I’m not particularly politically involved but recently there have been a few issues that have appeared on my radar that I’d like to share with you.
The (not so) Great Firewall of Australia
I’ve already written about this topic at the start of this year. Unfortunately the story continues to get worse. Stephen Conroy, our Communications minister, is insisting on pursuing the idiotic idea of placing a firewall between every Australian and the Internet, despite his own governments research indicating that it would a) affect performance and b) be ineffective. Let me state this clearly:
The Australian government are trying to censor the Internet.
They don’t know what they’re doing.
The implementation they’ve chosen to pursue is an two-tiered ISP-enforced blacklist. In English this means is that your Internet provider will be forced to run software to prevent you from visiting certain web sites. The “two-tier” part refers to the fact that there are two levels of filtering. The first tier will affect everyone – it’ll be a list of the worst of the scum of the Internet and the intent is that no Australian will be able to view these sites. The second tier will be optional and will be a much larger list of nasty’s – it’s supposedly designed to make the Internet “safe” for children.
This is different from when they first proposed filtering. As Duncan Riley has documented, in 2006 an opt-in (off by default but you could request for it to be enabled) system was proposed that blocked only illegal content. A year later “illegal” content became “illegal and offensive” content. In late 2007 it became opt-out (on by default, request for it to be disabled). Now it’s mandatory with a second level blocking content “inappropriate for children”.
There are a number of issues with the whole proposal. I’ve already discussed some of them but I’ll reiterate the most fundamental: Who decides which sites are in the blacklists? I do not trust our government to make sane decisions in this area. Further, it’s a slippery slope; it’s reasonably easy to justify that child pornography ought to be in the blacklist but what else should be banned? They’re already talking about filtering “other unwanted content”. What does that mean? ‘Regular’ pornography? Terrorist sites? Foreign news sources? People who speak against the government?
Technically, there are large holes in the implementation. It’s trivially easy to circumvent. I’ll explain how to do so if it becomes implemented. Also, a significant proportion of offensive content is transferred over peer-to-peer systems, particularly bittorrent, which is completely immune to blacklists.
I want no filtering of our Internet.
If you also feel that this system is wrong then do something about it. Electronic Frontiers No Clean Feed has some great suggestions (let your local MP know!) and much more information. At the very least I implore you to start some informed discussions with your friends and colleagues simply to spread awareness.
A few other links:
The Spoonman on TripleM recently dedicated a fair chunk of his show to discussing the issues. He had some well-informed guests and someone was kind enough to transcribe some of the show.
My mate Richard Giles has written eloquently on the topic.
There’s a very active (thousands of posts!) Whirlpool forum on the issue.
The Australian Web Industry Association’s Keep Your Filter Off Our Internet site also contains information and advice on what you can do.
OK, that was more than I expected to write…my other two political topics will have to wait for another post!