So, our Internet is going to be filtered?

What an outrage! Or at least we’re lead to think so by a minority public view – which in technology circles is a clear and overwhelming majority view. The...

What an outrage! Or at least we’re lead to think so by a minority public view – which in technology circles is a clear and overwhelming majority view.

The comments below are my opinions – as at Monday April 5. I say that because this is an issue, a debate, and I’d like to think that like any right minded person, I might be wrong in some areas, and right in others. And through discussion we can establish the true issues and I can form an even more learned opinion.

Have you read or heard about the filter?

It’s not really a big wall, or a single computer blocking everything that happens in this country, it is in fact a piece of legislation the Rudd government via the Minister for Broadband, Communications and the Digital Economy – Stephen Conroy are planning to introduce.

As a result of this legislation, there will be a blacklist of web pages setup. This list will contain the website addresses (URL’s) of some of the sickest of sick content on the internet. Child Porn, Instructions on committing crime and other such things. More on this later.

Once the list is setup, by a certain given timeframe, every Internet Service Provider (ISP) in Australia will have to use it to block access to those sites. So, if a page is on the list, and you try and access it, you won’t see it. You’ll either get nothing, or more likely a page which says – “hey, not good stuff, but if you think we’re wrong, here’s how to contact us”.

So, you’ll be prevented from accidentally, or intentionally coming across this sort of filth.

Good.

However, the question that begs to be answered is, how many of us have EVER come across such content? Me – Never.

With that in mind, should we even be doing this? Well, as the Minister rightly says, some of us don’t speed on the roads, but does that mean we shouldn’t have speeding laws and restrictions? No. Not the best analogy, but it will do for now.

So, who will this stop – I’d suggest no-one. The accidents just don’t happen, and the sicko’s wanting this content will simply by pass the filter (the Government’s own report says it can be circumvented) or use other methods to distribute/access the content (email/Peer to Peer networking, IRC (Chat)).

So again – why bother? Well, why not?

I’ll summarise the current arguments from the people out there crying foul and calling for an #openinteret (the twitter ‘hash’ tag being used to unite the efforts).
1/ We deserve a free an open Internet
2/ It will slow the internet down
3/ It’s easy to get around and most RC content isn’t on the web
4/ The list is hidden so the Government can put anything on it (perhaps for their own benefit)
Yes, this is not an official list – but it’s the stuff I’m hearing.
So, where is the #openinternet going wrong?

1/ We do not deserve a legislation free Internet (we don’t have a legislation free world, so why should content on the internet be any different) – we do however deserve a freedom of speech on the internet just as we have in the ‘real world’. But remember, in the real world there are defamation laws and such which in reality do ‘limit’ free speech – are we calling for those laws NOT to exist online? I think not. So a free an open internet is a simply ridiculous thing to be calling for. We should spend this time calling for cheaper and less restricted internet access PLANS not objecting filters!

2/ No, it won’t slow the internet down. If it does, it will be by such a stupidly small amount no real person will know it. The internet is an information Highway, it suffers from traffic jams and peak hours RIGHT NOW, and we don’t notice it or get all antsy about it do we? So lets drop off on this argument too please. What we should have is a strict filter that is hard to circumvent and that would slow the internet, but again – no – average – person – will – notice. I promise you that.

3/ Yep, the filter is a waste of time – it can be circumvented, and yep, most of these sickos are using other methods of distribution. So, flat out, this is what makes the whole thing a bit of a tough sell. But, does that mean we shouldn’t have it? Does that one kid who gets spared from this content mean it’s not worth it? Hard to argue really.

4/ Here’s the big seller – the big issue. Who controls the list? Who Controls what sites are on and off the list? THIS is where #openinternet should focus its efforts. None of us want a list that allows the Prime Minister to call the Boss of ACMA up and say “hey mate, whack this site on the list, they are bagging me out, i’d prefer people didn’t see it”
But do any of us really believe that would happen? I mean please – which 9/11 conspiracy theorist came up with this one.

What #openinternet should be calling for is a clear and transparent process here. And frankly, we are getting it. I can almost guarantee that when the legislation is introduced, it will contain a process that while bureaucratic, will mean that no single person or party can control or add to the list. The industry will have a say, as will some independent retired law makers or judges.
This process, and the paper the government released inviting submissions on the process is exactly what we all need to have peace of mind over this issue.

Once legislated, it will exist without us knowing about it or giving it a second thought, and we will (or at least I hope we will) have a clear and independent process by which the ‘list’ of sites is monitored and administrated.
Which brings me to my other key concern. Exactly how long will it take to put a site on the list? And just as importantly, how long will it take to remove them from the list.

The Minister himself concedes that previous ‘lists’ that showed a dog grooming site on the list etc were the result of hacking etc which meant that this content was placed on the site for a temporary period of time. So once the sickos go – how do I – the dog grooming site owner – get my pages OFF the list? That’s a key one we need to have sorted. We can’t have weeks of red tape, paperwork and meetings, we need a simple solution to getting things on and off the list.

And finally, to the #openinternet folks who posted links to a Graffiti video on Youtube – I ask this question – Should it be allowed online?

I think not. This video showed kids vandalising trains, live on video, recorded and apparently distributed on a DVD – the Youtube clip stared with a line along the lines of “the makers of this DVD do not support or condone the activity within it” – Sure – but you’ll film and edit it? And publish online? It’s illegal – it shouldn’t be allowed to be viewed on the internet, so I say BLOCK it. Problem is, big sites like Youtube won’t be covered by the filter, so we need Google to take a better look at its slow and relaxed publishing policies that are allowing this sort of crap on the Internet. I don’t want my son watching it and getting any ideas thanks very much, I want the thugs vandalising the trains caught and put through the courts.

This is a very heated debate – but a very one sided one. The average public do not know it’s happening, nor will they know it’s in place when it is passed as legislation. My concern with the legislations is that it’s got the potential to create a whole new un-needed bureaucracy which by its very nature and speed might render the whole filter useless – but, I’m not sure that alone is reason not to push ahead with it.

We need transparency over who controls the list, and who monitors the list, and I’ll do whatever I can to make sure we get that.

You can hear the full interview I had with the Minister Stephen Conroy during my Your Tech Life #23 podcast:

[audio:YourTechLife023-podcast.mp3]

(Right Click Here (Save As) to download as Mp3)

CLICK HERE to Subscribe using iTunes

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Trev produces two of the most popular technology podcasts in Australia, Your Tech Life and Two Blokes Talking Tech. He hosts a nightly radio show on Talking Lifestyle, 8pm Monday to Friday in Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane, appears on over 50 radio stations across Australia weekly, and is the Tech Expert on Channel 9’s Today Show and A Current Affair. Father of three, he is often found down in his Man Cave. Like this post? Buy Trev a drink!
2 Comments on this post.
  • uberVU – social comments
    8 April 2010 at 10:07 am
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  • Jason Bennett
    8 April 2010 at 1:17 am
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    Silly man, there is already legislation around the internet, how do you think the police get online and find pedophiles to arrest? rather than closing their eyes and pretending it isn't there which is all the filter will achieve. The Government is fond of the no silver bullet excuse, the problem is that it isn't any kind of bullet, it wont achieve ANYTHING. Like saying that because some people speed, the Government is going to install limiters in all cars to cap them at 60km/h.

    Your attempt to use emotional blackmail has also failed. “But, does that mean we shouldn’t have it? Does that one kid who gets spared from this content mean it’s not worth it? Hard to argue really.”

    No one is arguing that children shouldn't have access to a filter, parents are free to install them. The current Government REMOVED the free filter that was offered and left parents 'filter-less' for over 2 years now, surely if the problem was so severe that just one viewing of this material by kids is enough to scar them for life, they wouldn't take the risk of leaving it exposed?

    We all know this is a political campaign by the Government and right-wing religious nuts and a political campaign is a political campaign and truth is often the first casualty.

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