Martin C: ‘Parents, the filter won’t work!’
Wednesday December 23rd 2009, 8:36 pm

This is an exceptionally well reasoned bit by Martin C, a frequent commenter on SMH story comments, as Martin has posted it on Senator Kate Lundy’s blog. Merits reposting everywhere it can be reposted! Print a copy of this for your non-wired friends and family- Martin really nails it in non-technical, non-dogmatic terms.

Martin C

Posted December 23, 2009 at 5:19 pm

I have been arguing about this internet censorship issue on [Senator Kate Lundy’s] blogsite, and in each article the Herald runs (at least six so far, so it’s probably a bit unfair to say the media is ignoring the issue). The trouble is that we are winning every battle but making no impact on the war. The few people who come online to SUPPORT Senator Conroy’s censorship system know almost nothing about the internet, and they support the filter because they are completely unaware that the filter won’t work. I am sure they read our arguments about freedom and democracy as simply cover for “I want my porn”.

I hate to say it, but I believe we need to push more on “the filter won’t work” rather than on “this is a threat to our democracy”, and I say this as a person who has been posting regularly about it being a threat to our democracy. The sad truth is that we’re discovering that most people AREN’T motivated by threats to their democracy, because they’ve never considered the possibility of their democracy ever being under threat. Not from that nice Mr Conroy anyway … he’s a Christian! They will happily give the government the ability to secretly put whatever website it likes on the blacklist, because at heart they don’t see protecting democracy being something that THEY are responsible for: they see it as something the government is responsible for.

We need to show how hopeless the filter is. We need to make clear point-by-point examples of the type of material that Conroy’s censorship will attempt to remove and how it will fail to do so. I’ve drafted up a few points for discussion.

1. You might think that:
Senator Conroy’s censorship bill will stop my child from accessing child pornography accidentally.
But actually:
It is virtually impossible to “accidentally” access child pornography. The people who make child porn are well aware it is illegal, and they cover their tracks as well as they can, to avoid going to jail. The idea that child porn is just hanging about on ordinary websites, or can be found by googling simple search terms is completely unfounded.

2. You might think that:
Senator Conroy’s censorship bill will stop pedophiles accessing child porn.
But actually:
Websites are only one way of accessing information on the internet. There are many other ways, such as peer-to-peer/file transfer protocol(FTP) methods. These methods establish a direct connection between one machine on the internet (the pedophile’s) and another machine (the server with child porn on it). Senator Conroy’s filter will leave these types of connections completely unaffected. What percentage of pedophile material is transmitted by peer-to-peer/FTP compared to websites? Over 99.9%.

3. You might think that:
Senator Conroy’s censorship bill will stop my child from deliberately going to porn sites.
But actually:
Senator Conroy has tested the filter with 1000 websites loaded in it. Later he says it might be expanded to 10,000. There are over a BILLION porn websites on the internet. Senator Conroy’s filter will prevent your child from accessing 0.001% of the porn. The other 99.999% will come through exactly as before. Your child will not even notice the difference. And at least a million porn sites are added to the internet each day. No amount of public servants, and no amount of concerned citizens can possible keep up with monitoring that flood of porn. To stop your child from accessing porn websites, you have to actually do some parenting.

4. You might think that:
Senator Conroy’s censorship bill will stop other Australians from accessing porn.
But actually:
The same arguments shown above apply: 99.999% of the porn will still be available. In addition, Senator Conroy’s filter is ludicrously easy to circumvent. Accessing websites with “http” at the start can be changed to “https” which makes it a secure connection and will completely bypass the filter. In addition, anyone can get a Virtual Private Network (VPN) which prevents external access (like from Senator Conroy’s filter) completely. And if you think VPNs should be done away with, you need to know that every bank, and pretty much every large company in the country has one: any organisation that needs to prevent people from tapping in on their information has to use a VPN. VPNs cost $5-10 a month.

5. You might think that:
Senator Conroy’s censorship bill will stop pedophiles from being able to “groom” my child for sexual purposes.
But actually:
Pedophiles “groom” children for sexual purposes through websites that CHILDREN hang around on: facebook, friend finder sites, chat sites. Not one of these sites will be affected by Senator Conroy’s censorship, because they are primarily sites for perfectly acceptable contact between children. To prevent grooming by pedophiles, you need to educate your child about the issue: you need to do some parenting instead of hoping that Senator Conroy’s filter will do it for you.

6. You might think that:
Senator Conroy and the Labor government are serious about eliminating pedophile activity in Australia.
But actually:
Introducing a filtering system that won’t work (for all the above reasons) will do nothing to curb pedophile activity in this country. Introducing a filtering system will alert pedophiles to the fact that the government can see what websites they go to, and will force them to use secure methods that defeat the filter AND police monitoring. Also, while the current government is spending 44 million dollars on this totally ineffective filtering system, it’s REDUCING the budget of the Federal Police’s child porn unit. Does that sound like they are serious about eliminating pedophile activity?

7. You might think that:
Even if the filter is that ineffective, surely something is better than doing nothing.
But actually:
Introducing an ineffective filter like Senator Conroy’s will help parents to lower their guard about how their children access the internet. They’ll believe they are safe because the filter is there, but the filter will be almost totally ineffective, so their children will be MORE at risk from child porn and pedophile activity. Also, the filtering system will enourage pedophiles to move to more secure methods of obtaining child porn, so they will be harder to catch. In addition, the money spent on this filter could have been used by the child porn unit to continue hunting down pedophiles.

8. You might think that:
You are doing some good for your child by supporting Senator Conroy’s filter.
But actually:
Senator Conroy’s filter will make things easier for pedophiles to hide from the law and will have virtually no other effect on their activities. It will not touch 99.999% of porn on the internet. It is ludicrously easy to circumvent and your child will need only a rudimentary knowledge of the internet to do so, or he will need to know one of the 90% of kids in his class who do have that knowledge. If you are serious about your child’s safety, you will oppose Senator Conroy’s utterly ineffective filtering system.

3 Comments so far
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The annotated DBDCE FAQ from

How To Defeat Labor’s Internet Censorship: A Liberal Hack’s Perspective

Stephen Conroy: Dear Crikey, here’s why you’re wrong NOW with 64.7% more spin ‘n’ bullshit!

Gunnel Arrback, the Swedish National Film Classification Board
International Film Classification Conference in Australia September 2003

Helen Razer: Clean and simple

Comment by weez 12.23.09 @ 10:10 pm

Hat off to Martin. Clear and concise. Thank you. But facts will never stand in the way people like Conroy. Like nearly all the topics discussed here it comes down to that blind pigheaded religion again.

Comment by Melchior 12.27.09 @ 8:56 am

Conroy knows full well that governing Australia must give an impression of participatory democracy whilst accomplishing nothing of the sort. It’s the failure to carry off the impression that causes changes of government (c.f. DorkChoices).

This has to be made into an election issue amongst people who don’t have much attachment to or involvement with online activities. Further, Rudd needs to be made to own it. Some journo has to get Rudd on record, put him on the spot, in a corner- and OWN it. So far, Rudd’s been successful in letting Conjob own the heat.

No more!

Comment by weez 12.28.09 @ 6:58 pm

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