With the glee over the good political news coming out of the US subsiding now, we return to Australia and Senator Conroy's plan to censor the internet. If you only read the comments people were writing in the newspapers here, or on blogs, or on web forums, or on news websites, or in person with other people, or on television, or on public transport… you may get the impression that nobody wants this.
Fortunately the ABC has been able to actually find someone who does support the plan, and for their benefit they've published their defence of it:
Family concerns: Internet filtering has the potential to be a great tool to help parents in their difficult vigil.
There has been much backlash against the Government (and Stephen Conroy, the Communications Minister) for their attempt at making the internet safer for Australians. There has been much necessary talk of technological difficulties and also a large amount of discussion regarding censorship.
The article was written by Anh Nguyen, a "researcher" with the Australian Family Association, a Catholic organisation that opposes gay rights and claims that "safe sex" is a "lie" amongst other golden tidbits. Still, everyone deserves their right to free speech and opinion… wait, he is arguing we don't, never mind. The crux of his argument is that a national internet filtering system is desirable even though it won't entirely be effective.
I could argue at great length here over the ethical issues that would arise as as result of mandatory internet filtering. I could argue that if they can't guarantee that legitimate content won't be blocked then it's dangerous. I could discuss the dubious criteria for being blocked, and the slippery slope over what is legal and what isn't. I could argue that the opt-out system Senator Conroy proposes and Mr Nguyen endorses goes against consumer rights and is completely the opposite to how anything else operates. I could argue that the only other countries that have implemented such systems are ridiculed and condemned for doing so. I could argue that such actions are illegal and unconstitutional, and fly in the face of "innocent until proven guilty" Honestly I could even go as far as to quote each of his paragraphs and write at length the problems with his reasoning, and point out the flaws with his figures.
Senator Conroy, the person who wants to censor Australian internet
The simple fact of the matter is though, they are all moot points.
Even if such a system were desirable, it would not work. It would not work for the same reason that DRM (digital restrictions management) doesn't work. People who want access to the blocked "illegal" material will be able to get it. Anyone with five minutes and Google will easily be able to bypass any restrictions. The only people this will affect, just like DRM, are legitimate users. In this case, law abiding people will have slower internet access and legitimate pages that are blocked by accident, while people who want to access illegal material will continue to do so. That's all there is to it. Put the book down, grab a coffee.
As my ever wise grandfather on my mothers side has always said: "don't let the facts get in the way of your argument [Mr Nguyen]". For what it's worth, there are 101 comments on the article, and all but half a dozen people were appalled. Unfortunately "democracy" entitles us to vote for our government, not on their decisions. They know this of course: there's no way this idea would pass if put to the people in a referendum. This is what needs to be done though, so we can bury this silly idea once and for all!
For more information about the federal government's plan to filter and censor the internet, check out NoCleanFeed.com where you can also pick up badges to put on your websites; at least before the government decides to block you for such illicit behaviour. You can also find out more at the Electronic Frontiers Australia website. You email Senator Conroy at his website. Don't forget to also write to your local federal parliament member in your electorate.