Rudd’s internet censorship: ‘prohibited’ does not equal ‘illegal’
Monday February 02nd 2009, 2:18 pm

image: The AgeAccording to Senator Stephen Conjob, Labor’s proposed mandatory internet filtering scheme will block ‘illegal’ content- and after all, no-one but fans of child pornography can complain about ‘illegal’ content being blocked, because, according to the esteemed Senator, ‘illegal is illegal.’

Except when the esteemed Senator is lying.

Mark Newton, network engineer for Internode, explains:

In a Senate estimates committee hearing on 20 October 2008, Minister Conroy confirmed that the existing ACMA prohibited online content list would form the basis of the mandatory ‘illegal material’ censorship scheme. The problem is that the ACMA prohibited online content list doesn’t actually restrict itself to illegal material. In addition to the illegal material Minister Conroy would like to ban for adults, the list also contains material the Office of Film and Literature Classification (OFLC) has refused classification but which may still be legal to possess (if not to sell, hire, exhibit, or import) in Australia, as well as material rated X18+, R18+ material not protected by an adult verification service, and some MA15+ material. Material in these categories is mostly legal in Australia.

The ACMA prohibited online content list also contains a class of material that hasn’t been examined by the OFLC, but which, in the opinion of ACMA bureaucrats, ‘would be’ classified into one of the categories of prohibited content described above. But because the blacklist is secret, unaudited, and specifically exempted by legislation from the FOI application process, the OFLC would never get a chance to check the accuracy of these classifications- unless they downloaded the list once it was leaked.

That brings us to the most pernicious of unintended consequences: nobody would know (at first) what had been banned. Our society accepts that it is up to the courts to determine what is illegal. We do not then expect faceless public servants in the ACMA to be the real arbiters of an internet content blacklist. Yet Minister Conroy, who has established a remarkable track record of being wrong in this area, expects Australians to simply take his word for it when he says that ‘illegal material is illegal material.’

It is clear that a great many Australians disagree, despite Senator Conroy’s hysterical accusations that to do so is to endorse child pornography. In a nation that has enjoyed uncensored access to online services (including those that predate the internet) for over three decades without ill effect, imposing a national censorship regime such as the one proposed by Minister Conroy is a radical act that requires radical justification.

Naturally, this nuanced definition of ‘prohibited’ content is fully lost on Jim Wallace from the Australian Christian Lobby, whether due to Wallace’s limited understanding, limited intelligence or simply because he thinks he can pull a fast one on the Australian public as a result of Senator Conjob’s lies and obfuscation. Listen to Mark on ABC Radio National’s Life Matters as he hands Wallace his ass on a platter. (ABC RN audio, MP3) Wallace’s response? Accuse the highly knowledgeable Newton of deception. Nice one, Jim. 🙄 Small bit of advice, Jim- don’t take on people who know what they’re talking about.

If this is the best justification the pro-censorship junta can come up with, implementation of the scam will be authoritarian, arbitrary and capricious.

Conventional wisdom on pornography use, that pushed by Helen Lovejoy-type moralists and other knee-jerking simpletons, is that pornography use causes sex crime.

Au contraire.

Todd Kendall, from the Economics Department of Clemson University, published a study indicating that sexual assault crime is down a full 30% since 1993, when residential internet service (and thus porn) was becoming broadly available in the USA. Kendall surmises that the greater availability of porn via the ‘net is responsible for the drop in sexual assault crime. This finding is duplicated in 1989-2008 crime stats from northeastern Ohio:

In defense of Internet pornography

Clemson study links rape drop to Internet

By Bob Dyer
Beacon Journal columnist

Published on Thursday, Jan 29, 2009

Sex crimes among Summit County juveniles are at their lowest rate since record-keeping began in 1989. Officials are baffled as to why.

Well, I can tell them why, and I can tell them in just one word: porn.

Never has pornography been more readily available. The hardest of hard-core smut can be seen every day by anybody with a computer and an Internet connection.

Isn’t porn supposed to lead to more sexual abuse of girls and women? Well, that was the theory, voiced constantly and vehemently for decades. But statistics show precisely the opposite.

During the 15-year period ending in 2008, the rate of forcible rape dropped a staggering 30 percent nationwide.

In 1992 – the Dark Ages of the Internet – about 43 people were raped among every 100,000 Americans, according to the FBI’s Uniform Crime Report. Since then, the rate has dropped to 30 per 100,000. […]

Every time- every single time that governments dabble in legislating morality, an epic failure is in the offing, mainly through unenforcibility, which naturally causes the public to lose respect for laws. In mere minutes, any computer-savvy kid can bypass any kind of filtering. If they can, you can bet that paedophiles can, too. The only effects this scheme will have are to slow down already abysmal internet access speeds and increase costs to ISPs and their users- of course, aside from handing paedophiles a neatly compiled bookmark list, when (not IF) the government banlist is leaked.

Word to the wise, Mr Rudd- drop this stupid idea like a pocketful of plutonium. Not only is it definitely not a vote getter, but in these tough economic times, there’s infinitely better uses for $125.8 million, such as fibre-optic internet service for urban residences and fast ADSL2+ for rural and regional Australia.

Leave the parenting biz to the parents.


14 Comments so far
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[…] MGK has a good rap-up of some of the latest articles on the Internet filtering debacle titled ‘prohibited’ does not equal ‘illegal’, well worth a […]

Pingback by Too tired to wank « Oz Atheist’s Weblog 02.04.09 @ 1:26 pm

Thanks & thanks for the link, Oz.

I’m not totally sure of Kendall’s rationale, but one would think that debilitating carpal tunnel syndrome might indeed be part of it. 😀

Comment by weez 02.04.09 @ 1:39 pm

hmmm, perhaps I shouldn’t let it be known I had an operation to fix my carpal tunnel syndrome several years ago?

Comment by OzAtheist 02.04.09 @ 1:43 pm

great wrap-up of the latest in the stupid internet filtering debacle. Good find on the study on reduced rapes since the internet.

I guess wanking yourself silly in front of the computer uses up all that pent up energy??

Comment by OzAtheist 02.04.09 @ 1:00 pm

With that CT problem fixed, do the police consider you a suspect again? 😀

Comment by weez 02.04.09 @ 4:57 pm

Pst – I think it’s Jim Wallace.

Comment by Sean the Blogonaut 02.05.09 @ 8:33 am

Sean, you’re right and I’ve made the correction. Thanks for that. 🙂

Although, as backward as this feller’s logic is, he could well be Jim-Bob Wallace. 😆

Comment by weez 02.05.09 @ 9:02 am

There is a lot of evidence to suggest that extreme pornography encompassing violence against women does, in fact, enhance the sick fantasies of some perverts who ultimately seek to “live out” these fantasies in reality. Such extreme pornography has been located in DVD and magazine form in the homes of most serial killers and serial rapists. It is widely recognised that child pornography goes hand-in-hand with paedophilia. This is undisputed fact. Whilst, perhaps, there may be a place for “straight” heterosexual or homosexual X-rated pornography, there is strong reasons why bans should be placed on extreme, illegal pornography linked to under-aged minors and violence, S&M practises against people and women, in particular.

Comment by Katie 02.05.09 @ 11:33 am

Katie, I’m with you- to some degree.

There’s no doubt that children cannot give consent to appear in sexually explicit imagery.

I would not be surprised to find that serial killers own or look at porn. However, so do about 90% of all men. Why then are 90% of all men not serial killers?

However, what’s ‘extreme pornography?’ Is this extreme pornography?

So, who will be making the rules for censorship? Will it be someone who knows that no Irving Klaw bondage pic ever featured nudity, or that Bettie Page is playacting in Klaw’s pics? Will a playacted scene of B&D be legal as opposed to a real B&D sex session- and who can tell the difference? Some people enjoy being tied up during sex, with no harm done. Furry handcuffs are among any sex shop’s biggest sellers.

Now- back to banning objectionable material. How do you propose to filter it? What the government has in mind won’t work, what’s your plan? Will you criminalise B&D sex practises among consenting adults? How will you enforce your ban?

Comment by weez 02.05.09 @ 12:43 pm

Good questions, weez. Unfortunately, I have no answers because only expert computer technicians would be able to solve this problem. Of course, as fast as solutions are sought and enforced, users will find a way around it. I have no problem with what two consenting adults do together and under no circumstances would I ever suggest the criminalisation of these practises. However, my problem is with published/filmed explicit pornography involving sex/violence against women and under-age minors/children. How does the government currently filter/limit this type of material?

Comment by Katie 02.07.09 @ 8:58 pm

Katie did say:

How does the government currently filter/limit this type of material?

They effectively don’t. ACMA have a secret list of about 1100 websites they call ‘banned’ but in actuality can’t filter any of them. ACMA can order takedowns of sites hosted in Australia, but if a site is not in Aus, ACMA have no ability at all to either demand the site be taken offline nor to block access to Australian browsers.

However, the vast majority of child porn is not even on http:// servers. It is carried via P2P file transfers. Labor’s planned mandatory filter did not initially include filtering of P2P traffic until Mark Newton brought this point up to Senator Conjob. The good Senator then claimed that his filter did have the ability to filter P2P, but given the distributed (non-centralised) nature of P2P, along with the ability of P2P clients like uTorrent, BitTorrent, Azeureus, etc. to encrypt their traffic, there’s really no way the government can know what is in P2P traffic. If you don’t know what’s in it, you can’t compare it to a blacklist. In other words, the good Senator is lying.

Another trick paedos are known to use is to store child porn on web-based email accts i.e. Hotmail, Gmail. They then share the password with other paedos, who can access the acct and view or send the objectionable imgs to someone else. The govt would have to ban those very popular email services entirely to stop this practise as they cannot know what is stored in these accts.

In the end, there’s simply too many ways img files can be shared and hidden amongst normal traffic for the govt to have any hope of controlling their distribution.

If the govt wants to control child porn, it simply won’t be as easy as a ban or a filter. Sorry to say it- and I know this won’t make you feel any better, Katie- but it will take good old fashioned police work, with detectives infiltrating paedo groups, to ever make a dent in the trading of child porn.

Violent pornography, where a person is depicted being deliberately and obviously physically injured, is an extraordinarily rare phenomenon. In 18 years of using the internet, I can’t say I’ve ever actually seen anything like it, but then again, I’ve never looked for it. I’ve heard rumours of ‘snuff films’ where a woman is raped and killed, but I certainly haven’t seen any such depictions.

We cannot include general depictions of S&M or B&D as ‘violent porn’ merely because these are perfectly normal practises between consenting adults.

Don’t forget- the internet was developed as a US military project. It is designed to route around blockages, including censorship, making it all but impossible to censor or filter.

Comment by weez 02.08.09 @ 1:15 am

Every day millions of adults and children watch people being murdered on TV. Nearly all murderers watched TV.

Comment by Melchior 02.08.09 @ 6:57 pm

And 97% of heroin addicts are former milk drinkers. The obvious solution to the smack problem is to ban cows.

Comment by weez 02.08.09 @ 9:54 pm

The issue here is simple. Australia is OVER protectionist, and has this attitude that they can simply erradicate anything they don’t like, or impose control where they envisage hoardes of us to be unable to do so ourselves. Australia is a country run by cpontrol freaks, religious zealots and fearsayers. Look at how much has been robbed form our liberties… The right to walk dowen a street undisturbed by police or sniffer dogs – gone, to buy Codril (cold & flu medication) without having your name entered into a centralised db for fear of making meth – gone, the right to drive even 5 kms over the speed limit when you are about to shit your pants or your speedometer or speed camera are incorrectly calibrated, three points penalty & $$$ without the basic right of not inplicating yourself to a ‘digital cop’- gone, the right to not vote if you think all parties are lying, self-serving puppets to a corporatocrasy – gone, the right to bear arms – just about gone, the right to defend your home by any means required from maleavolence – gone, the right to teach a 12 yr old kid how to use a slingshot – gone!, how the hell would any of Geny or i-gen ever survive if all hell broke loose and COles/Woolies weren’t able to feed anyone? The right to bring a laptop into the country without all your documents being scanned by Customs – gone, the right to encrypt data and not surrender your encryption key – gone, the right to make your own fuel in a safe manner (bio-diesel) – gone.

Moral boundaries have been designed around self-serving Christian values and while not as vulgar or archaic as other religions, the christian Right are a bunch of zealots not different from any other paedo, they just lie. I used to counsel children of abusers all over the world, paedophilia is everywhere, from the MOnasteries in Tibet to the secretive walls of the Catholic church, and in the den’s of top judges. Reality of the situation? Our genetic programming is designed to find young mates as in any species on earth. Sex with a sub 14 yr old, yes, disturbed. I’ve worked with many 14 yr olds that could walk circles blindfolded around even the most sexually savvy adult. The world has changed, and in many ways, the recent changes of the last 200 years where sub 18 yrs became taboo is being reversed due to media and youth far more informed than ever before.
Censorship has only ever pushed the topic of censure underground, making it more subverse and perhaps more profound. Banning guns was suppsoed to reduce gun related crime. Since handgun and other long barrel gun bans in Australia, gun crime has gone up in double digit percentages. Similarily, envoke fear that people will be ‘watched’ so to speak by internet censorship and all it will do IS make those curious of whatever it may be, to sit in their homes and wrap their hand around their member and before they have the chance to action the sexual appetite, it has long been quelled by the sisters Palm…

Earth is ridiculous. I want off. maybe Uranus? Surely it would be filled with politicians with a penchant for strap-ons.

Comment by Orion 08.02.10 @ 5:12 pm

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