(Yet) Another Reason the Internet Filter is Useless

Anyone who has been following the internet filtering debate with an objective eye, will understand how completely pointless it will be to spend $44.5M – (in the first year alone) – of taxpayer money on this politically motivated and farcical plan.

Despite an admission by the department that it won’t be illegal to bypass the filter, and the plethora of really simple ways to bypass it coming to light, the government still insists it is the right thing for Australia.

Well, here is – (what should be) – another nail in the coffin of this whole concept – a man jailed for the downloading of child pornography:

Interestingly, the charges and subsequent finding of guilt and sentencing of this man were as a result of material he downloaded between 2005 and 2008. There is no filter in place now, and there was no filter in place then. Why do we need a filter to catch these cretins? There are always reports of arrests and convictions for this kind of behaviour, so clearly a filter is not needed to achieve these highly desirable outcomes.

Now, remember – the filter will only block websites, and the material the filter is supposed to block is mostly available through non-website sources – (newsgroups, emails, peer-to-peer sharing) – so the filter won’t actually stop these kinds of activities. Clearly, the technology to detect it and intervene upon the offenders exists and works well. Again, this counters against the argument for the need of a filter. An expensive, unwanted, easily bypassed filter.

Furthermore – let us remove the technology aspect to this argument. What if this guy was sitting on a park bench, waiting for a friend to walk up and hand him a bundle of printed child pornography material? Would he be inline to be arrested and charged – (and hopefully convicted) – for this also? Of course he would – because child pornography is illegal. It is ALREADY illegal.

Whether it be printed hard copy, or electronically obtained via the internet. The internet is not illegal, and even if the filter was able to force these people offline – (which it wont) – they would just turn to other methods of distribution, such as postal, and park bench deliveries.

What did the consumers of this horrible stuff do before the internet came along? Did child pornography not exist before the internet? Do we charge Telstra for allowing people to organise criminal activities over their phone lines? No, because Telstra would not be responsible for the use of its service, just as the internet is not responsible for child pornography.

When a machine on the internet hosting this kind of material is detected, international law enforcement treaties exist that would allow for it to be shut down. So shut them down. Disconnect hosting companies that support this rubbish from the internet until they remove it. Force it offline. Prosecute the creators of the material.

Make no mistake, I am in no way a supporter of child pornography, but the government’s plan covers more than this illegal material. It covers a lot of perfectly legal material, but material which someone has judged to be “morally objectionable”. By their standards.

The government should classify all material – there is nothing wrong with that. Classifications allow people to make informed choices of what they do and do not wish to view. Just as it does on television now. Hopefully most parents – (myself included) – would not want their littlies watching “M” or even “PG” rated shows, but that does not mean that it should be unavailable to older people, who want to watch them.

Much of the material on the blacklist is “R” and “X” rated – not generally my cup of tea, but not illegal either – but I would never suggest that nobody should have the right to watch it. The government has decided that much of this material should not, and will not be available. To anyone. Full stop.

Interestingly, there are “R” rated channels available on subscription television in Australia, debunking the government’s argument that you “can’t watch this material on television, so why should it be available online?”

As a person, my choice to view this perfectly legal material online would be made for me – and this is where the filter fails, because it is my choice. Not theirs. If I chose to download ACTUALLY illegal material, I would know that, and know that I am risking the consequences. Like drug traffickers who get caught in south-east Asian countries and put to death. They went there knowing what might happen, and I therefore have no sympathy for them.

And like the guy above, who is now in jail for downloading child pornography. As he should be.

The fact that I would be able to bypass the filter, and see the supposedly blocked material anyway, shows just how stupid the idea to spend all this taxpayer money on it really is. That and the fact that it doesn’t stop this stuff from being produced – which is the REAL problem.