Monday, October 20, 2008

Australian Government Censors the Internet

At least they will if this plan get puts into effect.

Like any intelligent Australian, I have a problem with this. I have a problem with the fact that the government thinks they know what is 'appropriate' for me, as an adult, to view. I have a problem with the fact that they think they have a clear-cut definition of 'morality'. I have a problem with the fact that the government that was elected by the majority of Australians has an innate distrust of its constituents. I have a problem with the fact that Australia will become the next China, North Korea or Russia.

The minister, Stephen Conroy, is using 'child pornography' as his war cry. In this article he associates 'free speech' with 'the desire to access and watch child pornography'. Who in their right mind makes that association? Paedophiles is who. If the government was serious, they would target child porn sites one by one and take them down. No one is advocating a need to watch child porn, so that argument is moot.

'Senator Conroy says it will be mandatory for all internet service providers to provide clean feeds, or ISP filtering, to houses and schools that are free of pornography and inappropriate material.'

What will be deemed 'inappropriate'? Who decides this anyway? Conroy? Rudd? Their mothers? I understand the need to educate our children and protect them from potentially scarring incidents (2girls1cup, anyone?) but that does not require a blanket censorship of the internet. If anything, they should spend part of the proposed $128m on parent-education packs which would be sent out upon request. This is a positive step that doesn't involve turning Australia into a technological and global laughing stock. Some may argue that those in opposition to this plan are all pornography addicts, child molesters, terrorists, traitors, morally corrupt individuals and hardened criminals.

I'm in opposition to this proposal, and I'm none of the above. My problem with this plan is that the government thinks they need to 'protect' the population from the big scary internet. The first filter blocks out 'pornography and violent images' according to Senator Conroy. The second filter, the one that wasn't publicised, and was only learned about via insiders, is the one which blocks 'illegal content'. Tell me, what constitutes 'illegal content'? Torrent sites? Terribly sorry, but they host a wealth of 'legal' content. Porn sites? Pornography is legal and doesn't claim to be aimed at a young audience. Sites which speak out against the government? I would certainly hope not, although preliminary trials suggest that a couple of sites which speak ill of the government were blocked - which begs the question 'Where will it stop?' Will internet sites be blocked if they disagree with government policies? Will people be prosecuted for visiting such websites after circumventing the filters? Will the website blacklist be compiled using an arbitrary method of judging what is 'moral' or 'immoral'?
It certainly will be. This cannot be argued against. What is considered 'moral' differs between people. I think this blanket censoring is immoral on the government's part. Others may disagree. I cannot imagine why.

Here's some fun facts about this proposed filter:

'Between 1% and 6% of websites deemed 'safe' will still be blocked.' Even if you pick 1%, that's still 10,000 websites out of every million, and since Google recently counted over a trillion unique websites, that means 10 billion websites will be incorrectly blocked. This site might even be blocked because of it. A YouTube site containing offensive language (which, let's face it, means all of them, if the Comments section is any indication) may be blocked. This is not right.

'Internet access will slow by up to 78%'
according to a government report. 78% is HUGE. My 1.5mbit connection would be reduced to 330kps. It would go from being 26x faster than 56k dialup to 5.8x faster than dialup. That is definitely not good enough. Couple this with the fact that the Rudd government is pushing for a faster internet network and you end up with a heap of contradictory bullshit.

'The cost of internet access to Australian users would increase'
because ISPs would have to pass on the cost of filtering to customers. Think your internet plans cost too much already? Just wait until the filters get put in place!

'The internet will lose its status as one of the last true neutral zones of communication'. I don't have a reference for that one, because it's so blatantly obvious I shouldn't have to provide one. It's the last bastion of true free speech. I can say what I want over MSN/Facebook/IRC/Forums without 'fear' of retribution from the government because they don't agree with what I have to say. Hell, this blog, small as it is, might be banned under the new filters because I have the keywords 'dissent, child pornography, censor, bullshit, terrorist' on it. This means that any other post I make would be inaccessible too. I don't pretend that this site is Reuters or Google, but the fact remains that it's MINE, and there is alot of info on here which doesn't Contradict Or Question The Australian Federal Government's Plan To Censor Internet Access.

Yes, there are some unpleasant things on the internet. There's violence, there's racism, there's unconventional sex, there's a manual for making bombs/committing suicide/developing anorexia/child porn whatever else you can think of. If you don't want to visit these sites, then don't. There, problem solved. If you do, then you need to consider why you're doing it. If you are concerned that your children are accessing this stuff, then obtain the free filtering software that the government is currently offering, or better yet, buy some software that works better. If you're concerned that your friends or people you know are unstable enough to pursue anorexia or suicide, then you need to actively discourage them from doing so and point them in a helpful direction. If you're after child pornography, then you're a sick fuck who deserves to rot in prison.

Censoring the internet is impossible, impractical, immoral (one person making a blanket decision for everyone IS immoral, you have no right to tell someone else how to live), inconvenient, terrifying and ridiculous. I do NOT want Australia to become the next China, North Korea or Russia, despite what Conroy naively thinks.

If you are as incensed by this as I am, I encourage you to go to for more information, and here to find out how you can make a difference. I usually hate this 'together we can make a difference' stuff, but when it comes to the internet, it's all we have - we don't have trucks to blockade roads with, or placards to clog Wall Street with - all we have is our voice.

If you do choose to contact any government minister or news outlet, please keep your correspondence rational, mature and devoid of name-calling - we're all adults here.

Cheers guys.