Australia’s Tangled Censorship Web

Confused by all the controversy surrounding the Australian Government plans to filter the internet? New Matilda has been holding forums about the proposed censorship regime. Here’s some video to help explain.

Melbourne’s session featured:

Colin Jacobs, Electronic Frontiers Australia
Michael Flood, Sociologist
Senator Scott Ludlam, Australian Greens

From Michael Flood:

I’m now far less than convinced that I used to be of the value of ISP based filtering as a strategy. I’m much more convinced of its technical problems and I’m more convinced of its political dangers. … You can say that one of the early advocates of ISP filtering is now backing away from this.

No permanent friends or enemies, just permanent interests.

Kevin Rennie

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4 Responses

  1. Everything I have seen in this debate so far has wound up with Conroy wasting his time defending false accusations. I feel sorry for him. I really do. I couldn’t believe on Q&A a month or so ago how often he had to repeat his denial of falsehoods, only to get yet another question predicated on a truth already denied. I think he ought be given the opportunity to research and produce his policy, then we can debate it. He has said repeatedly that there will be no censorship of political content, although the performance of Louise Adler on Q&A that night suggests that there should possibly be a rethink on that.

  2. There is alot of misinformation being bandied about on both sides of the debate, true. On the other hand though, Conroy has not been completely upfront with everything on this policy of theirs and (more importantly) it is based around both technological fallacy and a moral relativism issue that they (Labour) continue to ignore.

    Technologically speaking, it is not possible for them to filter out all that they want to. It is incredibly easy to get around web-based filters these days – I used to do so regularly to listen to the Pandora web-radio when they first blocked Australian IP addresses. That and, as has been repeatedly told to them by the authorities (both public & private) on child pornography, most the child porn they claim this is for is distributed in peer-to-peer networks. That is, websites are not even the tip of the iceberg – they are an ice cube that floats by after the Titanic has sunk.

    Morally speaking, they are talking about censorship at a level only seen in dictatorships around the world. They claim that this power would only be used for good (and they probably believe that), however the methods & laws they are talking about are much more than that. We will not only not be allowed to know what is being blocked by their proposed filters but, should we somehow find out what is being blocked, it is a federal offence to let others know what that is! In other words, they could put into place blocking of perfectly legal sites (but say, against Senator Fielding’s sensitivities) and even if we knew about it – we would be thrown in jail for letting others know. This is a moral quagmire that is best stepped around rather than slugged through. Looking at the other countries that have put this in place should indicate pretty damn clearly what kind of abuse it allows.

  3. I think we ought to censor anything that might be considered offensive to catholics or ex-catholics.

  4. It seems that Minister Conroy’s own reticence is partly to blame for “misinformation”. It has not been a great example of participatory democracy so far. I was impressed that the three speakers at the New Matilda Melbourne forum were trying to find solutions to the broad objectives of the policy. They were not just making political points. This kind of debate should be happening at government sponsored fora.

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