Daily Archives: March 26, 2009

The Great Firewall of Oz debacle

I can’t do better today than to pass on SameSame’s Letter From the Editor which just arrived in my email.

Well, what a debacle this proposed internet "filter" is turning out to be!

First the Australian Government assure us that it won’t censor free speech but will instead protect us from sites relating to "child sexual abuse, rape, incest, bestiality, sexual violence and detailed instruction in crime". Then the so-called list of censored sites is leaked, revealing that hundreds of URLs on the list are actually entirely legal.

The Government then censor the already censored blacklist: republishing the blacklist is illegal; linking to sites on the blacklist is illegal; linking to the blacklist itself is illegal. Punishments include up to ten years imprisonment and for websites a possible fine of $11,000 per day.

Then the Government deny that it’s even the correct list, claiming that the leaked list contained too many URLs to possibly be theirs. And so a more recent version of the list is leaked, and it turns out to be about the same size. And the new list still contains totally legal content.

According to independent media source Crikey, there’s little doubt that the latest list is the genuine article. They cite specific items on the list, and the dates of their inclusion, and find that they correspond with that of the ACMA’s. As far as the recently leaked lists are concerned, the Government is yet to comment.

What it all boils down to is this: we’ve been told that only illegal online content will be blacklisted, but that’s simply not true. Not only that, but unlike offline censorship in this country, not only is the content censored, but information about what is censored is also censored. This means it’s not subject to parliamentary or public scrutiny, and it’s not up for appeal.

That’s dangerous, no matter how you look at it.

See also my earlier post and the item top right in the side bar. Across the political spectrum see  Ned the Bear interviews Stephen Conroy, Liberal Party member Chris Abood on the internet blacklist, Stephen Conroy is an unrepeatable vulgarity (from a distinctly right-wing blogger), Bloggers, Big Brother Conroy is watching you!, The Tangled Web and This Is Not A Club We Want To Join.

This is among the most ill-conceived and foolish things the Rudd government has thus far come up with. I rather doubt Obama and Rudd would be singing from the same hymn sheet in this instance.


Q&A should be lively tonight.

And on another Internet development see Wednesday, March 25, 2009 on Happy Antipodean.

A Facebook data capture story posted on Facebook by a friend is not as hilarious as it first appears as so much law in Australia is imported from overseas, especially from Britain and the US.

The story contains some devastating inconsistencies.

The government is "is considering making … sites [like Facebook and MySpace] keep data about their users’ movements". On the other hand the government "was not seeking the power to examine the content of messages sent via the sites".


Quick note after watching Q&A

Stephen Conroy has a talent for tying himself in knots; Greg Hunt was much more concise and focused. It was reassuring to learn that no political blacklisting is proposed, but I still think the idea of trying to impose on the internet through technology the same standards we currently apply to books, films, radio, tv and so on is likely to be clumsy and possibly futile. Susan Carland made a good point when she suggested leaving offensive sites open so that they can be tracked made rather more sense, and so does the principle that users have a responsibility to filter for themselves.

Andrew Bolt’s self-presentation as the voice of “moral seriousness” was quite sickening, not to mention possibly self-delusional – though I imagine he may well be sincere, or deeply believe he is. The way it manifests itself does rather lean heavily in one direction, however, and that not necessarily either moral or enlightened.

All that said, it would appear some of the reactions to this issue — possibly including my own – have been a touch panicky. It was interesting to learn the ACMA list (subject to regular revisions) has been around for nine years already, and that no-one proposes to prosecute people who simply look at listed sites. On the other hand, I was still not convinced by Conroy’s arguments – once the verbiage had washed over me and I deduced what he may have actually said. The shag on a rock in the whole debate was Bolt. Louise Adler was just a bit too absolute I thought.

In case you wondered, I still oppose the idea.

There were interesting other issues (Afghanistan, Israel/Palestine) raised in the latter part of the program. To view the program or (later) read transcripts go here.