Government to “examine how technology can assist in filtering internationally-hosted content.”
We’ve covered the situation in Australia quite extensively here at Zeropaid. It all started as a voluntary effort to “protect children,” but quickly spiraled into an all out attempt by the Australian govt to make it mandatory for ISPs to filter the Internet of all “inappropriate content” and “offensive and illegal material.” It quickly deteriorated from an attempt to somehow safeguard children from things like child pornography to things like legal pornography and gambling and has made Australian citizens rightly upset.
Broadband Minister Stephen Conroy, the main proponent of the plan, has now launched a blog on the Australian Govt’s Dept of Broadband, Communications and the Digital Economy website in order to promote the heavily criticized plan that threatens to reduce Internet connection speeds by 87% and institute a system of censorship with no oversight.
In a recent posting, Conroy is now touting a $125.8 million Cyber-Safety Plan intended to be a “comprehensive set of measures to combat online threats and help parents and educators protect children from inappropriate material.” In order to protect these innocent and helpless children the govt intends to fund ISP-level filtering, a plan which involves more technical interference in the Internet infrastructure than what is attempted even in Iran.
I can assure everyone who is participating in this debate that the Government is taking an evidence-based approach to implementing its cyber-safety policy. I’m aware of technical concerns some have raised with filtering technology. The Government further understands that the potential extent of ISP filtering is inherently related to the technical capabilities of filtering solutions. International experience suggests that index-based filtering of a central blacklist is technically feasible. Broader, dynamic analysis filtering of internet content, on the other hand, has raised some issues in the past. The Government is currently testing the effectiveness of these technical solutions in the current live trial. The results of this trial will inform the Government’s approach to this issue.
With recent comments made by Conroy that these scheduled “live” trials will be “a closed network test and will not involve actual customers,” the results will be worthless since they won’t indicate a real-world impact.
Conroy also oddly doesn’t see the plan for what it is – an attack on freed speech.
“We are happy to have an open debate about these technical issues,” he continues. “However, the Government does not view this debate as an argument about freedom of speech.”
Oh really? By limiting what can and cannot be said it certainly is an argument about free speech.
Respondents to his post have been quick to point out that despite Conroy’s insistence to the contrary the plan is eerily similar to that instituted in the “Great Firewall of China,” a point of which he disagrees.
“Freedom of speech is fundamentally important in a democratic society and there was never any suggestion that the Australian Government would seek to block political content,” Conroy writes. “In this context, claims that the Government’s policy is analogous to the approach taken by countries such as Iran, China and Saudi Arabia are not justified.”
Well, as soon as a govt gets into the content filtering business isn’t the charge justified? Once the govt begins determining what is and isn’t appropriate for children, or adults for that matter, it’s a slippery slope that is irreversible.
Also, why are other types of content other than “political” any less worthy of protection? To say that non-political speech can be filtered is just asinine. This would make talk of religion, poetry, astronomy, economics, engineering, etc. fair game! To make these open to censorship is EXACTLY LIKE Iran, China, and Saudi Arabia!
Australian society has always accepted that there is some material which is not acceptable, particularly for children. That is why we have the National Classification Scheme for classifying films, computer games, publications and online content. Australian ISPs are already subject to regulation that prohibits the hosting of certain material based upon the Scheme. For many years, the Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA) has had the power to issue a ‘take-down’ notice requiring that prohibited content hosted in Australia be removed, blocked from public access or hosted from behind a restricted access system, depending on the content involved. All the Government is now seeking to do is to examine how technology can assist in filtering internationally-hosted content.
Is that really the best way to protect children? By even going so far as to try and filter the rest of the world?
The Government understands that ISP-level filtering is not a ‘silver bullet’. We have always viewed ISP-level filtering as one part of a broader government initiative for protecting our children online.
Technology is improving all the time. Technology that filters P2P and BitTorrent traffic does exist and it is anticipated that the effectiveness of this will be tested in the live pilot trial.
Yet, again we see Conroy mislead the public. With the “live pilot trial” scheduled to be a meaningless closed network test he will have garnered no viable data to prove the effectiveness of the plan one way or the other.
Moreover, I think the respondent with the alias “IGB” says it best.
“Whatever happen to the freedom of choice?” he writes. “We are mature adults and parents, that have the right to chose what we look at, download, and protect our children from. Who are you to put ‘Business’ before the Public….?”
Not listening to the experts. Not listening to ISPs. Not listening to Australian citizens, and now adding P2P filtering? Whose interests is Conroy really trying to protect? It seems to be the music and film industry’s rather than the publics’.