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Dec 15, 2009

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The report, just released, can be seen here on the gov website, although it’s struggling from the traffic so it might take a while. Alternatively, Zdnet has it mirrored here as a pdf file.

There’ll be plenty more to say about this over the next week or so, but have a read of the report and keep a few things in your thought orbit.

Firstly, what proportion of 18-34 year olds would realistically change their vote over this? Let’s say (up to) 20% would, yet let’s also assume that Labor will have a 2% swing towards them. As a consequence, Labor wouldn’t actually lose any seats over this, but there would be a number of seats that may not fall to them as a result – Boothby, Hinkler, Cowper, Cowan, Stirling, Ryan, Hughes, Sturt all sit around that area on the pendulum.

So Labor would carry a cost that wouldn’t be felt among existing ALP members – a cost not felt ends up being a hypothetical cost that never happened when the history of these things get written.

Secondly, even though the filtering issue inevitably plays well in the polls among families, there is a stated vs. revealed preference issue involved here. Adult content is a source of major traffic in Australia as it is anywhere else that has a net connection. How many people would quietly vote against Labor over their smorgasbord of pink bits getting restricted, yet continue to say to pollsters that they are pro-filter?

Something previously has been witnessed in this regard – for decades Qld was the most anti-porn of all States, yet also had the highest proportion of residents on XXX mailing lists.

Thirdly, the Libs have already got a line to exploit any anti-filtering vote and it was deployed within an hour of the release of Conroy’s report. It basically goes “The internet filter will not protect kids from nasty things on the net, but will instead give parents a false sense of security leading to the very outcomes that they are trying to prevent”.

Fourthly, what effect will the Greens choosing the pro-filter Clive Hamilton have on the party’s ability to exploit any anti-filter sentiment? Will it come back to haunt them?

I reckon that there aren’t any votes to be won by the ALP on the issue, only votes to be lost. Those that get a bee in their bonnet about the need to censor the net, vote Coalition, Family First and Christian Democrat anyway. Thoughts?

The other thing, which Mark Newton mentioned on twitter, is that this clouds every technological push that Rudd is making- especially the NBN.

Anyway, have a read, chew the fat – interested in your thoughts. I’ll do a whole lot more on this later.

UPDATE

Here’s Conroy’s slippery press release

UPDATE 2:

The last piece of public polling available on the net filter was taken a year ago, over the period of the 8th to the 14th of December 2008 by Essential Media Communications. Sample size was 1000 for an MoE that maxes out around the 3.1% mark. The question asked:

The Government has proposed a system of internet filtering to prevent access to prohibited sites on the internet and protect children from inappropriate material. The system will include mandatory nation-wide blocking on a range of ‘prohibited’ and ‘inappropriate’ material and an option for families who wish to limit access to a broader range of internet content. Opponents of this scheme say it is a form of censorship, will make the internet significantly slower and will not totally prevent distribution of illegal material. Do you support or oppose the Governments proposed internet filtering system?

filter1

On the cross-tabs we have:

Respondents aged 50 years and over were more likely to support the Governments proposed internet filtering system (52% total support), while respondents aged 18 – 24 were more likely to oppose the Governments proposed internet filtering (47% total oppose).

Males were more likely to oppose the Governments proposed internet filtering (51% total oppose), while 56% of females support the Governments proposed internet filtering system.

UPDATE 3:

Crikey has a solid list of filter coverage.

Possum Comitatus — Editor of Pollytics

Possum Comitatus

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239 comments

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239 thoughts on “Kevin Rudd wants to filter your internet

  1. LacqueredStudio

    “Cantankerous.”

    Now there, truly, is one of my all-time favourite words.

  2. Gusface

    Poss

    that should bave been brigade-delete the post if you like.

    I am awaiting the media kit,to clarify what support the groups you referred to give.

    I understand Getup is running this?

  3. Possum Comitatus

    Gus,

    Because nearly all “Family Groups” in Australia are Christian lobbying fronts. I have no idea about specific womens groups.

    The child protection groups Save the Children and the National Children’s and Youth Law Centre have both come out against the filter and both have substantial numbers of women running the organisations.

    And if you carry on with this bogan horseshit one more time you’re out of here.

    Wake up – the things you can get away with on other blogs don’t pass muster here.

  4. Gusface

    I ask again

    Why are NO WOMAN’s or FAMILY GROUP’s supporting the Anti Filter Brigade.

    Think about it you antifilter bogans!!

  5. zoomster

    That will be another $40, JP.

  6. JP

    What did I miss? I left after 10 minutes 😉

  7. Gusface

    David

    I think that abuse is down the Hall.
    This is the 10 minute argument.
    That will $10 thanks
    😉

  8. David Richards

    DON’T GIVE ME THAT, YOU SNOTTY-FACED HEAP OF PARROT DROPPINGS!
    SHUT YOUR FESTERING GOB, YOU TIT! YOUR TYPE MAKES ME PUKE! YOU VACUOUS TOFFEE-NOSED MALODOROUS PERVERT!

    – Monty Python “Argument”

  9. Gusface

    Yes it was

  10. zoomster

    Gus
    it was never ten minutes, just then.

  11. Gusface

    Zoom

    I think who you are arguing with came for the 10 min arguement.

    😉

  12. JP

    oh man I’m just going to take a break until I can get a new keyboard or have time to proof everything twice – sorry for all the typos

  13. JP

    No, zoomster, I understand. He resigned. He could have chosen to noteti resign, be sacked, and collect his severance, but he didn’t. Those are the facts as you have presented them, and I find it amusing that as a political beast you seem to have difficulty distinguishing between what’s right or true, and what’s expedient. Between agreed non-disclosure and a lie. That conflation of truth and expediency may in fact a necessary trait for advancement in he political field.

    Speed limits exist to protects others, and the state from expense of the driver injuring themselves. How will the filtering of my internet connection protect others, or the state’s resources, I wonder?

    Also, you can opt-out of speed limits by taking your car to a racetrack, where the right to not share the road with speedsters is waived by adults making informed choices.

    So, what makes the my choice to read or not read drug-harm-minimisation information, for example, the state’s business?

  14. zoomster

    Oh, I see, JP.

    If you say to someone, “You can resign or you can be sacked” and they say, “I’ll resign” then it’s perfectly OK to say it’s not a sacking?

    In other words, we accept some kinds of ‘lying’ as acceptable.

    If someone is forced to resign, then of course they have been sacked. Again, as I said, the ‘lie’ exists to protect them, which is why they accept the lie.

    That’s not the only IR story I could tell you. Non disclosure of the reason for departure is quite common in departure packages and frequently involves both parties.

    You obviously have never been in a bull’s roar of governance, which perhaps explains the difficulty you have getting your head around some of the concepts behind the government’s actions (and may explain why I understand them!)

    [As popular as an ACMA blacklist filter may or may not be I don’t want one, because I don’t need one. If the filter is available to everyone who wants it, why must I have one?]

    My spouse is an excellent driver. Has done rallies, hill climbs, had professional training and is generally recognised his peers as the safest driver they know.

    He thinks this means he shouldn’t be bound by speed rules. Other people speeding might have accidents but he won’t, because he knows what he’s doing.

    I have the same kind of difficulty explaining to him why the same rules which apply to mere mortals are also applicable to him.

    The only reason he doesn’t speed is because he might get fined.

  15. JP

    Oh, and about your rather incredible HR story: if this person was at great pains to leave his job without his severance pay, in what sense was he sacked? If he resigned because he knew that the alternative was to be sacked, then saying he resigned is not actually a lie, is it?

  16. JP

    Opt-in (or even opt-out) solves the problem for anyone who perceives there being a problem, either because of their own research, or because they believed a worthy lie.

    I don’t think there’s a problem. Why are you keen to solve a problem for me, on my internet connection, that I don’t think exists. I feel utterly safe on the internet as it stands. I don’t expect in my lifetime, to ever come across material that will harm me in any way. I doubt I’ll ever come across anything illegal, either – not by accident and not by design. On the infinitesimally remote chance that I ever came across illegal content such as child pornography, I would have no hesitation in reporting it to the relevant authorities.

    As popular as an ACMA blacklist filter may or may not be I don’t want one, because I don’t need one. If the filter is available to everyone who wants it, why must I have one?

  17. zoomster

    Damn, sorry, JP. Hate it when it’s done to me, although it gets hard to keep track sometimes!

    I tend to think – and have said so before, and hasten to say it’s not with any inside knowledge – that there are other reasons for introducing the filter, not to be all spooky on you, and that the kiddie stuff appeals to Conroy. I don’t think it has much to do with the Christian lobby at all, though of course I’m just as likely to be wrong as anyone.

    Oh and the lie was at the request of the employee, who didn’t want people to be able to google his name and find several newspaper articles saying he’d been sacked. Since he wasn’t sacked for anything that deserved a lifelong blemish on his record (just a case of different philosophies and approaches to the job at hand) I think we erred on the side of mercy. (Can’t see why it would be illegal).

    And it was nothing to do with my ALP affiliations. In fact, I wasn’t given a choice, either. It came from his lawyers. Lie about it (or refuse to confirm/deny) or be responsible for costing others (not us) a hundred thousand dollars.

    Still, not here to defend the action, just try and explain why sometimes those in public life have to.

    I would also tell the story of me as a new teacher. I decided I would never lie to my students under any circumstances. Come June, the question was asked: Have you written our half year reports. Doofus says yes. Students down tools and refuse to work, no point, subject finishes in a week and the report’s written.

    Not only that, but the students in my class told every other student in the school that the reports had been written. So we had the majority of students refusing to work, and the rest of the staff outraged with me…for not lying.

    Anyway, away from my personal morality, which on the whole I think errs on the side of putting in to practice what others just say they do (and by that I mean I’m not always polite but I am always as honest…as I can be in the circumstances….)

    Opt in doesn’t solve the consistency problem, for starters. Why should material which is not available elsewhere be available on the net? Why shouldn’t there be at least some attempt to impose the same rules as exist elsewhere?

  18. JP

    Zoom – it was cud-chewer who described the policy as lying this time (although I have in the past). In as much as the policy is to suggest that the mandatory filter (rather than the opt-in additional filtering) can remove “nasties” from your internet experience, I think “lie” is an entirely appropriate word.

    Peter Carey (I think) once said that to learn any culture, even your native culture, you need to learn:
    1) which lies are unacceptable,
    2) which lies are accepetable, and
    3) which lies are required.

    I think this is very insightful.

    Nevertheless, if you think that lying about whether someone was sacked so that they may be denied a severance package to which they are contractually entitled is an acceptable lie, then I think that the political culture you inhabit is a tad disconnected from mainstream Australian culture. I personally find that immoral and disgusting, not to mention the obvious fact that it’s illegal. And to think the ALP is nominally the party of the workers. Sheesh!

    Anyway, to address the idea that the ACMA filter is something that Australians are clamouring for: any ISP could implement this filter today if they wanted. If it was so truly popular, then they could use it as a competitive advantage over their rivals. the legislation proposed does not do anything to make such a filter possible, the legislation is to make a filter for which not a single ISP has detected a demand mandatory.

    If the filter is as brilliant and universally desired as possible, filtering proponents should be happy for the filter to be offered on an opt-in basis, perhaps even with legislation forcing ISPs to offer it as an option. Then everyone who wanted its benefits could have it, and the mandatory aspect that offends civil libertarians would be removed.

    Are any of you filtering proponents OK with an opt-in ACMA filter? And if not, why not?

  19. cud chewer

    Yes, but when the lie is simply that you can’t be honest enough to come out and admit that the reason for your policy is to pander to the Christian Lobby in its never ending quest to force its moral viewpoint on other people.. that’s not exactly a good reason.

  20. zoomster

    JP

    I don’t think it involves lying. Really, I don’t.

    But then again, people don’t realise how often lies are forced on politicians (or anyone in public office).

    We once had to sack a senior officer. Everyone knew he’d been sacked and wanted to know why. Under the terms of his departure package, we weren’t allowed to say he had been sacked but that he had left voluntarily (thus saving our ratepayers a considerable amount of money). So we had to lie.

    If you expect total honesty and transparency in politics, you need to come up with a different kind of human being. Most voters don’t reward either. If you honestly told a constituent, for example, that they were speaking a load of horse manure and you didn’t really give a toss for their opinion, you wouldn’t last in office long. Instead, you smile and say that you’ll take their ideas on board.

    If they really valued honesty, then you could say exactly what you think of them and it wouldn’t matter.

    If you yourself honestly answer questions such as this from your nearest and dearest , “Do I look fat in this dress? No, do I? Come on, be honest.” or (so I’m not assuming gender) “Honey, do you mind if we watch the cricket?” then you have a right to call pollies on this one.

    We all lie. We do it in the name of politeness, probably several times a day (“Gee, it’s good to see you.” “Yes, I’m feeling great.” “Catch up soon.” “Gosh, this tastes great.”), we lie to stay out of trouble (“Of course I remembered it was your birthday!”) and we lie to make people feel good about themselves. Pollies are humans too.

    Sorry. Subject I get very peeved about and probably totally irrelevant to anything we’ve said. But it makes me feel good!!

    Anyway, back to your comment….whether a policy involves lying to people or not is relevant to its effectiveness. It may undermine its legitimacy, but that’s another story.

  21. cud chewer

    Gusface @216, The facts have been presented in detail. The argument is overwhelming.

    If you can’t be bothered reading, that’s your problem.

  22. cud chewer

    JP @211, actually, I meant what I wrote – but my expression could have been tidied.

    But lets try to spell it out. The majority of content that falls within the realm of RC is not illegal. But more to the point, in the original context of what I was replying to, the issue was whether or not the filter would achieve the goal of preventing children from seeing ‘nasties’. What I did was focus on RC material, for a reason – even though a lot of people would regard anything even remotely sexual as nasty.

    My point there is that even if you constrain yourself to RC material, the overwhelmingly majority of material that would be classified as RC (if it were presented to the censors) is not actually on the current blacklist, nor could it be on any future blacklist, purely for numerical reasons. The lie I was trying to expose was that the present blacklist, and the blacklist that may result from an RC only filter was in some way exhaustive of all “net nasties”. Lots of people swallow that idea.

    Yes you are correct that outside of the content that would be potentially RC, there is an even wider sphere of content. I wasn’t specifically commenting on this material – merely leaving it to remain obvious that such material cannot possibly be included on a practical filter. Which merely adds to the argument that a filter cannot serve the purpose of preventing children from seeing porn.

    The problem here, as it is with boat people, is those that are trying to sell the filter are capitalising on the common human trait of not understanding large numbers. 2000 boat people. 20 Million residents. Most people cannot comprehend what 10,000 to 1 means. Likewise they cannot comprehend that even potentially RC material amounts to tens if not hundreds of thousands of URLs, and regular porn you can add a couple of zeros. The pro filter camp relies on people not fully comprehending the overwhelming scope involved.

    And again, zoomster, if a policy involves lying to people, it’s just not good policy – even if it temporarily makes them feel good.

  23. Gusface

    [Oh deary me.. if you really think that its going to be a waste of time trying to disabuse you of that. The fact is that the anti filter crowd puts forth a detailed and overwhelming case against the filter.]

    Well deary you

    I am trying to ask for a detailed reasoning.I could simply change a few words and voila it would be a Pro Filter argument.
    [The filter is effective no matter what you believe it should do.
    The filter allows adults from viewing material that is not illegal.
    The filter does not provides is a general purpose censorship mechanism easily given to abuse]

    A little proof,some links that support your case (no opine pieces pls) and a motherhood statement would be nice.

  24. JP

    If somebody knows that a particular site exists, and wants to visit it, then as the Enex report says, to circumvent the filter they just need to be “technically competent”. It’s as simple as changing one field in Tools>Options in your browser. Counting the time it took to Google “bypass Australian internet filter”, and make all the changes required, I’d say you’re looking at a minute, tops. No mad hacker skillz required, and well within the scope of most 10-year-olds’abilities. In fact, many people may already have their computers set up in a way that makes the filter invisible – for gaming purposes, or to access work servers if they work for an international company etc. The technology that renders the filter obsolete is very simple, pretty common and used for many legitimate reasons.

  25. zoomster

    JP @ 212

    I had in mind someone intentionally trying to find the site and running into the filter.

    I recognise that this subset is probably a little more determined, but would still argue that making it harder would deter a number of them. (Whether enough to justify the spending is another argument).

    And yes, thanks for the extra bit of knowledge…I am learning quite a lot.

  26. JP

    pan = plan *d’oh, bloody tiny netbook keyboards*

  27. JP

    zoomster: regarding evading the filter when you see that a site has been blocked…

    Firstly, the pan is that you do not get a message that the site has been blocked, you get a message that the site does not exist. A subtle difference, and possibly a good one – just letting you know so you gain some knowledge.

    But mainly the problem with this argument is that illegal sites are almost impossible to stumble upon now. The chances of ever accidentally encountering a blacklisted site are, for pretty much everyone, even deliberate consumers of hardcore porn, as close to zero as makes no difference. The benefit you’ve described of someone hitting a filtered site and not knowing how to get around it and therefore giving up is a real benefit, but an incredibly rare one. My uneducated guess is that that particular scenario may happen to a single Australian internet user every couple of years. It’s not something I’d willingly invest millions on.

  28. JP

    cc:
    [the overwhelming majority, that do fit within RC]
    I’m pretty sure your mean “the overwhelming majority, that don’t fit within RC”. That is: sites that are explicit, but classifiable at either the R or X level. Plenty of these would be considered “nasties” by some, but all of them sail through Conroy’s mandatory filter because, as he keeps saying when talking to liberal audiences, the intention is not to stop anyone accessing legal erotica.

  29. zoomster

    1. Yes. A lot of what governments do is to give people a sense of security (false or otherwise). As I said before, we have a couple of forts in Australian waters built to keep the Ruskies out in the 1800s. (Like the fridge magnet, they were obviously successful).

    Governments don’t bother arguing with people with false perceptions on occasion, because it can’t be done. So, though crime rates are falling, we train more police.

    Remember we live in a society where parents are neurotic about child safety, to levels which are quite potty. If the filter creates a bit of freedom for some poor child of over protective parents somewhere, that’d be good. Maybe not good enough to justify the filter, but still…good.

    2. Again, we do a lot of things in name and not in practice. It’s to prevent tiresome arguments – “Well, if he can view X over the internet, why can’t I buy Y at the video store?” – and send out a consistent message. I would also think it makes it easier to nail offenders.

    And there is a perfectly good argument to be had on the consistency of banning marijuana and heroin whilst allowing the purchase of tobacco and alcohol (and I’m not on the side of prohibition here, though I have to say I’ve only used one out of the four myself).

    3. It makes enough difference to deter your average teenager. Most of them are not as internet savvy as you seem to believe (and I’ve supervised classes using the net and can testify that most of them find putting an effective search string together challenging). The numbers of internet savvy teenagers is not that great.

    The same with other types of people who might try and evade the filter: yes, a small minority have the skills to do so. Most are like me with my tyre changing – they know that they could do it, if they tried, but the little extra effort is too much for them to bother.

    You are under estimating the laziness of human beings here. Most, confronted with quite a small barrier, won’t bother to try and surmount it.

    So my guess is the majority of net users will go: Oh, that site’s been blocked. Bugger. Must ask George how I can get on to it sometime….and never try again.

  30. cud chewer

    Gusface @206, you are probably right in that if you take a random poll most people have some vague notion its about blocking child porn or else its about making the net safe for children.

    The fact is that if you lie to people consistently they will approve of what you are doing. Lots of people believed in WMDs.

    [The NO filter argument does not reasonate with ordinary people as they simply want to go on the net and avoid the nasties in all shape and form.]

    Yes and what that proves is how easy it is deceive a lot of people with a simple message when to understand what is really being done requires some effort and detailed understanding. Its not easy to demonstrate what is wrong with the filter in simplistic terms. Playing to common sentiment btw, would justify a lot of evils.

    [The only argument by the No filter brigade seems to be an amorphous loss of something,which we still wait to be defined.]

    Oh deary me.. if you really think that its going to be a waste of time trying to disabuse you of that. The fact is that the anti filter crowd puts forth a detailed and overwhelming case against the filter.

    The filter is ineffective no matter what you believe it should do.
    The filter prevents adults from viewing material that is not illegal.
    The filter provides is a general purpose censorship mechanism easily given to abuse and more importantly it makes it easier for future governments to give into the demands of certain groups to keep upping the ante. The Christian lobby is already making it known publicly that they intend to do just that.

    Those are the core claims of the anti filter crowd and, they pass every rational test.

  31. cud chewer

    zoomster @202..

    [1. Parents who currently refuse to let junior go on the net because it’s the devil’s spawn may be less rigid about it. (Doesn’t mean there won’t be parental supervision, just that they might actually let junior on).]

    So, it is a benefit that nervous parents be given a false sense of security? Strange. What’s even stranger is that Conroy has been blowing exactly the right dog whistles. On the one hand he’s been claiming the filter only a very small subset of URLs and on the other hand, he is making a lot of people believe that this filter is in fact an attempt to block porn or other non-child-friendly subjects. Which it isn’t. Its a very clever bit of spin, but a very fragile one.

    Giving people a false sense of security only to find they have been lied to, is ultimately counter productive.

    [2. It brings conformity to our censorship laws across all types of media. (This is one of these vague goodnesses, but there’s no point having laws that apply to one medium and not another).]

    Conformity at what level? And does it do so in name only and not in practice? You see, when you impose censorship on television and printed media, you’re only dealing with a relatively few publishers. That’s why censorship at that level has had some chance of success. But the Internet has a hundred million publishers. So its not exactly the same kind of thing. Now you might jump up and down and go oh no I mean consistency at the level of actual blocking of porn, but that’s simply not possible now. Its rather like having consistency that if you make it illegal to use certain drugs then it should also be illegal to use tobacco or alcohol. Really dumb idea.

    [3. It will make accessing certain sites harder. (Most of our laws operate this way; they don’t make a crime impossible to perform, just more difficult).]

    Wrong. Certain sites that are illegal are already hard to access, the filter makes bugger all difference. Certain other sites (the majority of sites in the RC part of the blacklist, which incidentally are not illegal) – those sites may be come harder to view, for some. However, lets not confuse those sites that make it onto the list with those sites (the overwhelming majority, that do fit within RC) which won’t. Hence even if your aim is to block perfectly legal material (which happens to offend the RC guidelines) you’re still pissing into the bushfire. Nice try. But won’t work.

    [4] see above.

  32. JP

    Gus, even critics of Conroy’s proposal support the filtering of illegal material in principle. I do. cud chewer, I believe, does.

    The problem is that Conroy’s filter in practice also filters legal material, and there’s no real acountability mechanism to stop this happening.

    While vox pops may show support for the filter, I wonder what the polls would say if you asked the question:

    “Do you support spending millions of taxpayer dollars on an easily circumvented mandatory filter that removes all illegal content, some legal content, and lets hardcore porn straight through?”

    If Conroy wants to come up with a plan that “avoids the nasties” then that’s great. In fact, what the Enex report calls “additional filtering” goes a long way towards that goal and is worthy of both spending, and public support, in my opinion. Even better it requires no new legislation, no mandatory cost burden on ISPs, and no censorship infrastructure. It’s already been implemented by some ISPs, but as yet the government has not appropriated any funds to give grants to other ISPs to join them, although Conroy’s plans include such grants in the future, which I fully support.

    The mandatory filtering regime adds no further benefit to the opt-in “additional filtering”, but adds regulatory burdens, and introduces risks to civil liberties by creating a censorship list to which legal material can be added without scrutiny or public justification. Such legal material was found on the list during its trial implementation, and it took a breach of the law by an anonymous whistleblower to bring that to light, as no legal means is available.

    Given that it’s the “additional filtering” that has all the features that the vox pops and polls show support for, do you think that ditching the mandatory filter and simply proceeding with the “additional filtering”, which removes hundreds of times as many “nasties” as the mandatory filter, would be a reasonable way forward?

  33. Gusface

    A tad of perspective.

    Only certain sub-sectors of the IT industry oppose the filter.

    A cross section of blogs shows predominantly a small cadre pushing the No filter cause.

    The overwhelming majority support the filter as per opinion polling and vox populi’s.

    The NO filter argument does not reasonate with ordinary people as they simply want to go on the net and avoid the nasties in all shape and form.

    The only argument by the No filter brigade seems to be an amorphous loss of something,which we still wait to be defined.

    I also find it instructional that I have yet to find any womans group that opposes the Filter.

  34. JP

    zoomster, about your 4 benefits:

    1: This is benefit of what the Enex report calls “additional filtering” this can (and as far I’m concerned, should) be implemented completely independently of the mandatory filter, and without any new legislation. It is proposed to give grants to ISPs to offer this kind of filtering on an opt-in basis, and I support this as a useful way of spending public money to achieve child protection aims.

    The mandatory ACMA blacklist filter lets through every form of adult content up to and including X-rated, and therefore cannot deliver this benefit.

    2: We already have laws preventing the distribution of illegal and refused classification material on the internet, in line with other media. The proposals do not make any additional material illegal. The proposal is simply to stop punishing individuals who download illegal material, and start punishing ISPs who pass that material through their servers. In effect, the ISP would be punished for the illegal acts of their customers, which would provide a powerful incentive for them to filter content even if it were not mandated by legislation.

    Classification of the internet will never be totally consistent with that for old media, because our current classification scheme cannot scale up to handle millions of pieces of newly published content daily. Newspapers, however provide a better model than film or television – mediums where OFLC classification before publication is feasible.

    Conroy’s proposals actually make the internet inconsistent with other communications media in other ways, as the ISPs are punished for simply providing a conduit for the passing on of content, rather than those responsible for creating or hosting the content. It’s a bit like punishing the Herald for running an ad that contains an illegal claim under the Trade Practices act, rather than punishing the company that placed the ad. Or punishing Telstra for carrying a phone call in which terrorism was planned.

    3 & 4: According to the Enex report into the pilot:
    [A technically competent user could, if they wished, circumvent the filtering technology.]

    [Telstra did not test circumvention, because it considers that filtering can be circumvented by a technically competent user.]

    By “circumvention”, they mean to get to a point where for all intents and purposes on your computer, the filter does not exist.

    By “technically competent user” they don’t mean a hacker, they mean anyone who can download a program and run it, or who can follow instructions to change one setting (for proxies) in their browser.

    The net effect is that anyone who wants to get blacklisted material can get it without any difficulty. It’s like making it harder to get the weather from the newspaper by moving it from page 1 to page 3.

    So of those benefits:
    1) is a real benefit, but of an unrelated, non-mandatory product
    2) is not a benefit because the promised conformity already exists in classification, and the proposals are inconsistent with other existing laws.
    3) and 4) are not a benefits because accidental access to these sites does not happen now, and deliberate access to these sites is trivial post-filter. This is where I’ve called for a single example of information that’s actually harder to get to, currently without success.

    I agree about the two-sided nature of 4). There will be sites that are actually beneficial due to their frank and explicit discussion of sex or drug use that fall foul of the filter. While criminals looking for terrorism information, or paedophiles looking for child pornography will have the motivation to install a filter bypass, well-intentioned people looking for information on sex or drug harm minimisation may feel intimidated into not doing so. So positive information may be harder to obtain for those who see themselves as law-abiding if they are reluctant to install a filter bypass. But seekers of harmful information would probably have no such qualms, and will permanently bypass the filter with a one-off investment of about a minute of their time, or less. I know you are not technical, but I assure you that bypassing the filter is a trivially easy process for anyone wants to, as the quotes from the Enex report attest.

  35. zoomster

    The post isn’t that amusing, but the reactions are.

    I really wouldn’t send people there in support of your side of the debate. It gives the impression that pro filter types are easily conned.

  36. zoomster

    The benefits I’ve suggested are as follows:

    1. Parents who currently refuse to let junior go on the net because it’s the devil’s spawn may be less rigid about it. (Doesn’t mean there won’t be parental supervision, just that they might actually let junior on).

    2. It brings conformity to our censorship laws across all types of media. (This is one of these vague goodnesses, but there’s no point having laws that apply to one medium and not another).

    3. It will make accessing certain sites harder. (Most of our laws operate this way; they don’t make a crime impossible to perform, just more difficult).

    4. It will make certain information more difficult to access. (This is one of those two sides of a coin ones, as this can be both good and bad. Depends on the information! But I would argue that some information is best suppressed.)

    I tend to believe the true drivers of this are 2 and 4, but I have no evidence for this.

  37. JP

    Oh and zoomster, I didn’t mean to imply that you had said “trust me” – you’ve been very upfront about what you do and don’t know – I just meant to characterise the pro-filter position as a whole as one which takes the idea that the mandatory filter provides benefit as some sort of axiomatic truth

    The problem is that when pressed, not a single pro-filter proponent can identify a single instance where the mandatory filter would provide a benefit. Never. I’m prepared to be proved wrong, but I don’t expect to be.

    They can identify times when a filter of some sort would have been useful, as you have done, but in every case I’ve seen the offending material is stuff that the mandatory filter would let pass, because it’s legal for adults to consume if they so choose.

    So the deal is that for a benefit that is only ever assumed, but NEVER demonstrated, we’re being asked to part with millions of dollars, and subject our every web request to the internet equivalent of the airport security check.

    As I said, I’m prepared to back a system that performs billions of such checks a week, and to back the spending of millions of dollars, if JUST ONE example of benefit could be shown. Regardless of whether you can provide that example, do you think that asking to be shown a single example of benefit – as an act of good faith to show that benefits really do exist – is reasonable?

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