The Rudd government is never shy to flaunt its conservatism, so much so that the conservative opposition sometimes has no room to move except going to the left! One of Labor’s ostentatious and shameless exhibitors of broken election promises as well as arrogant disrespect for the electorate is uebercatholic Stephen Conroy. His proposed web filtering scheme, which would put it on par with oppressive censorship regimes such as China or Iran, has been almost universally rebuffed. Nevertheless, he’s going ahead with the mandatory internet censorship trials.
The Howard Government commissioned a report into website censorship, which was prepared by the Internet Industry Association. It was handed to the current government in February but is being kept under wraps. Why? Because it concluded that schemes to block inappropriate content such as child pornography are fundamentally flawed.
The report, based on comprehensive interviews with many parties with a stake in the internet, was written by several independent technical experts including a University of Sydney associate professor, Bjorn Landfeldt. Landfeldt, one of Australia’s leading telecommunications experts, says some of the fundamental flaws of the scheme raised in his report include:
- Filters would slow the internet – as much as 87 per cent by some measure.
- All filtering systems will be easily circumvented using readily available software and would not come close to capturing all of the nasty content available online.
- Censors maintaining the blacklist will never be able to keep up with the amount of new content published on the web every second.
- Filters using real-time analysis of sites to determine whether content is inappropriate are not effective, capture wanted content (blocking legitimate sites), are easy to bypass and slow network speeds exponentially as accuracy increases.
- Entire user-generated content sites such as YouTube and Wikipedia could be blocked over a single video or article.
- Filters would be costly and difficult to implement for ISPs and put many smaller ISPs out of business. ISPs of course would pass on their costs to consumers.
- While the communciations authority’s blacklist would be withheld from internet users, all 700 ISPs would have access to it, so it could easily be leaked.
- The filters would not censor content on peer-to-peer file sharing networks such as LimeWire, chat rooms, email and instant messaging.
- Filtering raises serious freedom of speech questions, such as who will be held accountable for blocked sites.
- Having set a precedent, the Government will be pressured to expand the blacklist to cover lawful content including pornography or euthanasia material.
- ISPs and the Government could be legally liable for the scheme’s failures, particularly as content providers have no right to appeal against being blocked unnecessarily.
I’m glad my ISP Internode has refused to take part in Conroy’s trial, unlike companies like iiNet who believe practical proof is needed to demonstrate that website censorship will not work.
Here is a better way to raise to fight against the government’s proposal: join the GetUp campaign! Unfortunately wordpress.com only allows the code for approved widgets to be embedded, so here’s the web address for the GetUp ‘Save the Net’ campaign. Add your name to reach the goal of 95.000 signatures – so far they’ve got around 91.500.