down after he filed an official complaint to the Australian Human Rights Commission.
"Lo and behold they agreed last night to take down the sites."
Mr Newhouse believes the site would be filtered under the Federal Government's mandatory filter.
"Sites that promote racial vilification would actually fall within that description [illegal sites] and therefore would be filtered."
The Federal Government plans to introduce legislation this year requiring all service providers to ban "refused classification" material.
Websites fade to black in censorship protest
January 26, 2010 - 4:14PM
Hundreds of websites joined an Australia Day "internet blackout" today to protest against the Government's web censorship agenda, but even the internet industry body believes it will do little to lessen the Government's resolve.
The Greens, Democrats and ISP iiNet are among the organisations that pledged to fade their websites to black today and provide visitors with information about the Government's censorship plans. The blackout is expected to last until Friday.
The Government is determined to implement mandatory internet filtering of a secret blacklist of sites the Government's censors have determined are "refused classification" (RC).
Critics say RC is too broad and that providing the Government with a new censorship power is unnecessary, given that the filters could only ever cover a tiny fraction of the nasty websites on the internet. Child welfare groups have said it might give parents a false sense of security.
There are also fears over the lack of transparency in administering the blacklist and that the scope of what is blocked could drastically increase over time.
"My main problem with the filter proposal is that it won't work and that it sets up a really dangerous mechanism to centralise censorship of the net by the Australian Government," Greens communications spokesman Scott Ludlam said.
The blackout was the brainchild of web activist Jeff Waugh and is being supported by online users' lobby group Electronic Frontiers Australia (EFA).
Some of the websites taking part in the blackout are listed on internetblackout.com.au. The list includes a diverse selection of mostly smaller websites, ranging from personal web pages to media sites such as newmatilda.com and overclockers.com.au.
But Peter Coroneos, chief executive of the Internet Industry Association, said it would take 200,000 people protesting in the streets in every major capital city for the Government to pay attention.
Coroneos last week met senior bureaucrats from the Department of Broadband, who stressed to him that the Government was pushing ahead with plans to implement its internet filter legislation in the autumn session of Parliament.
"I think the Government's fairly intent on their course of action to legislate filtering - I think that's almost beyond doubt," he said.
"I would imagine that this [blackout] would be interpreted as the democratic right of a minority rather than opposition of mainstream Australia, which is what would probably be required in order to deter the Government from its intended course of action."
Coroneos said mainstream Australia had struggled to engage with the internet filtering debate because it struggled to understand the issues involved and "there is a typical level of Australian political apathy at work".
But Ludlam disagreed with Coroneos, saying it was important not to underestimate the power of the internet as a communications medium.
"I don't think we're necessarily going to need 200,000 people because campaigns have been won with much less than that. I just think we need to be a bit clever," he said.
"I don't know anybody who's in favour of this proposal once they've heard of it, so I think our job is to communicate effectively the risks of this proposal using the tools of the greatest communications medium that's ever been devised."
Whether the filtering scheme is implemented - and the associated legislation passed - depends largely on the response of the Federal Opposition, which has previously opposed the policy but since the recent leadership reshuffle has sat on the fence.
A spokesman for the Opposition communications spokesman, Tony Smith, has repeatedly refused to comment on the issue or to say whether the Liberal Party will support or oppose the legislation.
Support from the Opposition is critical for the Government as the Greens have already pledged to oppose it.
EFA spokesman Colin Jacobs said the blackout was just the first step in a long advertising and information campaign against the filter.
Online activist group GetUp! is also planning to ramp up its campaigning over the issue.
"Existing censorship is an open and transparent process but this new internet censorship power is completely secret and not subject to public review," Jacobs said.
"The scope of the filter is quite broad - although it will block the nastiest of the nasty content that [Communications Minister Stephen Conroy] likes to talk about, our concerns are around the edges where politically sensitive topics such as euthanasia, drug use and sexuality material will be blocked.
"Although the Government claims the scope is limited, there are no guarantees on what this or future governments will do with the blacklist once it's in place."