Thu, 23 Oct 2008 15:50:31 +1100


 David Boxall




With the current focus on financial matters, there is a risk that other issues will escape scrutiny. Below is text from an email, which I recently copied to senator Conroy.

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Apparently, the government plans to interfere with the Internet access of every Australian:;1399635276;fp;;fpid;;pf;1 "Australians will be unable to opt-out of the government's pending Internet content filtering scheme, and will instead be placed on a watered-down blacklist...
Internet Service Providers (ISPs) ... say blanket content filtering will cripple Internet speeds because the technology is not up to scratch. ... advisers to Minister Conroy have told ISPs that Internet content filtering will be mandatory for all users. ...

EFA chair Dale Clapperton said ... that Internet content filtering could lead to censorship of drugs, political dissident and other legal freedoms.

“Once the public has allowed the system to be established, it is much easier to block other material,” Clapperton said.

According to preliminary trials;937690115, the best Internet content filters would incorrectly block about 10,000 Web pages from one million."

There may be a substantial argument in favour of Internet filtering, though I haven't heard one. The populist excuse is that filtering will protect children. I believe it will have the opposite effect. As always, a child's best defence is a diligent parent. No filter is perfect. The presence of an unreliable filter will tend to lull parents into a false sense of security, leading to a reduction in that essential diligence.

The tool to be created with the putative aim of protecting children is subject to abuse. Indeed, according to the above report, is intended to be abused as a weapon of censorship. The business end of that weapon is aimed squarely at Australian consumers.

The nebulous benefits do not justify the costs:
- financial costs;
- costs to the performance of our Internet infrastructure and
- costs to the integrity of our democracy.

This is not something that a wholesome democratic government would need.
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I ask myself:
- what does the Rudd government plan to do, that it needs the infrastructure of a massive censorship regime?
- should we trust this government with such weaponry?
- can we trust every possible future government with it?

When I was growing up in the 1950s, Australia had a substantial censorship system. We grew out of it. Do we really want to go back?