Friday, January 30, 2009

Australian Internet Filtering ... almost upon us

Internet filtering is about to descend upon us ... and Keegan might be in limbo very soon. What to do about this is a good question. We'd originally thought that only the X-rated sites would vanish. Then it was the R-rated sites too. Then...

Well, here's the news on All News Web:

Australia: North Korea style internet censorship plan moves ahead.
Australians can’t deal with free access to the internet as far as Australia’s Minister of Communications Stephen Conroy is concerned. This month his office announced that live trials of a far reaching internet filter will begin.

Australians will have to get used to an internet devoid of X-rated, R-rated and even M-rated websites and ultimately possibly have to get used to no internet at all, according to some observers. The plan is supposedly about protecting Australians from the ‘evils of the net’ and cracking down on child pornography but evidence suggests that the censorship program will go much further than that according to many observers.
‘Sadly the kids will end up suffering for this….and vulnerable women’ noted one psychologist we spoke to.’ Borderline abusers are currently fulfilling their fantasies vicariously through the kind of porn legal in most countries (not Australia). Once this stops the action will shift to shady file-sharing groups and go offline altogether. They will get of the net and hit the streets’

IT experts fear that the plan will interfere with the internet so much that it will effectively take Australia out of the information age. ‘Yep Australia will be going offline’ one IT professional active on the online group ‘No internet censorship’ told us. ‘The filter will slow down speeds to the point that the net will be rendered completely useless’

On the other side of the coin many Christian activists are applauding the move. ‘The net is a receptacle of filth and it’s going to get a good scrubbing behind the ear’ commented Dorothy, a middle aged Mum affiliated with the Australia's Evangelical community.

Australia's few free speech activists are horrified by the plans ‘This is the end of free speech in Australia if it ever existed at all. In the end the filter will be used to cut out any websites that don’t conform to the likings of any lobby group that is seen as having voting power. When this plan comes to its logical conclusion you will be lucky if you can get on and read the daily news.’ Commented one well known free speech activist.’ Australians will lose on all fronts, abuse will be up and the net will be down’ she concluded.

Is this a far-fetched, extreme case scenario? We don't think so. This appeared on Crikey!:

So Conroy's Internet filter won't block political speech, eh?
"Freedom of speech is fundamentally important in a democratic society and there has never been any suggestion that the Australian Government would seek to block political content," intoned Senator Stephen Conroy on Tuesday.

Yet the very next day, ACMA
added a page from what's arguably a political website to its secret blacklist of Internet nasties.

The page is part of an anti-abortion website which claims to include "everything schools, government, and abortion clinics are afraid to tell or show you". Yes, photos of dismembered fetuses designed to scare women out of having an abortion. Before you click through, be warned: it is confronting.
Here's the blacklisted page.
Mandatory Internet filtering, says Senator Conroy, is only about blocking the ACMA blacklist. The blacklist, he repeatedly insists, is "mainly" child-abuse and ultra-violent material. He's protecting us from ped-philes, stopping terrorists, that sort of thing. It's like the regulation we have for TV, films and books. Except it's not. It's not even close.

As always, Irene Graham's meticulously-researched explains how Internet censorship actually works
now and what the Rudd government has been planning.

It's not the blockage/filtering/censorship of the x-rated stuff and the r-rated stuff that bothers most ordinary folks (like self). It's the blockage of everything down to the M-rated material ... because after that, all that's left is G and PG. This is kiddie stuff. Even Lord of the Rings is rated M and MA15+. There's not a lot of the big movies out there that are PG. The Dark Knight is MA15+, for example ... Batman is about to vanish from Australia's web; Wolverine will never even appear upon computer screens here. The filtering will be in before it's released.

We can expect to lose YouTube, Wikipedia, Flickr, Photobucket, MySpace, FaceBook, Amazon, and a whole lot more; because you can see M-rated stuff on all of these sites; and you can buy it from Amazon in the form of DVDs and --

Books. Which is where Keegan stands to turn into the invisible gay novelist very soon. When the government's blacklist is completed, rounded out to include everything except G and PG material, well ... this blog will still be there at Blogger -- you'll be able to see it! -- but I won't -- meaning, I can't update it, post to it, edit it, or even check back to see what I wrote a few months ago! It'll have vanished because I'm a political and gay rights activist, and I cover topics which are in the M rated bracket. I run artwork that's as "revealing as underwear commercials --

You realize that Victoria's Secret and so forth will be vanishing? The automatic, robotized photo filters are fine-tuned to detect skin. Any skin, anywhere. Not genitalia: they're not that smart. SKIN. (How do you think Google Safe Search works?) The text filters are set to detect four letter words ... but it gets worse: "damn" and "blast" and "hell" and "bugger" and "death" and "kill" will get you rated R. This blog IS rated R, because I keep saying heinous things like, "This heat wave will be the death of me yet," and "Somebody kill the power before this computer melts down," and "There was a blast of cold air from the a/c," and ... so on.

So, given that the only things left on the Internet will be Disney oriented, kiddie entertainment and shopping at stores that do NOT sell books and DVDs, who in the is in favor of the Internet filtering?

This is also running on Crikey!:

Who supports compulsory Internet filtering, exactly?
Senator Conroy tries to portray the filter-fighters as "extreme libertarians". But with GetUp!'s "Save The Net" campaign having already gathered 95,000 signatures and $50,000, it's starting to look pretty mainstream. That, plus a new survey by middle-rank ISP Netspace, starts to paint the supporters of compulsory filtering as the minority.

Netspace isn't taking part in the trials because the Expression of Interest contained "insufficient detail, unrealistic timeframes and unclear funding arrangements".

Uh...huh. Well, Senator Conroy would probably contest that less than 100,000 Internet users are not a big enough group to compromise the security of the legions of children whose parents are allowed by law to practise criminal negligence.

Put it like this: you have a stash of porn magazines, tapes and books in the house. The kids know where the stash is. Do you leave them alone with it? The answer is -- no, you don't. The same applies to the computer and Internet connection ... no more, no less. The responsibility is on the shoulders of the PARENTS to filter their own damned Internet and protect their own damned children.

Meanwhile, some ISPs are so disgusted, they won't even be involved in the trials. I'm with Telstra-Big Pond, and this is fortunate, because this is one of the disgusted ISPs. Another is the giant Netspace.

In fact, Netspace officially has this to say:

Netspace customers rail against ISP filtering
Netspace has released the results of its customer survey on ISP level filtering, which shows strong opposition to the federal government's plan.

The survey found that 78.9% of the "almost 10,000" respondents disagreed with the federal government's plan to mandate ISP level filtering for all Australians, with 61.8% of those "strongly" disagreeing.

Over 70% of Netspace customers also showed strong opposition to the potential for increased broadband prices and a reduction in Internet performance as a result of filtering.

Netspace also asked customers if they would "opt-in" to a clean-feed service if it were made available. 64.9% of respondents said they would not sign up, while 26.1% said "maybe". It's worth noting however that some comments by the government have suggested the clean-feed service would be opt-out rather than opt-in.
In related news, iiNet says it is "unsure" when the filtering trials may start, and is not yet sure if it will be asked to participate. iiNet told customers in its newsletter that its "belief is that these trials will only highlight filtering as ineffective in addressing the issue".

"We're also more than a little concerned with the Government's failure to clearly outline the level and types of censorship that will apply to subjects other than child pornography, in addition to the impact this filtering could have on internet performance", it said.

O...kay. As you can see, at this moment's it's chaos, with only one thing being certain: a minority of people (like the Aussie Christian Evangelical Mum above) are in agreement with making the web a G and PG environment. But --

When you lose Amazon, and Wiki, YouTube and Flickr, sites that sell swimwear and lingerie, sites giving information about AIDS prevention, safe sex and the right way to use condoms; sites that argue the political environment, and contend with matters of human rights...

Do the evangelists have the right to dictate terms to the community as a whole? Isn't this the gateway to the Sharya system of law?? Why can't these religious enthusiasts just protect their own children, and leave the rest of us be? Take a leaf out of the Gospel According to Ned Flanders, and look after your own damned kids, don't wait for the country to do it for you! And then --

Why do these religious bods assume that their kids WANT to see porn on the web? If they've raised them in their own pure and holy image, wouldn't the kids turn off, switch channels, run back to something nice and safe?

Here is where it gets interesting, because --

Children's groups Save the Children, and the National Children's and Youth Law Centre, said they were yet to be convinced of the effectiveness of a mandatory filter but would wait until children were properly consulted before making a judgement.

"We're agnostic about the mandatory filtering trials," Save the Children Australia child rights adviser Holly Doel-Mackaway said.

"If it's an opt-in filter we would agree," she said.

She also called on the Government to take children's input seriously when forming policy.
The Government has established a youth advisory group based on 15 schools to guide it on cyber-safety matters.

"We've been advised by the department that the consultation process with the children will start in March," Ms Doel-Mackaway said.

"We want the children's comments to be documented and made public.",25197,24967191-15306,00.html

This is where it starts to get a leeeetle bit idiotic. In March, they're going to start talking to "children" to get their take on the situation. In context, "children" means anything under 18. They'll be talking to a six foot, hungover, beard-shadowed guy who lost his virginity five years ago, and whose girlfriend is expecting his baby while he finishes out his matriculation, ready to go to TAFE or whatever. Question: are you frightened, troubled or offended by nudity and sex education pages on the Internet? We couldn't think of a sillier bloody question if we held a national competition. Or, they could be talking to the girlfriend, same age, same situation, except that she's at home, six months pregnant. And oh, does she wish she'd looked at the condom advisory service page seven months ago!

Except that page won't be there if she behaves like a Good Little Girl, and tells the bastar--nice people from the government, "Oh yes, I think the Internet should be "scrubbed behind its ears."

Or will they talk the the 13 year olds whose piles of Playboy and Hustler magazines are in the old breadmaker box behind the bike, under the dripsheets, in the back of the garage? Which kid in his or her right mind will admit to having a stash of porn at home? They KNOW what to say, to make the adults happy -- "adults" being a collective term which includes their parents, who don't know about the stash under the dripsheets, and who do control the purse-strings!

The situation is getting to the point of utter absurdity, and there is not one thing the ordinary voting Australian can do to stop it happening.

There's a lot more to this story, but I'll have to leave it there for today ... it's too hot to think much less write, and we're expecting rolling power outages in the afternoon, hitting random locations, as the local power station practises "load sharing" to meet demand. The forecast is for 109F today ... the problem is, it's already that hot in the yard here, and it's only lunch time!

If you found this post interesting or useful, PLEASE EMAIL THE URL to your friends! Remember that Google still has my page rankings set to zero, for no good reason. It is impossible for people to find this page with any kind of Google search. Help Keegan be heard -- especially because this is an important subject! Thanks in advance for emailing this url, and perhaps bookmarking it on your favorite sites.



Katie said...

I'm an American journalism student, and this internet censorship thing has got me intrigued! I thought Australia was all for free speech? Could I possibly interview you about your work and views as it pertains to Australian internet censorship?

Mel Keegan said...

Katie -- I'd be delighted to do an interview. To me, this is a matter of critical importance. Can I email you directly? You can contact me direct at melkeegan[at]dream-craft[dot]com ... and I look forward to talking to you.


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