Mandatory Internet Filtering

The ALP content filtering scheme for the Internet was originally expected to contain an opt out option. So whilst everybody that was apathetic or indifferent enough would be forced to endure the governments version of censorship there would at least be an option for those seriously commited to their own personal freedom to have the “filtering service” turned off or to replace it with a private alternative#. However it seems this will not be the case. Instead you will be able to choose between Standard Government censorship and Lite Government censorship.

http://www.thestandard.com/news/2008/10/13/no-opt-out-filtered-internet

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, experts say.

Under the government’s $125.8 million Plan for Cyber-Safety, users can switch between two blacklists which block content inappropriate for children, and a separate list which blocks illegal material.

Pundits say consumers have been lulled into believing the opt-out proviso would remove content filtering altogether.

# for those that want a personal content filter to protect the kiddies I think the free service from opendns.com is fantastic.

36 thoughts on “Mandatory Internet Filtering

  1. You beat me to it Terje.
    This is yet another strike against the Rudd government – although I think the libs would be supporting this too.

    Problems I see with government internet censorship:
    1) It’s unnecessary as anyone can install their own filters
    2) It’s a waste of tax payers money and will probably require fines and policing.
    3) Potential political censorship.
    4) Violation of human right to freedom.

    Once again the government has decided to violate our rights instead of protecting our rights. Another destructive act. It’s clear the ideology of Australian politicians is one of statism. That people cannot be trusted and need controlling by arrogant, power lusting politicians too lazy, greedy or stupid to think through their own hypocrisy.

  2. Seeing as how Rudd is just so damn smart, it’s probably worth letting him make these decisions for us. though I wonder how he’ll find the time, what with fixing the internation economic crises and everything. So I guess someone else will get the job, maybe Stephen smith seeing he has nothing to do (http://www.smh.com.au/news/national/now-pm-wants-to-rule-the-world/2008/10/16/1223750232614.html). Hopefully the job won’t go to the guys that have given us those great government successes like public hospitals.

  3. I do net. That’s my communications medium, my skills and talent, what pays my rent, how I learn, and how I communicate with friends, family, and clients. I need *real* internet in order to be my best. I need a pipe for bits. Not a pipe for some bits, or a pipe for documents, or a pipe for images. A pipe for bits.

    I’d really rather not emmigrate to another country to get a functioning network.

    How the bloody hell do we oppose this?

  4. Tim R – hate to spoil it for ya, but with a few exceptions like say Ron Paul the ideology of all politicans is statism. I’d argue it’s more obvious with left wing politicans, but the right wing ones have it too. It makes sense – if you work in government in any position of power you’d be all for increasing that power.

    It’s one of the reasons why, while I love the philosophy of libertarianism, i think the idea of libertarian politicians is a bit self defeating. Better to have libertarian lobby groups, as there are currently far too many statist ones. Though if the LDP can get someone elected to the Senate they could effectively fill that role with some influence.

    Any onto government internet censorship – to steal a line from Blackadder this will be about as effective as a catflap in an elephant house. Unless they are seriously talking about white list censorship (only allowing access to a defined list of websites) – black listing won’t work. Bloggers and netziens are cleverer than the government and will find ways around it – anonymous proxy servers are just a start.

    But you’re right – it’s worth opposing in principle. Though you’ll be accused of wanting to have unfettered access to kiddie porn/race-hate/snuff movie sites

  5. Why are they implementing this censorship when everyone is objecting to it, not only would it limit our personal freedom, but cost huge ammount of money, reduce the reliability of the internet to Australians and increase latency of communications which will heavily impact on media streaming and online gaming which is growing expediantly.

    I wonder what they would consider as illegal? Being a programmer and website engineer, I sometimes have to revert to security testing websites (hacking websites) and download FREE torrented connect from thepiratebay etc.

  6. Papachango, I agree it’s alarming that politicians on the right (who are supposed to support economic freedoms) are actually just as statist as the lefties. And many right wing politicians are actually disappointed when they are shown statistics demonstrating that government interference was not necessary or was harmful.

    Conan1989, I think the US have had the best government set up in the history of the world so far. Not perfect.
    But I would support a decent bill of rights. I say decent because there are a lot of misconceptions and disagreements as to what freedom, rights etc actually means or should mean.

  7. Papachango – citizens find their way around stupid laws and taxes. However it doesn’t mean that these things are merely a problem “in principle”. They have a damaging impact in practice. As Temujin stated here a while ago you can get around the great firewall of China however the practicality of doing so means that most people in China are just resigned to censorship.

    Where I see huge scope for abuse is when we are in conflict with a foreign nation. The temptation to secretly subvert the information we get from abroad will be very tempting for any government. For instance if during the Iraq war the government had secrertly blocked access to Iraqi blogs or worse still if it had redirected to alternative propaganda sites then public opinion may have been swayed. Even in times when the desire is merely to isolate a nation via trade embargoes they may be inclined to also apply selective communication embargoes. Merely interfering with the flow of fiancial transactions would be one way to classify this as part of an embargo.

    This is not a power that should be handed to the state. Rudd deserves a royal kick in the groin. If Turnbull won’t do it they we need a queue of people who will. If he wants to protect the children then hand out a filtering subsidy or some such thing.

  8. I seriously believe that this is the biggest threat to freedom we’ll face in this decade.

    And it faces enough opposition that a movement could be formed from it. If we want to grow libertarianism, we need to use this movement as socialists have used environmentalism. Freedom on the internet is freedom of information. Government censorship is akin to book burning. This really is something we need to get angry about and rally against.

  9. TerjeP –

    Yes fair enough, whatever way you look at it, it’s nasty censorship, and sets a dangerous precedent.

    Maybe I’m naive, but I just can’t see it going that far – people wouldn’t stand for it. We’ll have both libertarians, socialists, as well as outspoken lefties like David Marr and Julian Burnside screaming blue murder.

    After all they screamed like stuck pigs about how the Howard government was supposedly ‘censoring’ them. JWH did a pretty bad job as their op-ed pieces and books were published all over the country.

  10. I manage a retail store that also serves trade related customers. This afternoon I decided to ask my customers what they thought of the Mandatory Internet Filtering and how it would be compulsory for ALL without the option to “opt-out”
    I served 147 people this afternoon. Out of those.. FOUR had heard of it and NONE of the others knew a single thing about it.
    In my opinion, this is some of the BIGGEST news since the medicare system implementation or the implementatio of the GST.
    I also work in IT – running a pc business. I am all for an OPT-IN system where I can choose to have my internet filtered if I want to.. but a mandatory filter for ALL?? That is just plain rediculous, expensive and labour intensive. Also – it will stop NO-ONE whom really wants to see something. The internet is too vast and to do this is like making a so called unhackable site or an un-copyable game. There is no such thing. If it can be engineered then it can be reverse engineered. Do the public get to vote on the sites that are to be blacklisted?? NO. It is being dictated to us and personally I am disgusted. Most of all I feel sorry for the ISP’s, whose job it will be to enforce this and be held accountable.

  11. What is scary is the proposition that a future government may decide “blacklist isn’t working, well, we’ll go for a white list instead”.

    The best form of protest would probably be a co-ordinated hack of government websites- but that could backfire “see, we do need filtering”.

    Otherwise, how else does one protest thing kind of thing? Rallies in the street? Letters to local MPs? Petitions? How long do we have until this thing goes live?

  12. ALS and LDP come up as some crazy sites – even with AU selected as the engine… filtered maybe as they are pro free speech? lol
    seriously.. please give the full URL’s
    I run a website with 25K members and 2 ircd’s with double that and I would like to pass the links around.

  13. RUDD aka HITLER aka COMMUNIST. A GOVERNMENT FILTER ON MY HOME COMPUTER IS THE ULTIMATE BREACH IN PRIVACY AND SUPPRESION OF FREE SPEECH. This cannot be allowed to happen!

  14. What the gov. wants to filter are illegal sites and content. That means sites that break existing laws.
    The debate here is that the gov. can change any law and make any content illegal as ‘they’ see fit.
    Here is some further info:
    http://nocleanfeed.com/ an active group fighting for internet rights
    http://www.efa.org.au/ which is much more inclusive of other aspects of electronic freedoms.
    http://yro.slashdot.org/article.pl?sid=08/10/17/066236 has a long thread on this.
    http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/27198621 has even worse news. Under the guise of stopping kiddy porn, US Gov is considering installing hardware and software that is capable of intercepting and reading every email, P2P download (read torrent files), encrypted P2P as well.
    Soon there will be no such thing as net neutrality. Watch yourself and watch your tracks.

    On a personal note:
    I’ve installed 2 government approved internet filters (available for free) for clients over the last year wishing to stop their children from viewing and downloading pornography. Those kids have already seen porn from the net and are still actively looking for it. I’ve had to change settings and block google images and other portals that have restricted general operation for non-porn content. They can’t do their schoolwork, but they can still find porn. It affects the parents as well as they have to log in with their own passwords to defeat the filters.
    Others have asked me to set up the inbuilt content filtering in Internet Explorer’s security. It wouldn’t even open kid sites like Nickelodeon.
    These sort of filters don’t work too well. If you really wanted to protect yourself and your computer you can do it easily by downloading and installing a ‘host file’. These are free, they stop rogue sites and software and don’t affect your internet freedoms.
    http://www.hosts-file.net/?s=Download is a good one.

  15. Speaking from the technical side of things, this is a disaster. The senator claims that the filter will break the HTTPS encryption method which is used in online banking and financial transactions. These protocols are incredibly secure EXCEPT against a man-in-the-middle attack. How long is it before we see the first multi-million dollar bank fraud happening directly because this authoritarian nut doesn’t want let me see some booby pics? I say we approach the banks, they might hold a damn lot more swing than we do, especially at this point in time.
    I’m quite sure that this has been said before, but ultimately this filter is nothing more than a drag on our economy, as people who DO have something to hide will just use better methods of encryption and use proxies in countries that would do anything to stick it to the Australian government. I know I’m rambling here, but I would rather preach to the converted, than argue a futile storm with the ACA-brainwashees, so just a little more from the point of view of someone that actually works with computers and the internals of the software that could be used to fulfil the senator’s view of statist ignorance. This protocol will inevitably put a stopper on the open-source and free software movement in Australia, as the report mentions some cock and bull about filtering P2P technology. This is impossible without blocking it entirely. Being the most accepted method of distribution in regard to free software. I have downloaded many free operating systems over the BitTorrent protocol, and it would be a damn shame if they took this great technology away from me without need.
    Sorry about the ramble, this just annoys me to no end because senator Conroy does not have a suitable background to be in charge of Australian net issues

  16. I wrote to the Minister as well as my local member. Even though it’s unlikely to do anything, I like to make sure they know at least one person is unhappy about it.

    This will only be stopped if the widespread negative opinions held my most Australians are brought to the forefront in the media. If this filter goes to the extent that has been claimed (attempting to filter P2P, blacklisting of websites that are inappropriate but not necessarily illegal, etc) I can see this as being a pivotal issue that could have this government thrown out of office in only one term. That, of course, depends on the Liberals pulling their socks up and actually fighting against it (which is probably unlikely, but we can dream.

    What would the logistics be of taking someone off the “inappropriate” list and putting them on the “illegal list”? How long will it take? What will the default be? What will be the process for getting rid of false positives or correcting incorrectly categorised sites? Will the government reimburse business owners for lost business if a business owner’s website is placed incorrectly into either one of these lists?

    This is a farce.

  17. I wonder if Steven Conroy is going to mandate all pornography be kept in safes, because if not, porn is going to be accessible by teenagers (and children).

    Is Steven Conroy going to ensure that all parents have locks on their doors for when they have sex so little Johnny can’t accidentally see a sex act?

    Protecting against accidental exposure (which in my experience is quite, quite rare) is really ridiculous. I know when I was 8 I accidentally saw a late night movie on TV with a couple having quite explicit sex. Not to mention when I was 10-12 and deliberately tried to watch late night SBS. Accidental exposure happens, get over it. What’s so bad about sex anyway? Do we really want to raise a generation of kids afraid of sex? Good way to reduce overpopulation, I guess…

  18. There’s two “illegal” things that people want: copyrighted material and porn. If this net filtering plan goes ahead will these be casualties?
    If I ever get access denied coming up on my computer I (and a minority of others) will be furious.

    Also, why does there appear to be no coverage in the mainstream media? Are they on board with the government sneaking this up on us?

    I think I will do as an above commenter has done and send an email to my local MP.

  19. I hate this it is stupid it violates all our freedom on the internet, the labor party has gone too far. Is it true it might slow all of Australia’s internet speeds down by 70 percent?

  20. Anyone in Canberra free for a protest outside parliament house? We need to nip this s**t in the bud before the government thinks it has the right to do this kind of thing

  21. Don’t know yet, it’s still in it’s infancy, just making sure we can get some numbers so it isn’t just 5 of us walking around looking stupid

  22. Pingback: Censoring the Censorship « Thoughts on Freedom

Comments are closed.