Not Just Wrong About Filtering – Conroy Lies About It

The issue of the potential for a mandatory internet filter in Australia has shown itself to be highly emotive in recent times. Indeed, many people have taken many different stances on the whole debate, and it is probably fair to say nobody, not the least Stephen Conroy himself, have all the answers.

Many have taken very spiteful and vitriolic postures in the debate. At times I have even myself, posted very pointed material on the matter. While I feel very strongly about this issue, I have always sought to back up my stance with as much FACT as I have been able to muster.

Stephen Conroy himself delivered a post that was highly critical of a post by Eliza Cussen in which she sought to spell out the apparent – (or obvious) – mis-truths emanating from the minister and/or his department.

To give whoever writes Senator Conroy’s copy some credit, as pro-filter advocates they structure and present their side in a most convincing manner. Any John or Jane Citizen reading this copy is quite conceivably going to absorb it in just the way the minister wants it to be absorbed. These words are generated and polished within a highly organised political machine, with a track record of producing excellent spin. Spin of course, is not necessarily the truth, and this is what the minister is relying on.

Average John or Jane Citizen on the street knows little or nothing about the internet. They use it to read their local newspaper sites before breakfast, or over their first coffee in the office. They pay their bills through their internet banking systems, and dabble in a little Facebook to keep in touch with their friends, while browsing and deleting the latest spam in their inbox. That really is about all they do online.

So when they read a cleverly crafted piece such as Conroy’s The Punch article, it all seems like “a bloody good idea” to John and Jane Citizen. If not for the misinformation.

Nobody is arguing that child pornography is a “good thing” – far from it. It is abhorrent, and it’s very existence personally makes me sick to the stomach. This filter is however nothing to do with child pornography, no matter how you try and paint it. A turkey is still a turkey, no matter if you paint it red, green, orange, pink or brown. If it looks like a turkey, sounds like turkey, and walks like a turkey, chances are it is an ACTUAL turkey.

Simon Hackett of Internode has today presented a piece that is as equally well crafted as that of Senator Conroy and his department, with the added benefit of presenting some ACTUAL facts.

Whenever faced with structured, reasoned, factual articles in response to his filtering proposal, Conroy regurgitates from a standard list of pre-prepared and inaccurate sound bites.

Such as the ever-popular – “our filter is 100% accurate”. Who could forget – “you can’t buy this material on DVD, you can’t get it in bookshops or in magazines, you can’t see it in cinemas and you can’t watch it on television”. When painted into a corner, he just makes stuff up, and there have been plenty of examples.

One would hope that when Senator Conroy was given the communications portfolio that he demonstrated some knowledge and understanding of the communications arena. Time and time again, he has failed to demonstrate even basic knowledge of the industry. Presented below are things that the minister has actually said or done, in many cases, spoken from his own mouth.

If his position was one in the corporate world, he would not only not get the job, but he quite possibly would not even get to the interview stage. I wrote a satirical piece a couple of days ago in a similar vein, but here it is in black and white.

  • Minister Conroy said in his Punch article“Unless the URL’s requested are on the RC Content list, the web traffic will not pass through a ‘filter’.” — Exactly how will he know if the requested URL is or is not on the RC Content list, if he doesn’t pass it through a filter? Clearly, a lie or a complete misunderstanding of the concept. His OWN concept.
  • In the same article, Minister Conroy said – “We have never said ISP-level filtering alone would help fight child pornography or keep children safe online.” — Yet on the Channel Ten program “The 7PM Project”, the minister clearly said at the 3:07 mark of his appearance that “this filter is only designed to block webpages that are defined under the classification processes as “refused classification” – that’s child pornography, pro-bestiality sites, pro-rape websites, and material like that”. So even though he says in one breath, it is ONLY about BLOCKING these sites, he says in another that there is more to it?
  • One of the minister’s favourite lines is – “You cannot buy this material on DVD, etc” — however, as pointed out by Simon Hackett you quite clearly CAN get it on DVD in Australia. Yet another lie or complete misunderstanding.
  • Heading back over to the minister’s appearance on “The 7PM Project”, it was clearly stated with reference to the 4:57 mark of the interview that – “it’s banned on Australian hosted ISPs today, it’s not banned because we can’t ban international websites, we can’t ban material hosted in foreign countries” — meaning that if it is in Australia, he can have the content taken down, but if it’s overseas, he has to block it. So there should be no Australian sites on the list, right? So how did the sites of a Queensland dentist, dog kennel, and tuckshop end up on the blacklist? Is the minister lying again, or is the system he wants to introduce administered in a completely inept fashion?
  • In his appearance on the ABC Radio National program “Australia Talks”, with reference to the 00:36 mark of this excerpted version of the interview, the minister quite clearly said – “the government’s plan is to require ISPs to block a very defined list of URLs of material that is described under Australian laws as “refused classification”” — yet when he appeared on ABC Radio National’s Breakfast program, he said “you can’t regulate the internet”. While in the context of the possibility of Australian content requirements for IPTV services, it’s curious that he says ISPs will be required to block a specific list of URLs under the banner of “refused classification”, yet “you can’t regulate the internet” in terms of IPTV? Aren’t IPTV services accessed via URLs? Can’t he just add those URLs to the list if they don’t serve minimum Australian content purposes? Wouldn’t this be the possibility for the broadening of the scope of the filter we fear?
  • The minister also regularly and clearly demonstrates a complete lack of knowledge of the industry his ministerial portfolio has the most direct influence over. Referring back to the minister’s appearance on the “Australia Talks” program and the 2:25 mark of this excerpted version of the program, he referred to the founder of Google – “Mr Schmidt said, if you have something you don’t want anyone to know, maybe you shouldn’t be doing it in the first place, this is the founder of Google!” — if the minister has any right to inflict an unwanted filter upon the people of Australia, if he has any right to think he has the position to even comment on the industry, should not he know who the founders of Google are?

When will this maddening policy go away? I’m afraid, it will only happen when John and Jane Citizen start hearing the truth. What is Stephen Conroy waiting for? What is he afraid of? Why does he need to spread lies and misinformation about his filter?

Perhaps it is because he knows it won’t work.