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The Law

Dec 10, 2008

Web censorship vigilantes rule in the UK...and Australia

Will the the rise and relentless rise of the web vigilante kill the web and eat its children? Recent developments in the UK indicate that over-reactions by self-appointed cyber-nannys and ISPs can seriously disrupt innocent web use.

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Over at Ethan Zuckerman’s wonderful My Heart’s in Accra he flags a very recent and apparently serious emerging issue that is likely to become a growing problem with the rise and relentless rise of the cyber-nanny.

Is this how the web will sow the seeds of its own irrelevancy?

Will the web slowly eat itself and its own children?

While there has been a fair bit of (mostly negative) reaction to the Australian Government’s proposals to require the installation of some as-yet-not-adequately explained internet porn filters, in the UK the problem appears to be private cyber-nannys.

Ethan links to a report from The Register:

As of Sunday morning UK time, certain British web surfers were unable to view at least one Wikipedia article tagged with ostensible child porn. And, in a roundabout way, the filtering has resulted in Wikipedia admins banning large swaths of the United Kingdom from editing the “free encyclopedia anyone can edit”. On Friday, Wikipedia administrators noticed that Virgin Media, Be Unlimited/O2/Telefonica, EasyNet/UK Online, PlusNet, Demon, and Opal were routing Wikipedia traffic through a small number of transparent proxy servers as a way of blocking access to the encyclopedia’s article on Virgin Killer, a mid-1970s record album from German heavy metal band the Scorpions.

I think that the ‘offending’ image is beyond the pale – as did the many countries that banned it when the record was released in the mid-seventies.

But is this an indication of how far back in time the cyber-nannys will reach in order to save us from ourselves? What’s next – Blind Faith’s eponymous 1969 album artwork? Nirvana’s 1991 Nevermind cover?

Regardless of the merits of the Scorpion’s cover art image it is the actions of the cyber-nannys that are of greater concern to me.

The current problems appear to have been caused by the actions of the Internet Watch Foundation (the IWF), a self-appointed and EU-funded body which describes itself as:

…the UK’s internet ‘Hotline’ for the public and IT professionals to report potentially illegal online content within our remit. We work in partnership with the online industry, law enforcement, government, the education sector, charities, international partners and the public to minimise the availability of this content, specifically, child sexual abuse content hosted anywhere in the world and criminally obscene and incitement to racial hatred content hosted in the UK.

We are an independent self-regulatory body, funded by the EU and the wider online industry, including internet service providers, mobile operators and manufacturers, content service providers, filtering companies, search providers, trade associations and the financial sector as well as other organisations that support us for corporate social responsibility reasons.

The IWF has acknowledged blocking Wikipedia’s Virgin Killer article via British ISPs. A spokeswoman told The Reg that the organization believes the album cover image includes content that is consistent with the legal definition of child abuse, pointing out that under the UK Children Act, the only issue at stake is the content – not the intent of the publisher.

The Register provides an update, that, as of last weekend:

…the offending image is still freely available on Amazon, and as the controversy over Wikipedia rolls on, it is being reproduced on hundreds of sites available in the UK and across the world.

Ethan points out the essential flaw at the heart of online censorship:

This happens with almost all online censorship – censors end up blocking more than they wanted to, and they make a larger group of users aware that censorship is taking place. Few Turks are searching YouTube for content defaming Ataturk… but when Turkey blocks the whole site to Turkish viewers to block access to those videos, viewers ask why they can’t look at the video of the cute cat flushing the toilet. Millions of viewers who had no interest in an act of online activism end up paying attention because censors blocked more than they could have.

And Antony Loewenstein, in a recent presentation to the Berkman Centre for Internet and Society at Harvard University that in the main examined the role of censorship in oppressive regimes around the world, notes that proposals in Australia represent the first steps on a very slippery slope:

The Australian government, led by Prime Minister Kevin Rudd, is currently proposing the imposition of a mandatory filtering process to “protect Australian families and kids from some material that is currently on the net”, namely child pornography and ultra-violent sites.

It may sound benign enough, but the country’s leading internet service providers, free speech lobbyists and independent parliamentarians have all responded with outrage that such a proposal might be implemented. Aside from the question of current technology being incapable of monitoring the long list of websites that could allegedly breach Australian law – around 10,000, according to the government – there is the freedom of speech angle.

A number of politicians have advocated blocking online gaming sites, general pornography sites, euthanasia sites and pro-anorexia sites. What next?

I have a feeling that this issue will come into sharper focus in the coming days and I look forward to your comments and insights – I’m neither a tech-head nor across the finer legal and policy issues involved in the Australian and international debates on these issues so I welcome your thoughts…

And I wonder how long it will be before some local cyber-nanny decides that I should be pinged for putting ‘the offending image’ up on this post…

Over to you…

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28 thoughts on “Web censorship vigilantes rule in the UK…and Australia

  1. censorship rules

    […] provisions since June 1998, but punitive measures are now in place to enforce the regulations. …Web censorship vigilantes rule in the UK…and Australia …Web censorship vigilantes rule in the UK…and Australia. December 10, 2008 11:32 am, by Bob Gosford […]

  2. Bob Gosford

    Just back from a trip to Melbourne and catching up on comments etc over the past few days.
    I’m trying to chill out a little with the cricket, siestas etc but just want to say thanks to all of you, particularly Beevo, Venise and Jon, for all of your comments on this matter and other posts.
    I look forward to having a lot more fun in the New Year and maintaining this most important engagement with you and others – keep your comments and thoughts coming.
    Meanwhile, I don’t think that Australia is going to make any sort of progress against the South Africans today – I’m tipping a win to the yarpies – a few more hours will tell.
    Best to you all and see you soon.
    Bob

  3. beevo

    Venise, I hope you don’t think me fundamentalist OR catholic. I am going to have nightmares now. And I do apologise for getting you off-side. In case you missed it, I am so open minded that I just did a 180 in the length of a few comments! Beat that…
    I am staunchly secularist, atheist and a long way along the opposite end of the scale from “prude”. I also agree that the great majority of lobbyists for restrictive legislation have a much bigger religious agenda. This is scary because it knows no bounds.
    I agree with Andrew Bartlett where he believes in “freedom of (and from) religious beliefs”!
    For the record, I don’t believe Noddy and Bigears were living in a gay relationship (am I in denial?) but if they were then they should have couples rights under the law and can get married if they wish. They can also post photos of themselves on the net if they wish provided there is some explicit content warning to prevent unintentional viewing.
    I mistook Bob’s original argument as defending the particular content in question rather than the fact that it was available for viewing. My bad! Target anything criminal at the source I agree but we need to be able to see and judge for ourselves if we wish. That is freedom of thought.
    Mass filtering is a joke but individual parental control is advisable… do you think? Moderated on a case by case site by site basis?
    I do not believe in censorship but would like the media to be a little more considerate with it’s self-regulation and consideration of audience demographics. I cringe when the morning radio program starts chatting about erectile dysfunction while I am driving the kids to school. More so when my wife quickly reaches for the volume and turns the radio up louder! I now feel the best response is to just smile and change stations.

  4. Venise Alstergren

    Meaning at the blacklist they, whoever they are, seem to have reams of pages of the people who make and send the stuff. But can’t you see? This is the least of their worries. Please get it through your head. Protecting children is the least important item on their agenda. THEY WANT TO CENSOR THE WHOLE OF OZ. In any form of printed and visual media.

  5. Venise Alstergren

    Jon Hunt: You bas-ard, or did you set me up? Oh well, joke’s on me I suppose.
    Of course everything would be OK if stopped at source.

    Good night and good luck

    I’m going to shoot myself

  6. Jon Hunt

    Err.. a bit of a late reply, but I said “unpolicable” (if that’s a word) I really meant efficient “policing” ie only blocking specific sites rather than every one from a particular domain.

  7. Venise Alstergren

    Hell, me again. I meant to wish you, your family and the lady huntsman/huntslady(?), the one who was in your jocks, assorted birds and animals, a very happy Christmas and a terrific new year.

    Cheers

    Venise

  8. Venise Alstergren

    Me, on the defensive. I admit in this case I’m indulging in a conspiracy theory. However, I just don’t think with a cast like this, see above, there isn’t a thread or six linking each to the other.

  9. Venise Alstergren

    As this was written in white heat there are at least two mistakes. Para 1, line 3 should read $4.7 billion dollars.
    The penultimate para line 7, should read ‘since Bartholomew Augustine Michael (call me Bob) Santamaria (Labor, transferred to the infamous Democratic Labor Party, CATHOLIC, Jesuit trained dictator MP) Santamaria strode the political stage.’
    It’s taken me forever to write all of this so there was bound to be a mistake, for which I duly apologize.

    Cheers

    Venise

  10. Venise Alstergren

    Bob: I’m going to send you the comment I emailed Crikey this morning. Crikey, thus far, don’t appear to have printed it. (the wording is completely different) So it’s over to you.
    The fact that Labor has denied Telstra the broad-band deal of $4.2 billion dollars, is a prime example of how our Catholic Taliban operate in order to meddle with our political process. A process which, by the way, is written into our Constitution, namely ‘WE ARE A SECULAR STATE’. And being a secular state the Christian Fundamentalists, especially the Catholics, have no right to presume unto themselves, they have a right to dictate to us.
    Let us go back to the previous ,John Howard, government. John Howard was having trouble getting the original Telstra deal through parliament. In order to get his own way he approached Brian Harradine, (Independent, CATHOLIC-Jesuit, senator from Tasmania). Harradine said he would vote Howard’s way-at a price. The price was to have John Winston Howard move Tony Abbott (Liberal, CATHOLIC, Jesuit trained MP) to the Health portfolio. Once there Tony Abbott saw himself doing God’s work by blocking anything, euthanasia, birth control, etc, anything which interfered with God’s perception, via his self-ordained priests, of how the State should be run. And if Tony Abbott developed any scruples, Brian Harradine was quick to put the spurs in.

    The most infamous case of Catholic intervention being to block the prescription drug RU486 from being on the Australian market. This was done on the basis it was an abortificant, which it wasn’t. Tony Abbott had Abbott promised he would retire if he lost the conscience vote on this issue. He did lose. But he didn’t retire. However he was allowed a different portfolio.
    Now we have the inglorious spectacle of Senator Stephen Conroy (Labor, CATHOLIC, Jesuit trained MP) who is currently having a monumental sulk because some of the electorate saw through his and Rudd’s scheme to introduce censorship onto the Internet. Only to ‘protect the children!’ is the usual specious, religious, catch-cry, lie when they want to introduce censorship: It’s always on behalf of someone else. I hope someone else besides me has noticed this point.
    Now this scenario has taken on an even worse dimension than has ever been known before. Because there is a doubt that they will get the censorship thing through, and because Telstra wouldn’t take part in some excuse for a test on our broad-band, concerning the censorship. What does Senator Stephen Conroy (Labor, CATHOLIC, Jesuit-trained MP) come up with?
    He and Kevin Rudd(Labor Prime Minister, Religious Fundamentalist) have refused the Telstra bid for the broad-band deal @ $4.7 billion dollars and are giving it instead to an overseas company. If Kevin Rudd (Labor, Prime Minister, Fundamentalist Christian aka another God-botherer ) and Senator Stephen Conroy (Labor CATHOLIC fundamentalist) get away with this nasty bit of work. The Australian electorate-by not being quick enough to see through these machinations-will have allowed one of the worst pieces of grotésquerie to pass through parliament, sinc(DLP CATHOLIC, Jesuit-trained MP) strode the political stage.
    It was a time when women still forfeited their lives by going into convents, a time when abortion meant having to go to back-yard butchers armed with rusty coat-hangers, and a time when people had to stop drinking as in the six o’clock swill. It was a time when all thought, art, books, Television, Movies, newspapers was censored. Artists had to show their work in private galleries. A time when Lady Chatterley’s Lover was prohibited reading. It was a time when the dead hand of censorship controlled Australian lives. By your inability to spot a monster lurking in the political landscape-I’m speaking to the

    Finally and for the sake of the Rudd government, I do so hope none of the Labor constituents happen to have shares in Telstra. You do? Tough, you’ve just got an inkling into the mind-set of the Catholic Taliban.

    Venise

    Cheers

    Venise

  11. Bob Gosford

    Thanks to Venise for reminding me of the past – I grew up in a New South Wales dominated by Bob Askin, a venal and corrupt Premier – and then I moved to Melbourne (where I am right now) for a few years just after (I think) the end of the Bolte years…and I remember a bit about Arthur Rylah…though I wish I didn’t.
    The past is a funny place – somehow we get all misty-eyed and forget too much of what was really bad then – including how much we let our governments get away with. And the same applies to the present – while on the one hand we think that all the modern devices and systems we have ensure that governments are held accountable for their decisions and actions those same devices and systems ensure that (or allow) politicians to hide too much – that is, the laws and rules that governments put in place to ensure our freedoms also restrict those same freedoms.
    Don’t know if I quite got that but…it is early and I have a long day ahead.
    Cheers to both Beevo & Venise for the thoughtful discussions – keep it coming!

  12. Venise Alstergren

    Beevo:
    Bob has written such a splendid refutation on your hypotheses that I should relax. There is nothing left for me to add, except for a small piece of advice.

    Beevo, any censorship which is invoked on someone ELSE’S behalf is both emotive and suspect. (It’s more than suspect, it is rancid.) AS soon as you hear words like “Protecting our kids”, ‘poor innocent babies being ripped out of their mothers’ wombs.”
    “Protecting teen-aged children (from having photographs taken-as in the Bill Henson hate rant the other month ago!)

    This sort of hyperbole could only be dreamed up by people wanting to manipulate the public. And the public, whipped up by the radio talk-back goons, usually fall for it.

    As soon as Senator Conroy opened his mouth it was obvious he was a fundamentalist Catholic. As indeed will you Beevo, once you start looking for the give- away phrases.

    Politicians having no moral compass at all. Will always jump in to twist the situation around to whilst thinking about how to stuff up the next election.

    There was, in Victoria, years and years ago a politician called Arthur Rylah. In order to protect his teen-aged daughter, he censored movies, books, newspapers, radio, thought and words like blo-dy, the ‘f’ word, television, art. (On one inglorious occasion the department store called Myers brought out, at vast expense, the statue ‘David’ by the sculptor/painter Michaelanglo-the one standing in Florence, the real, real, real one is locked up in a museum. Thanks to Arthur Rylah, and his precious teen-aged daughter, the board of directors was forced to place a fig-leaf over the statue’s genitalia. The world laughed at the quaint public morals of the state of VIC, as they were more than entitled to. Then came the second part of the sting. Arthur Rylah didn’t have a teen-aged daughter. This news also broadcast to the world.

    None of the above is meant to be offensive to you Beevo. However, if you have really come to see the evil intent of people wanting to invoke censorship, on BEHALF OF THE CHILDREN. Beware the dictator hiding around the corner.

  13. beevo

    PS. I now realise that I have just inadvertantly proved your point! I researched the material in question online and made a judgement on it ; “I don’t like it.” But it was freely available for me to make that decision on my own and I didn’t have to rely on someone else to make the decision for me. (sigh)
    Well, I never did have an opinion that I wasn’t willing to change so there you go eh?

  14. beevo

    Apologies for the comment Bob, it was just meant as an exclaimation no offence intended I assure you. Upon re-reading it was inflammatory and I withdraw. 😉
    I will wait for some other comments while I stew a bit. Obviously I am both for and against censorship… hmmm. However, if as you allude to, such material was illegal to produce and ther was some jurisdiction to prosecute then you are OK with that? (Literally thinking out loud here)
    Civil suits perhaps for these more contrived and ambiguous “tame” offerings such as “Virgin Killers” (see link above)
    I am not pro-censor and certainly not religious but more a secularist and particulary with legal and political matters. There must be some simple social rule that as long as you don’t hurt of victimise anyone (including yourself or other creature!) You can pretty much see or do whatever you like. More of a hippocratic oath – “first do no harm”? But I look at the Virgin Killer album cover and see a victim. Still, I must assume from the “Word” article that this would not be possible to release today? That’s some comfort and surely not such a bad outcome?
    BTW We don’t need jury trial in Qld for every case anymore.

  15. Bob Gosford

    Beevo – thanks for your considered comment – sorry but I cannot agree that I have to ‘seperate’ the child abuse issues from the web censorship issues – they are inextricably linked – see the post from Guy Rundle noted in my previous post.
    And Guy identifies the links between the child abuse/porn moral panic, the government’s proposed filter and a clever, but doomed, attempt to wedge the Liberals on a modified and updated ‘tougherthanyouoncrime’ stance better than I can:
    “At a time when child pornography dominates public fears of safety – indeed has become the central image through which people imagine the notion of harm – Australian Labor’s adoption of filtering has a prominent political goal: to outflank the opposition Liberal Party on the question of law and order by adopting an ostensibly social democratic use of public coercion. Adopting a US-style approach of advocating ‘three-strikes’ law and long prison sentences, internet filtering has a clean, technocratic, social-hygiene feel, which Labor can claim as its own.”
    And I won’t respond to your ad hominem attacks other than to say “play the ball Beezo” – you demean and diminish your own considered opinions by the use of unseemly comments.
    The inconsistency of your arguments is revealed by you pointing to the successful actions by police in various jurisdictions – in my view the real administrators of justice on the web, and illegal content on it, should be the police and the justice system, using the laws as set by parliaments. In this area at least, the justice systems appears to have some degree of success. That job should not be left to self-appointed groups like the IWF in the UK or whoever gets the job of administering the proposed scheme here to be determining what is right and wrong in any other than a legal and judicial context.
    And I don’t know who you are referring to when you level the charge that ‘all’ of us have ‘failed to separate the victims of crime’ from ‘moral perception and freedom of expression’. I haven’t because, as noted above, they should not be separated.
    And thanks for the questions about whether the images should be available for view and ‘would you click?’ – my first response was to respond that yes they should be available and that I most likely would click – not because I want to see them for gratification or vicarious pleasure but because the ‘un-censor’ in me says that there should be no censorship…then I stopped and thought about if this is what I really believe – I re-read your comments, thought for a while more and confirmed my earlier conclusion apart from ‘Would I click?’ – It is irrelevant and depends entirely on the circumstances – if I was on a jury and was required to see them as evidence then yes, I would click – or open the folder. But if I was on the street and someone came up and said ‘Here are some disgusting child porn images – want to have a look?’, I imagine I would just keep walking.
    And your argument about what a jury should or not see is wrongheaded – it is a jury’s job to assess the evidence – if the evidence relates to child porn, or murder, or drugs – it is immaterial – they have to assess it – just as for the police investigators there are ways and means of addressing psychological harm, if any, suffered by members of a jury from dealing with these matters.
    And I’ve got no idea what you are trying to say here “That would be another 228 victims plus judge, staff and attorneys.”
    There will always be evil and we can do our best to counter it – I have at least two examples of civil actions that I was involved with as a solicitor on behalf of the victims and their families and which failed – partly because the perpetrator was clever in the first instance by targeting vulnerable children from breaking homes, were tied to institutions that protected them (overtly and covertly) and partly because of factors inherent to the victims themselves.
    These cases haunt me to this day – but I wouldn’t want these perpetrators dealt with any way other than by the justice system.

    The other flaw in your argument is thinking that censorship of the web will protect any children from abuse – it won’t – perpetrators and the people that produce this material will just get smarter and work out a new way or ways around these rather flimsy barriers – or find new ways of distributing material.
    Censorship, as Guy Rundle and many others point out, gives a measure of comfort to the unthinking, the lazy and to politicians grasping for a quick policy fix or a headline because they can be seen to be doing something – but the very real threats posed to real freedom of speech – as opposed to some morally or politically sanctioned version of ‘free (as long as I like it) speech’ – which really is not free speech at all – far outweigh the supposed benefits from this government’s harebrained scheme and the actions of groups like IWF.

    Start of a long and very slippery slope? Yes.

    Beevo, again, thanks for your comments – and keep them comiing!

  16. beevo

    Bob, you really must seperate the child abuse issues from the “moral” censorship ones. You have drifted off topic one way or the other. I am not pro censorship and if you had started this thread just dealing with internet censorship in general I would be agreeing with you 100%. But you didn’t start the thread that way… you used potential child exploitation or the celebration of it in images as your opening argument against censorship. Are you crazy? It is not fair and seriously misleading to run off on this thread with some sanctimonious crusade for freedom of speech and all to easy to forget the poor children who are the victims.
    You too Venise. I agree with your comments 100% but have a look at what specifically you are defending before you fire a shot. You have to seperate these two areas. You have to qualify your statements. Draw a line and then continue.
    This week an international child-porn ring based in Brazil was smashed and 200 offenders were identified from the ISP addresses across 70 countries. 10% of these were arrested and charged in the eastern states of Australia! These Australians are not just collectors of abusive material. They are perpetrators who photographed their own exploits and shared them with each other. I will not go into the detail, you can look it up yourself. But if it doesn’t make your blood boil and stomach turn then you need to seriously address where your heart is.
    You have all failed to seperate victims of crime from moral perception and freedom of expression. Do you think these images and videos should be available for comment? What if there were a link right here? (link to images) Would you click??
    I am not even sure if a jury should see these things. That would be another 228 victims plus judge, staff and attorneys.The investigating offices are forever damaged pshycologically I can assure you.
    And nobody is saying where these poor kids come from and what is to become of their lives.
    This is a war and we have to win it. Atheist or Pope, there is not a society where abuse and violence should be tolerated. Don’t confuse this issue with religious puritanism. There are worse things out there.

  17. Bob Gosford

    And the wonderful Guy Rundle, most recently found here at Crikey writing from the US on the 2008 election, has this post over at Spiked: http://www.spiked-online.com/index.php?/site/article/6009/

    Rundle gives a useful overview of the merits (lack of) the Australian proposal and the politics behind it, including this excoriating comment about the chief spruiker for the Australian scheme:

    “Furthermore, Conroy is from the conservative Catholic right wing of Australian Labor, a group whose politics have always been defined by social repression in the interests of ‘ordinary people’. The faction departed Labor for 25 years (after which many members of the faction returned to the Labor Party), forming the Democratic Labor Party and allying with the Liberal Party to keep Labor from power for two decades. Based in large labour groups such as the Shop Assistants Union, the faction has spent decades styming censorship abolition, abortion law reform, equal rights for women, and the decriminalisation of homosexuality, among other things. Effectively it is a right-wing party within a Labor host, its politics closer to Italy’s post-fascist Social Alliance party than anything emerging from an emancipatory working-class tradition.”

    Truly, back to the ‘fifties, Vince Gair and the return of the DLP…

  18. Bob Gosford

    Over at the UK-based ‘The Word’ ezine there is a post entitled ‘Ten Record Sleeves That Wouldn’t be Approved Today’ – http://www.wordmagazine.co.uk/content/ten-record-sleeves-that-wouldnt-be-approved-today – and while many of them wouldn’t deserve approval I don’t think that is the point – and The Word makes the same point as I do that none of this self-righteous censorship is effective – plug one hole and the laws of physics open up another…

  19. Venise Alstergren

    Thanks Bob you reassure me. I will continue to think on this, but I’ve been working all day and I just gotta go to bed. Surely the wretched James Bigood (Labour MP, QLD) where else? Must have spoken up on the censorship of television? With a mouth like his he could become a dead lead-weight in Labor’s saddle. (Not that I would vote Liberal, not at all, not at all). There’s gold somewhere in this creature. I feel it in my tired bones.

    Goodnight

    Venise

  20. Bob Gosford

    No, Venise – you John & I are not the only people who care about this but if we keep pecking away we might raise a small enough noise to be noticed!!
    Cheers and I look forward to preparing my next post on this subject – any of your thoughts about issues or particular problems are more than welcome!!

  21. Venise Alstergren

    Venise Alstergren#2: Are Bob, you and I the only people who care about this issue?

  22. Venise Alstergren

    Jon, I don’t want to depress you but the net can be censored. Try using it in China, or Iran, this is the whole point of the question. Why should OZ, a free (?) country, want to have the same crippling effect which would reduce it to being on a level with Iran?

    Don’t forget that all forms of business would be slowed down by delays of eighty-seven percent on existing usage. ie they would be having to cope with thirteen percent capacity of existing speeds. Given the fact that our broad-band is so slow compared to other countries; already we are backward-in the nineteen-seventies I think. To plonk censorship on top of all this would take us back to the late nineteen-fifties.

    God botherers don’t think about reality. They just want to screw the system.

  23. Jon Hunt

    I think that essentially, being world-wide, the internet is unpolicable in a practical sense. Given that, I guess we will just have to live with what it provides or is able to provide whether this agrees with whatever moral sense people have (or don’t have).

  24. Bob Gosford

    “Telstra says no to filtering trials” – from The Australian (http://www.australianit.news.com.au/story/0,24897,24771009-5013040,00.html) today:

    “”Telstra is not in a position to participate in the Government’s internet filtering trial, primarily due to customer management issues,” a company spokesperson said. The company said it was separately evaluating technology that allowed blocking via defined blacklists. “We will continue to work constructively with all stakeholders, including the Government, to help provide a safe internet environment for children,” the Telstra spokesperson said.”

    And Optus, second in the ISP market behind Telstra, has agreed to participate in the government’s trial, but not without conditions: “Our participation will be strictly limited to filtering only the Australian Communications and Media Authority blacklist, which contains URLs of illegal content,” an Optus spokesperson said. There are 1300 web pages on the list.

    “(Australian ISP) Internode managing director Simon Hackett told The Australian: “We feel the policy is deeply flawed as it stands and further dignifying that policy with additional tests that will repeat the results of the tests done over the last decade will not turn a flawed policy into a good one.”

    And The Australian report includes the following, predictably emotive, comment from a supporter of the government’s plan:

    “Child Wise chief executive Bernadette McMenamin said Telstra’s decision was a black day for Australia, and questioned the telco’s commitment to protecting children online.” “This indicates that Telstra is not committed to banning child pornography and we should question its values,” Ms McMenamin said.”

    One question that I’m trying to work out is how we can avoid scenarios like that in my post where a private body can cause potential chaos with the web – but still give people opt-in access to appropriate and effective filters – any thoughts?

    And the Australian web-based activist group Get-Up has a campaign and blog on the issue of internet censorship – well worth a look: http://www.getup.org.au/blogs/campaigns.php?id=140

  25. Venise Alstergren

    Jon, you aren’t the one who is confused. The confusion exists in the minds of people who think other people have minds as filthy as their own. As you know, anyone who objects to these censorial holy-moleys, leap out of bed in the morning before rushing immediately to our computers, where with open mouths and smacking of lips, we churn through our websites desperate to see the latest ads for brothels, or pics of the ladies of the night. We don’t need breakfast, what we need is a fix of s-x. Then we tear off to the office and do it all over again. And pigs certainly can fly. All v sad. Wait until business is slowed down by this filtering process. They will be enchanted!

  26. Venise Alstergren

    Sorry I went on for so long.

    Cheers

    V.

  27. Venise Alstergren

    Bob Gosford: Your excellent article matches the many comments I’ve been sending in to various websites and newspapers- who wont print my atheistic rants- The values of today have become so circumscribed, so Politically Correct, so full of godliness, that, IMO parents and Godbotherers have successfully knackered any chance of today’s kids having any knowledge or ability to know what is morally correct behaviour; WHY? Because the PC’s have air-brushed these sorts of questions out of existence. To take an admittedly extreme example:- How will today’s kids know that rape is a bad thing, if the word rape has itself been expunged from our dictionaries?

    I am a fairly consistent Labor voter, but when Kevin Rudd put on his little temper-tantrum about a copy of an image by Bill Henson, he brought the art of cringing, by we the Glitterati-lefties, as Peter Faris described art-lovers, to a very nasty nadir. (incidentally I don’t like Henson’s work, but I don’t try to tell other people what to think about it) I dared to question the values of the leader of the moral-right group who had helped turn the ensuing event into a circus: sort of a cross between the Melbourne show, Melbourne Cup week and the Bacchanalian orgy (without the vino, just with the exquisite ecstasy of the morally self-righteous people going to the World Youth Gymkhana-PAID FOR BY THE TAXPAYER. I’m saying this just in case you were in Venezuela at the time.
    Someone wrote to me explaining the woman leading the crusade- her name escapes me- had a child who had been molested. I replied “V unfortunate, but it still doesn’t give her the right to ram her views down our throats.’
    Then, as you know religion via America’s madder right-wing fundamentalist- groups appears to be taking over large swathes of what used to be a sane OZ electorate. The use of religion to censor our thoughts, our computers, our books, our movies, our information, is particularly revolting. But particularly prevalent throughout history.
    Children: Ha! All the would-be censors aren’t doing it for their own pitieous little egos? No, no, no, no, no, never. It is all being done for the sake of our kids. And if the public believe that they will believe anything. Pity about the drop off of eighty percent of our speed with which to access the web, we can lump it. Pity if this filter will slow business to a crawl. It’s the kiddie-widdies who will be looking at porn. Funny, I can’t remember my friends being obsessed by porn when I was a kid. Oh well, there’s always the footy to console us as we turn back to an earlier age. All of this is twenty-first century enlightenment?

  28. Jon Hunt

    I am just wondering what is the purpose of such censorship? Is it the images themselves which are the problem, or that someone would want to publish them, or that someone would want to view them? Do they have the theory that such images will make paedophiles of viewers so that they hope to remove the world of these? Do they consider such photography of children an abuse? If so, surely the parents gave their consent. Is it the parents then who are abusing the children?

    I doubt that such censorship will change who people are or what they find stimulating.

    Help please, I am a little confused……

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