Internet Censorship is coming back to Australia

[UPDATE 7 January: strategy approach link:
http://insidethemindoftim.wordpress.com/2009/12/22/how-to-defeat-labors-internet-censorship-a-liberal-hacks-perspective/ How To Defeat Labor’s Internet Censorship — excellent advice]

[UPDATE: more links to information and action websites below]

The Australian government is on its way to mandating a nation-wide internet filter to block items that are termed Refused Classification (RC). In other words: materials that are censored for the public to see. At the time of the last election, the Australian Labor Party [which now holds government] was scathing of their predecessors doing the same thing. At the time, I was on the board of Electronic Frontiers Australia and gave a speech on the steps of the State Libary on a bull-horn. That speech is still available at: http://www.efa.org.au/Campaigns/may28/melb/jw.html

However, the ALP also presented a policy that was quite similar just before they took office in 2007, and is now found to be very misleading. Most of us read it to be mandatory that ISPs provide a filter, but that people could opt out. Even the spokesperson then, who is Minister now, made that statement on the ABC. Turns out he lied. Or he was telling porkies because he didn’t realise what he was saying.

The premise is that they want to “protect children”. But as most thinking and knowledgeable IT people have said until they are blue in the face: this approach will not achieve that objective.

The government spent a bit of money getting a rigged test done and the report of that faux test was released this week. A storm of angry protest has been unleashed as a result.

I have written the following to one of our Victorian senators with whom I disagree most often and who is part of the balance of power in the Senate. I don’t hold out too much hope of dissuading the silliness of the current minister, Stephen Conroy, but perhaps enough outrage will have some effect. Here is my letter to Senator Stephen Fielding of the Family First party. I’ve given up on our MP, Jason Woods, who is an ex-cop and thinks everyone is guilty of something.

If you would like to get involved, here are some places to connect:
No Clean Feed
Tear down the Great Firewall from GetUp!
and
This protest site: http://stephen-conroy.com/news.php

NEW:
Stop Internet Censorship - No Mandatory Filter. Queensland based, with really good action information http://www.stopinternetcensorship.org/
The Gift of Censorship (Protesting Australian Internet Censorship) http://www.thegiftofcensorship.com/
Libertus - A terrific analysis of the whole situation http://libertus.net/

Now for my letter:

Senator Fielding,

You and I are going to agree to disagree on many things. But I have to write to you and at least state my case about the unsupported compulsory internet filter [see all polls in the major newspapers — no polls have been so certain].

1. I work in the IT industry and teach in the IT industry. I hang out with people in the IT industry. NO one that I know of, save a few who are appeasers to ‘get a better deal’ are in support of this flawed system being proposed.

2. If your intention is to “protect children”, this won’t do it. Short of shutting down facebook, chatrooms, usenet, instant messaging, and all other sorts of interactive social networks, there is no way to achieve the stated objective. And we both know none of those things are going to happen. The traded loss of benefits are too great.

3. Those who wish to access the “blocked” information will easily access it via other means. It will take about 5 seconds.

4. The way to solve this dilemma is to require the government to make the following changes to the policy and therefore in the legislation:

- if there is insistence to require ISPs to provide a filter, make it opt-out at least, preferably opt-in. That way those who have children in their homes, schools, and other public places can have their false sense of protection. This was the ALP policy before the election, not this extended censorship program. We did NOT vote for this.
- reinstate the free filtering service to the DESKTOP that was discontinued when the Rudd government came into office. The mind boggles why such a low-cost and workable solution was defunded.
- put the money that would have gone into the filter system MANAGEMENT, which would be substantial, into education and enforcement against those who are really damaging children: anti-bullying programs, counselling, and police; or better yet, into hospitals, education, and other direct social services. How about youth programs to get kids OFF the computer and into the world, learning to interact with each other constructively?

There are many links to discussions about better ways to go about the achievement of your goals and reasons for why the current position is not going to do anything but waste money and bring out a protest movement. One of the best is Senator Kate Lundy’s blog if you have the time to read it. My thoughts on the Filter | Kate Lundy

I wish you the best at this holiday season, and pray that your conscience and God’s guidance will bring some sanity to this debate rather than the polarising positions and heel-digging that is currently underway in Senator Conroy’s head.

Jan Whitaker

One Response to “Internet Censorship is coming back to Australia”

  1. Fred Says:

    Sensible, logical, factual, moderate, informative, eloquent, intelligent - just what we’d expect from you, Jan. Sadly, also precisely the opposite of the policy and its supporters.

    Clearly we live under the Chinese curse.

    Fred

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