Online civil libertarian group Electronic Frontiers Australia warns on their site No Clean Feed of Communications Minister Stephen Conroy’s plan to force mandatory ISP-level filtering on all residential and business internet users in Australia:
What is planned?
The Government is refusing to release concrete details on the plan. However, we know that ISP-level filtering has been ALP policy for some time and is being zealously pursued by the Minister. What we do know is this:
- The feed will be mandatory in all homes and schools across the country.1
- The filter will censor material that is “harmful and inappropriate” for children.2
- The filter will require a massive expansion of the ACMA’s blacklist of prohibited content.3
- The filter will target legal as well as illegal material.4
EFA notes that any filter system would ultimately be circumventable by use of an anonymiser service or other offshore proxy.
Quite so- and all you’d have to do to beat the government filter is to install Tor. Tor is an ‘onion router’ application which shuffles traffic through a matrix of volunteer-maintained Tor nodes out on the net.
In the above illustration, Alice’s ISP would be between her machine and the first Tor node she sees, along the encrypted green line, preventing real-time snooping of her traffic. Government filtering might have Jane on the banned list, but since Alice isn’t directly connected to Jane, the traffic goes through to Alice anyway. Ban beaten. Win. Downside is that owing to the many additional hops, connections made via Tor take several times longer, slowing even broadband connections to a crawl. Lose.
Conroy is being tempted to do a one-size-fits-all filtering solution. Unfortunately, it will fit families with children but no one else. Everyone else will suffer for the little children, either with a filtered internet service suiting 5-year-olds or with severely hobbled access speed.
The right way to protect children from age-inappropriate materials is to supervise their internet usage; computers should be in a family room or other common area, where children’s internet usage can be monitored. You don’t protect children from drowning by banning water- you teach them how to swim. Kids will encounter inappropriate material. When they do, it’s a great ‘teachable moment.’
If filtering software is required, it should be installed at the local machine used by kids. And guess what? Filtering software is already available, free, from the gubmint… which is all well and good, unless you have a kid who is savvy enough to uninstall the filter!
Interesting concept, asking parents to be parents, instead of expecting the Government to be a nanny.
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