Internet Filter: What is the Real Agenda?

The number one argument of those who support the ridiculous filtering of the internet in Australia – (which will bring us “in line” with countries such as China, Iran, and Cuba, and their “exemplary” human rights records) – is the so called “Think of the Children” argument.

While there is no doubt whatsoever that highly objectionable content such as child porn needs to be REMOVED from the internet, there is equally no doubt that employing an internet filter such as the one proposed by our beloved communications minister, will not actually block people who really want to access it from actually accessing such content.

So why spend the time, money, and effort building it? Well, that’s the question, isn’t it?

There is absolutely no possibility that Minister Conroy has not been told of the ease of getting around this filter. Surely someone has mentioned it. As stupidly that he acts in public on the issue(s) of the implementation of this filter, I doubt he is that stupid in actuality. What he actually is, is naive.

Unfortunately, the people distributing this kind of material on the internet are a highly organised bunch of creepy people, with the technical know-how to blow around a quirky little internet filter with ease. It is trivial. The resources being allocated towards this filter would be far better used in shutting down the sites and services carrying the illegal material. Much of what they want to block is legal – but I’ll get to that later.

China has its “Great Firewall of China” – and has had for many years – yet people are still able to access the open internet very easily. Most choose not to, for fear of imprisonment should they be caught doing so. The political pressure that the Chinese regime places on top of their filter as an “extra layer” makes their filter somewhat more effective than Australia’s would ever be.

Australia – and more specifically, Kevin Rudd – has been widely critical of China filtering internet access towards its own political ends.

Australia won’t be imprisoning people for circumventing the filter, so the will of people to do so will be much greater than those in a country like China. The people who will “want” to circumvent the filter are the people wishing to access the content that has been blocked. Because quite logically, if you don’t want to access the material that is blocked, you’ll have no need to bypass the filter.

This is where the argument forks in two different directions. One side says that if you don’t want to access this blocked material, the filter should not be a problem for you, because it will only affect access to that material that you wish not to access. The other side says that if you put the filter in place, it firstly doesn’t work anyway because it is easily circumvented, and secondly you have a ready made censorship mechanism in place.

These are two very valid standpoints.

However, it gets down to how much you trust the administrators of the ACMA blacklist. Trust is an emotional concept, and something that is EARNED. Not something to be expected. Last year, the contents of the ACMA blacklist was leaked to the internet.

Time and time again Mr Conroy, Mr Rudd and other supporters of the filter tell us “this is all about blocking kiddie porn.” The old “Think of the Children” argument.

If you are interested in the contents of the list, it is locatable on the web. Perhaps the following site may help you to find it:

If we are to accept this internet filter, we must trust the powers that be in maintaining this list. Again, trust is earned, so why was “” found on the list when it was leaked?

Looks like a business website for a dentist, right? Yes – because that’s all it is! Care to explain that one Mr Conroy? Not exactly a basis for earning our trust, blocking a legitimate business website.

Currently, there are no plans for the contents of the list as it evolves over time to be made public. There are no plans to implement an appeals mechanism. If the inclusion of Dental Distinction had gotten through to the implementation of the real filter, what would they have been able to do to restore access to their business website?

Either nothing, or launch likely very expensive legal action. All because someone decided they “deserved” a place on the list. Where’s the kiddie porn on that site? If another legitimate website slips onto the list, where do we place our trust in the mechanism?

The list also contains many online poker sites and other sites containing LEGAL material. Since when is online poker illegal? There are sites that appear to be related to teen sex – the legal age of consent in Australia is sixteen. Sixteen-year-olds are teens. So are seventeen, eighteen and nineteen-year-olds. Teen sex is by definition, only illegal if it relates to children below sixteen. As I understand mathematics anyway.

There is no basis for the generation of trust between the Australian people and the administration process relating to this list. If they can slip the website of a dentist onto the list, what else can they sneak on there? Sites about euthanasia? Sites about abortion?

I don’t personally support abortion, but I also do not support the potential blocking of information about it from people for whom it is a real personal consideration. This is a freedom of information concern.

There are already indications that sites containing information on such material – (euthanasia, abortion) – will be included in the final filter, because the current government does not support the legality of these issues.

The government tell us they have a mandate for their agenda for winning the last federal election, and that internet filtering was part of that agenda. Interestingly, only 43.38% of voting age Australians “supported” this government by first preference vote. Extending this to two-party preferred voting, only 51.10% of Australians “supported” this government.

By their first preference vote, more Australians wished to vote against the election of the Rudd Government and its policies, than voted for the election of the Rudd Government and its policies! Even on a two-party preferred basis, they got barely half of the national vote.

Conroy says that if we are so against the filter, we shouldn’t have voted them in. If it wasn’t for the preferential and divisional voting system in this country, they wouldn’t have gotten close to being voted in! Conroy also forgets that the primary electoral issue of the last election was workplace relations, and that during the election campaign, the proposal was for an OPTIONAL internet filter to be available for people who wanted it. It was certainly not the MANDATORY proposal now before us.

Conroy – your government won a mandate based around workplace relations. Not internet filtering. Either way, less than half of the voters in this country had a first choice of having a Rudd Government when it came to power. Your policy back then was for OPTIONAL filtering. We aren’t allowed to see the list, we can’t appeal what is on the list. There has been a history of legitimate and legal sites reaching the list. You must know ALL of this.

There is division appearing within your own ranks about whether the entire filtering policy is actually such a good idea afterall. Labor Senator Kate Lundy in particular is touting for the filtering policy to change back to an optional filter.

You have even said yourself, that “you can’t regulate the internet” – then backtracked when you realised what you had said. The secret ACTA treaty your own government is a party to through the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, actually FORBIDS a government to mandate internet filtering.

We already know we can’t trust you, your filter, or your understanding of the portfolio you are in charge of. So, Mr Conroy – what’s the real agenda? We’d really like to know!