Stay the Course

Posted in #openinternet by skepdadblog on July 8, 2010
Tags: , , ,

Oh Julia, we had such high hopes for you.

Would you crawl out from under the ACL yoke that bound your predecessor, and send Conroy’s filter back to the confessional in which it was conceived?  Would you see the sense in keeping a tenuous grasp on the new media-savvy Gen X/Y/Z voters by sacking Conroy and installing Kate Lundy, who by all reports has a better grasp on the portfolio anyway?  Would you lend an ear to the serious democratic concerns raised by opponents of the filter?


For those of you as disappointed as myself in Gillard’s endorsement of the filter, my advice is this: stay the course.  It is not done, and it is not over.

Firstly the filter is back on the table as an election issue.  The real danger was that Labor would suppress any commentary on the filter until after the election, removing it from the minds and voting pencils of those opposed, and claim an implied mandate if they won.  That, it seems, won’t now happen.  Gillard has made her position clear, and I expect to see vocal debate on the filter as a genuine election issue.  This is a good thing for us, as informed debate is the enemy of Conroy’s misdirection and spin.

Let’s remind ourselves of the key reasons to oppose the filter:

  • False security.  The filter will lead to an increase in children being exposed to undesirable content on the internet, because un- or mis-educated parents will view the filter as a safety net and supervise their children less online.
  • Dangers from workarounds.  Many people, particularly young folk, will circumvent the filter as a matter of principle.  Many of the circumvention solutions involve using third-party proxies or VPN solutions, which are not all to be trusted.  Fraud, and potentially child abuse, will increase as kids fall for these dodgy workarounds.
  • Censorship.  The “secret” blacklist already contains URLs which are not related to RC content, despite Conroy’s claims that the filter is intended to only filter RC URLs.  Furthermore, the scope of RC can be expanded by future governments to encompass anything they find undesirable.  The filter hands future goverments carte blanche to impose their (or any effective lobby group’s) morality on the Australian public.  Also, as the list is complaints-based, anyone can request that any URL be added to it.  This will certainly not be abused in any way.
  • Secrecy.  In all other media, the list of banned material is publicly available.  Conroy’s excuse for keeping the internet blacklist secret is that people would then have a link to go and look at it.  But how could they look at it if it was blocked by the filter?  Knowing the name of a banned book (e.g. the Peaceful Pill Handbook) allows me to go to an online international bookseller, legally order it, legally import it and legally possess and read it.  How is that different?
  • Child protection.  The filter does not in any way help protect children from online predators, nor does it in any way help to catch purveyors or creators of child abuse content.  if anything, the budget diverted to this entirely useless filter takes money away from policing, which is effective at catching these criminals.  Child protection groups like Save The Children are opposed to the filter.
  • Misdirection and lies.  Conroy continues to brand anti-filter as equivalent to pro-child abuse or pro-porn.  He continues to “consult” only with organisations that are pro-filter.   He continues to deliberately confuse “RC” with “illegal”.  He continues to talk up the illegal content that falls under RC, without ever mentioning the perfectly legal content that also falls under RC.  He continues to spread misdirection about “cinemas and newsagents”, ignoring the legitimate issues with his proposal.  He continues to abuse parliamentary privilege to attack informed, considered opposition.  He continues to mislead you, the Australian people.  He wants his proposal in, and he doesn’t want the truth standing in the way.
  • Ulterior motive.  Gillard has a confidence problem with the ACL and christians in general, having come out about her atheism.  The filter is a ploy to get their votes back.  Furthermore, given the Labor minority in the Senate, they need the support of Family First Senator Steve Fielding.  Fielding has had a key hand in the drafting of the filtering proposal.  It’s about votes, not about protecting kids.

Get the word out.  Don’t vote for this filter.

“The State must declare the child to be the most precious treasure of the people. As long as the government is perceived as working for the benefit of the children, the people will happily endure almost any curtailment of liberty and almost any deprivation.”
– Adolf Hitler, “Mein Kampf”


7 Responses to 'Stay the Course'

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  1. Lord Scarab said,

    I wholeheartedly agree. This filter is a dangerous attempt by the ACL to push their ‘morality’ on the rest of us and be damned by the cost.

    As long as we keep talking about it we will eventually get our message out

    • skepdadblog said,

      Agreed LS, but talking must include talking to real people out in the world; our parents, friends, school/professional/social networks and MPs. Bouncing the idea around the blogosphere is not enough!

  2. skepdadblog said,

    Here is the letter I just drafted to my Labor MP:

    Re: Internet Filter


    As a resident of —————–, an IT professional and a parent of two young children, I am writing to advise that I shall be voting against Labor in the upcoming Federal election based entirely on the issue of Senator Conroy’s internet filtering proposal.

    Furthermore, I regard it as my duty as a free Australian citizen to oppose this proposal with all means at my disposal, including educating those in my extensive local school, social, professional and community networks about the reality of the proposed filter’s ineffectiveness, wastefulness and unintended adverse consequences.

    I urge you to encourage the Prime Minister to abandon this flawed and deeply unpopular proposal lest it cost you your job and, more to the point, cause irreparable harm to Australian society.


  3. butcherbird said,

    Nice blog I’ll be back.

    If people are going to write to their local LABOR member then you need to spell LABOR correctly not LABOUR.

    • skepdadblog said,

      By the FSM, you’re dead right. Fixed with sheepish apologies.

  4. Tim said,

    Great post, but while I applaud your sentiment, you need to realise that one of your reasons (headed “secrecy”) is flawed.

    It’s true that if the list of block sites were published, the netizens of Australia would not be able to view them. Sadly, this is NOT the case for the millions of people living outside the Great Firewall. The Australian Government cannot, and should not, publicly release a directory for net nasties. It should be kept secret, and reviewed by an independant body.

    Having said that, such a list would be outdated as quickly as it was compiled. The internet is an everchanging medium, and the URLs used today could easily be changed tomorrow, and since the filter only knows the exact URLs, it will not block an identical page at a very slightly different address. Any half-competent webmaster could change the URLs of his entire site every day, using a simple automated process.

    Even with a staff of thousands, no government agency could keep up with the myriad of added pages and address changes that happen every day. The list of banned URLs would very quickly run into the millions, and become completely ineffectual, within months. It’s an exercise in futility.

    Keep up the good fight!

    • skepdadblog said,

      I see what you are saying and I accept your argument for *illegal* content on the list, but there is absolutely no reason why legal but RC URLs could not be published. This is where the bulk of the concern lies – that legal content judged by some bureaucrat to be immoral or socially marginal will be added surreptitiously to a secret list and blocked.

      Additionally, there are other solutions. For example, the full list could be available to Australian citizens under a freedom of information request.

      Conroy is taking great pains to state that he just wants to treat the internet like any other media. But no other media is subject to a secret blacklist. He seems to be under the impression that Australians *want* to see illegal material, and that is by and large not the case. The battleground is not illegal content, but legal content prohibited by a self-appointed moral guardian.

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