Menu lock


Mar 25, 2009

Effective alternatives to mandatory Internet filtering

Last night I attended a forum organised by New Matilda on the federal government’s plan to introduce a mand

Last night I attended a forum organised by New Matilda on the federal government’s plan to introduce a mandatory filter for Internet Service Providers.  I usually don’t find forums where all the speakers hold roughly the same view particularly enlightening, but the speeches were all to the point and not too long, which allowed a good amount of time for questions.

The organisers had invited a representative from Minister Stephen Conroy’s office without success, but there are similar forums being organised for Melbourne, Sydney and Adelaide in coming weeks and they did mention they were expecting someone to put the Minister’s case at the Melbourne event.

I think the case about the expensive ineffectiveness and censorship dangers involved has been more than adequately made.  The fact the Minister had a habit from the earliest days of his proposal of equating opponents to his plan with people who supported child pornography just reinforces my scepticism.

But I do think those of us who rightly oppose his plans need to put as much energy into promoting alternative strategies which will help reduce the danger that does exist from those who seek to use the internet to prey on vulnerable people, including children, who might not be aware of some of the risks.

I loathe portrayals of the internet as some sort of borderless den of infinite iniquities. The fact that there are many ignorant and silly scare campaigns about the Web which are begging to be mocked shouldn’t blind us to the fact that there are some real risks to the unwary or vulnerable from criminal and dangerous activities.

It was good that, after a lot of time spent bagging the dangers of the government’s plans and showing how it won’t address the things it purports to, the question session of the forum did turn to what some effective solutions might be.

The answer given by Greens Senator Scott Ludlam to a question addressing this important part of the debate were clear and to the point. He talked of using an “old fashioned” approach for dealing with the use of new technology for engaging in old fashioned crime. I’d even say he displayed an old fashion, though sadly all too uncommon, common sense approach to the issue.

Some of the resources being wasted on filtering could be devoted to empowerment of the users through education of the risks – particularly through allowing overly open access to contact details and Instant Messaging – while also using funds on beefing up law enforcement to track the criminal activity such as stalking, or distributing and accessing child pornography.

We recommend

From around the web

Powered by Taboola


Leave a comment

2 thoughts on “Effective alternatives to mandatory Internet filtering

  1. chekhovita

    I was interested in the number of young people in the audience at ABC’s Q&A tonight – probably due to’s influence.
    I was not able to attend the Matilda forum, though wish I had. I think the language used in the Conroy argument assists in lack of criticism. The word filter does not accurately describe the crude techniques of his policy. “Filter” leads people to believe in its protectionist stance and to appear non-threatening. I think something needs to be done about peer-peer. A friend of mine in the police force had a list of individuals (no name just location and occupation) who were caught owning illegal peer to peer material – the list was 7 pages long. It’s terrifying – and I don’t think they have the understanding or resources to prevent this real problem.

  2. Jason Wilson

    Andrew, I agree with this.

    I think I share a frustration you hint at here which goes to the way the anti-filter case is often argued. I’m especially concerned by the rhetoric and tactics used in some online activism around it.

    What needs to be acknowledged from the start is that Minister Conroy has significant popular support on this. The way to proceed, then, is to acknowledge the source and legitimacy of these anxieties and offer commonsense solutions, just as it would appear Senator Ludlum has on your account. Too much of what I’ve seen proceeds by way of vitriolic denunciations of filter advocates. However therapeutic that might be on occasion, I think it is of limited usefulness in this kind of debate, because it actually plays into the frame that filter advocates are trying to put around this issue.

    On the last point, I wonder whether people have considered that Sen. Conroy’s “child pornography” slurs have been, from the beginning, precisely an invitation to engage in the kind of intemperate attacks that make his job easier.