Sarah Taraporewalla's Technical Ramblings

Australia to Censor the Internet

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If you haven’t heard of Australia’s plans to censor the internet, let me be the first to inform you. The current government has a plan “to force all Australian ISPs to implement server-based filtering systems to block access to ‘child pornography’, ‘X-rated material’, ‘violence’, ‘prohibited’ material, ‘inappropriate’ material and ‘unwanted’ material on a secret blacklist compiled by a government agency”[1].  

Originally, the plan stated that the mandatory ISP-level blocking would be opt-out. However, Communications Minister Stephen Conroy has now revealed that there are no such plans to allow opt-out and that all users internet will be subject to filtering and blocking.

So, what is the big deal? Blocking child pornography - thats a good thing, right. Yes it is, until you look at the technology that they are planning to use. Apparently, tests have shown that the filters block the wrong content in at least 25% of cases[2]. The technology also needs to look at everything coming through (not just headers) to determine if it should be on the blacklist and the filter they use isn’t that performant - the internet will become slow again.

And lets not go into civil rights, freedom of speech or the beauties of an open internet. And exactly where will the draw the line. Today its kiddie porn, tomorrow: anti-government websites.; no blogs allowed - no opinions allowed. 

It is good to see that the media seems to be behind the anti-censorship parties[2] and that protests and petitions are happening around all capital cities on 13th December : see http://nocensorship.info/ for more info.

Lastly, let me leave you with my letter of petition[3] to Stephen Conroy:

Senator Stephen Conroy Minister for Broadband, Communications and the Digital Economy Level 4, 4 Treasury Place Melbourne Vic 3002

Dear Minister,

As an Australian citizen and an internet user, I wish to advise you of my serious concerns about your mandatory Internet filtering policy.

Given the importance your Government has attached to modernising Australia’s broadband network, pursuing a policy that can only slow down and increase the costs of home internet access seems misguided at best. Australian households are diverse, and most do not have young children, so mandating a one-size-fits-all clean feed approach will not serve the public well. I don’t think it is the Government’s role to decide what’s appropriate for me or my children, and neither do most Australians.

Given the amount of Internet content available, the Government will never be able to classify it all and filters will always result in an unacceptable level of over-blocking. I feel that the time and money could be spent in better ways both to protect children and improve Australia’s digital infrastructure. Australian parents need better education about the risks their children face online. Trying to rid the Internet of adult content is futile, and can only distract from that mission.

Sincerely,

Internet User

Sarah Taraporewalla

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