Thursday November 13th 2008, 7:07 pm

Timing is everything.

The time for Kevin Rudd to reach out to Australian internet users is NOT while his government is planning to censor residential internet feeds, under the guise of protecting children. It’s apt that Rudd would use a tool called Twitter. Rudd pissed and moaned about Chinese internet censorship while he was at the Beijing Olympics, but comes back home… and does… what?

When Stephen Conroy has been challenged (and he doesn’t like being challenged much) about his proposed mandatory internet filter, his primary excuse is that a ‘clean feed’ was one of Labor’s election promises.

Stephen Conroy: This is a long-standing election commitment. We made this commitment back when Kim Beazley was leader of the Labor Party, so just to give you an indication, this is a long-standing position we’ve been advocating.

However, at the time, the promise was for a ‘clean feed’ for parents who wanted it, but there would be an opt-out for those users who didn’t want it. The goal posts have officially been moved. We expected an optional filtered feed for families with children, not the Great Firewall of China.

What Conroy’s really annoyed about is the leaking of closed-circuit test results of the now mandatory filtering system, which slowed access times by as much as 87%. Thank the stars for a few incontinent public servants.

The list of filtered sites is likely to be unavailable to the public, so you really won’t know what you’re missing. If this ill-conceived scheme goes ahead, every politician and their dog will have a whole list of sites they’ll want banned. Xenophon wants gambling banned. Fielding wants anything not suited to a 5-year-old banned. Bob Brown doubtless wants coal-mining advocacy sites banned. Where does it start, where does it stop and who will know the difference if gubmint has their fingers on the ‘off’ switch?

Mark Newton nuts it in this great piece on the ABC:

One of the most common basic factual errors was repeated on these pages on November 4, when former Victorian Family First candidate and Australian Family Association researcher Anh Nguyen magically transmuted into a network security expert by suggesting that “ISP level filters are being trialled due to the difficulty of securing PC-based filtering solutions.”

While I’m sure the writer has a deep understanding of the needs of his cause, he clearly doesn’t have a grasp of the technology he’s talking about. To put it simply: There is no security difference inherent in taking filtering from the PC and moving it to the ISP. In either case the systems work in the same manner and the same bypass methods are available. And yet, as the recent ACMA-commissioned report showed conclusively, the ISP version will slow subscribers down and reduce the ability of parents to adjust their filtering preferences to suit their own parental judgement about what is best for their children.

How is that better than PC-level filtering? And can we agree, for the purpose of future discussion, that everyone will be able to bypass it at will no matter what proponents come up with, and that anyone who suggests otherwise must immediately stop being taken seriously?

It’s perhaps not surprising that a family expert who misunderstands technology could get something this basic wrong, because the Minister in charge has blazed a trail of such colossal blinding wrongness that it’s probably difficult for listeners to distinguish truth from fiction.

I’m not talking about normal, everyday wrongness. I’m talking about the kind of wrongness that comes with its own theme music and marching band.

For example, on page ECA 76 of Senate Hansard on October 20, 2008, the Minister, a man who is paid a lot of money to know what he’s talking about, emitted this stand-up howler in reference to other countries that have already implemented his proposed Australian system:

Senator Conroy– Just to indicate the countries that have implemented along the lines that Abul [Rivni, deputy secretary, Department of Broadband, Communications and the Digital Economy] is talking about include Sweden, the UK, Canada and New Zealand. This is not some one-off excursion.

In actual fact, none of the countries Senator Conroy cited have anything like what he’s proposing for Australia. With the exception of New Zealand, which doesn’t filter and has no plans to introduce it, all of the other nations he’s ever cited as examples to emulate offer voluntary, non-government, industry-sponsored, opt-in schemes very much like the one which the Internet Industry Association has already created in Australia. Indeed, the only countries which feature government-imposed internet censorship are nations which place more emphasis on opinion suppression than internet access, such as China, Saudi Arabia and Iran.

I know the Minister doesn’t like those comparisons, but if the shoe fits…

As the Minister’s marching band plays, the chorus repeats, and he inserts his factually challenged international comparisons into virtually every press statement on the subject, so much so that it’s clear that he lacks even the most basic grasp of his own policy.

In this world, there’s nonsense… and there’s nonsense on stilts. Rudd and Conroy will be bringing their high-handed circus act to an ISP near you unless you have something to say about it.

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5 Comments so far
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Sweet crusty jesus… now here’s some foul, pornographic stuff that needs filtering!

Comment by weez 11.15.08 @ 5:19 am

who will know the difference

no one and that’s one of the biggest problems.

That filtering the bible was funny but oh so true.

Did you hear about the new political party that are standing against the ISP Filtering? The Australian Sex Party

I’m almost getting fed up blogging about this, I have a feeling no one’s listening.

Comment by OzAtheist 11.21.08 @ 11:15 am

Yep Oz, I’ve written about it a few times myself. There definitely are some bloggers writing about it (very good bloggers, too), but this needs to be moved into direct action, petitioning the govt to get their wits about them. I’m writing letters to pols these days. A letter received by an MP becomes an official doc and must receive a reply. None yet from my notes to Rudd & Conroy. Maybe they’re still working on printing a million pro-forma letters explaining that ‘this is for our own good and we’re gonna do it over your dead bodies, if need be.’

heh, the Australian Sex Party is great. ‘I fuck & I vote’ bumperstickers should be issued. 😀

Comment by weez 11.21.08 @ 11:36 am

I wrote to Conroy and my local MP (Combet) I’ve had a reply from Combet but not from Conroy yet.

I’d get one of those bumper sticker 😆

Comment by OzAtheist 11.21.08 @ 12:28 pm

See GetUp’s campaign, ‘Save the Net

Comment by weez 11.26.08 @ 10:39 pm

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