Australian Government To Censor Our Internet

The other day the the SMH published a story about the Government covering up information about their plans to censor the Internet in Australia: Filtering out the fury: how government tried to gag web censor critics.

That news certainly got a bunch of people talking. Over the weekend discussions started on the Port80 forums, AWIA’s committee mail list, and the Silicon Beach Google Group.

Not surprising really, because anyone involved in technology realises that it is a ridiculous way to protect our children.

So AWIA is really serious about the issue, and I spent a few hours on Sunday night doing some research. AWIA plans on releasing a press release soon that outlines our stance, and also getting more active in campaigning against it.

Why bother, you say? Well, here are the main points I drew up in conclusion to my research.

1. It IS important to protect our youth. But NOT with a filter.

The Government themselves said, “Labor considers that, just as we teach Australian children about the risks of drink driving, we must also teach them how to be responsible cyber-citizens and about the importance of cyber-safety.”

That made me think of this example to explain filtering.

Filtering the Internet is like having a breath testing unit (that isn’t completely accurate) on everyone’s street, and everyone has to be tested before they can drive up their own driveway.

That would stop drink driving to some degree, but it would get false readings, slow everyone down, infringe our rights, and cost a lot of money and time.

2. It will filter innocent content, so EVERYONE won’t be able to reach some innocent material.

Think of this scenario if you have a web site. What happens if your web site gets filtered, even for a day or so, because the filter technology accidently added you to the black list. That is definitely possible with the current technology. For a business that can mean loss of business.

When the Government themselves did tests in June this year, their tests showed that on average 4% of innocuous sites were blocked. I think that’s a pretty significant number.

3. Filtering WILL slow the Internet down for EVERYONE.

Again, back to the Government’s tests. Which I should point out were not done in a real world environment, and could result in much worse performance because of the scale that will be required by ISPs.

On average, the filters slowed the bandwidth of the test network down by 42%.

4. It infringes EVERYONES freedom of speech.

The way the Government intends to filter the Internet is with two steps. The first is intended to protect children, and filter content the Government thinks they shouldn’t see. The second is on content it thinks should be banned.

Anyone of age can opt-out of the first step. Nobody can opt-out of the second.

That’s right, the Government is going to decide what we can and can’t see on the Internet, and their will be nothing you can do about it.

Lets ignore the fact that both steps should be opt-in, something you can request, rather than something that is thrust upon you. However, the Government isn’t going to even allow that.

5. It will cost EVERYONE more.

To start with the cost of implementing the technology by ISPs will be huge. It will cost them in infrastructure, as well as man power. Those costs will be handed down to customers.

Now think of the impact on you and your company if the Internet was 40% slower. What if you didn’t get some information because it was filtered incorrectly.

It’s already cost tax payers money, because I’m guessing the testing the Government did in June wasn’t free. It’s a $44.2 million policy. Money I can think of dozens of ways of putting to better use.

Overall the idea is ridiculous. It has so many flaws, and will have a significant impact on Australians, in so many negative ways, that any reasonable person will agree that it’s the wrong thing to do.

So stay tuned, because AWIA will soon have an action plan. But in the mean time, make as much noise as you can about it. Let everyone know about the negative effects.

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10 thoughts on “Australian Government To Censor Our Internet

  1. Hi Richard,

    You might want to direct your readers to, EFA’s campaign site against the filter. Another article out of the Herald today shows that minority parties with political clout will try to influence the filter’s content.

    I don’t agree with you that ‘there will be nothing we can do about it’, since the first product of this policy’s implementation will be an aggressive circumvention publicity campaign. Even if discussing circumvention is illegal, we possess the means and the know-how to do it untraceably and unblockably.

  2. When you think of it in terms of numbers than percentages, the facts get even more staggering. 4% of innocuous websites show up as false positives in tests, so if there are for example 1.5 trillion web pages on the internet, 60,000,000,000 (yes, sixty BILLION) web pages will show up as false positives. I know that the numbers and logic behind that aren’t entirely correct, but this is barely the time for rational thought and argument! After all, according to Senator Conroy, anyone who argues against this is a closet pedophile. Obviously. That is a brilliant stance to take in the face of pretty much every Australian internet user wanting to see him swinging from the business end of a noose.

    Now if SomeGen would just finish editing Leetbix and post it, we’ll get to se my utterly immature view on why the whole deal is bad.

  3. This sort of internet censorship is both laughable and worrying at the same time. I have heard US podcasters laughing at us over this, and quite rightly too. We all know that it won’t work. It won’t stop the real problems, while it will at some point inconvenience every one else.
    Like DRM is will have its problems (even dangers – remember the Sony root kit), where false positives will stop a seeing material we should be able to see, perhaps even need to see, and won’t stop any of the issues the proponents of this nutty idea want to stop.

    My guess is that Labor have some other legislation they want passed and are doing this to keep Steve Fielding happy, after all, they are only going to upset a few geeks, so who cares! A back room deal that at least one of them said they wouldn’t do . The alternative, that it is actually real labor policy, is even worse. It would tell us, firstly, that they are incompetent and clueless, and secondly, they are heavily influenced by the (oddly right wing) religious views of Kevin Rudd and others. We might as well have the country run by Brendan Nelson.

  4. Thanks for the links and comments, Tim.

    Your “circumvention” point was discussed by the AWIA committee, and we agree that there is a minority that will be able to circumvent the filter.

    However, the majority will not have any idea of how to work around the filter, and I’d prefer to focus on the majority in this instance. If the majority have no choice, and get filtered, then from a community point of view this violates our freedom.

  5. Any govt that trots out drunk driving as an example of education is seriously flapping. Consider that there are approx 1600 road deaths on Australian roads each year of which between one-third and one-half are directly related to alcohol. That’s 500-800 people die each and every year because someone drinks and drives. Obviously the govts measures aren’t working, and neither will this clusterfuck of a filtering system.

  6. Pingback: Politics (Firewall of Australia) « Matts Mind

  7. What about the good effects. Can you think of a 8 year old kid trying out the internet and accidentally going to the wrong site, say for example, a very graphic site (a bad graphic site). That kid will be scarred for the rest of his life! “Oh no it’s slowing down the internet!” and saving a lot of future problems. Seriously, don’t always think about all the negative effects, and don’t have a “my way or highway” set of mind, thats why we have racism and hate in this world.

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