Senator Kate Lundy comes out against mandatory internet censorship
Wednesday January 13th 2010, 2:03 pm

Good going, Senator Lundy.

While ‘opt-out’ isn’t ideal, mainly because filtering won’t accomplish any of Conroy’s stated goals, it’s better than blanket mandatory filtering with no escape.

Labor Senator Kate Lundy speaks out against mandatory internet censorship

by James Whittaker (

At least one member of the federal government stands opposed to mandatory internet censorship, with Senator Kate Lundy pushing the Minister for an “opt-out” alternative from the online blacklist.

But Lundy says she has “a job cut out for me” lobbying colleagues before legislation is introduced to parliament next month. The former Labor front-bencher and passionate advocate for open IT has told Crikey she believes “the majority of caucus” wants a mandatory filter in place.

Lundy has used her blog to vent over her “discomfort” in Communications Minister Stephen Conroy’s push for mandatory ISP-level blocking of websites refused classification, defying the government’s commitment to the filter by outlining a “preferred approach” including more effective parental education, internet skills development and voluntary filters at the desktop.

Late last month Lundy wrote Conroy’s proposal left “little room to move”, but she suggested allowing ISPs to offer adult customers an “opt-out” from the filter. This week she has begun canvassing support for the option among Labor colleagues.

“My feeling is I’ve got a tough job ahead of me,” she says. Conroy has vowed to introduce legislation when parliament resumes on February 2.

Lundy acknowledges the flaws in her own plan: there will be a stigma attached to requesting access to an unfiltered internet, and she admits it may “lead to interest by the authorities, even though individuals may simply want to ensure they are not having legitimate content filtered”.

But for Lundy it’s the least-worst option. It “respects people can make an informed choice” while upholding a policy Labor took to the last election (she says she was against it then, too).

Lundy backs Conroy and the process he has gone through in testing filtering technology while boosting funding for cyber crime enforcement. She never believed a filter was feasible but she says the government’s testing has proven that false and she will support the final legislative outcome. But, as she has admitted on her blog, “many mechanisms used by criminal networks will not be stopped through a filtering mechanism”.

Electronic Frontiers Australia (EFA), a not-for-profit group leading the campaign against the filter, certainly agrees. Campaign manager Peter Black calls the opt-out compromise a “significant improvement”, but the group is dedicated to a public campaign rejecting any filter altogether.

EFA is investing all its funds in Black, a senior law lecturer specialising in new media at the Queensland University of Technology who will drive the campaign at least for the next three months. New branding and a website (“a hub of campaign activity for all the different individuals and organisations” against the filter) will launch soon to “shift the focus away from the ‘no clean feed’ slogan to a more positive message not only on the flaws in the proposed filter but also provides solutions to the Australian public”.

For Lundy, this is a hobbyhorse. She is a former shadow minister of information technology, a stalwart of Senate inquiries into the subject (she claims not to have missed one in 14 years) and has been a long-time advocate for harnessing IT since working as a communications officer in the union movement. The internet, she says, “really inspired me as a tool for empowerment”.

The ACT Senator says the public has not been properly educated on net safety and filtering technology since the Howard government first put forward censorship plans; the net filter has “never really been tested” as an issue in the community.

In her maiden speech to parliament in 1996, Lundy spoke of the “rewards that come from investing” in IT. She said: “The importance of public policy relating to the use and control of credible information sources and its increasingly complex delivery technologies cannot be underestimated if we are serious about equitable and affordable access.”

From outside, the Labor ministry she has spearheaded the government’s 2.0 online public participation initiative and led public forums on policy development. Last April, Lundy took on IT consultant and open source software advocate Pia Waugh as a full-time adviser on technology policy.

2 Comments so far
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As I recall, when I first became aware of this scheme early last year, they were still talking about the opt-out then. I’m fairly sure, though, that the internet of those who opted out then would still be filtered, just to a lesser extent than those who didn’t. If this is a complete opt-out, that is better.

I don’t think it’s good enough, though, because as Lundy herself acknowledges, there will then be the stigma of being someone who opted out. It’d be seen as admitting that you’re someone who wants to see “unacceptable” content, and ISPs would have a list of such people that could be handed over to the government for special attention (as the article states). It wouldn’t be a good system at all.

A better solution is definitely opt-in, but funnily enough that’s what we already have. People can install their own filtering software/”parental controls” as they see fit. Clearly the government was discontent with the status quo, so this is what we get instead.

Comment by Jess 01.14.10 @ 1:44 am

Jess, you’re quite right that Labor’s 2007, pre-election platform indicated that filtering would be mandatory for ISPs to provide to homes with children (and being 17, you quite technically are one of the ‘children’ who Labor were referring to, no matter how thoughtful and well-spoken you are) but would be opt-out for anyone else. Conroy confirmed this fact on 31 December 2007 in this story on the ABC:

Senator Conroy says anyone wanting uncensored access to the internet will have to opt out of the service.

However, somewhere along the track, the ALP’s policy mutated into mandatory censorship for everyone in Australia. Mind, I’d like to know who in the ALP leadership made this executive decision. It could be none other than Kevin Bloody Rudd, being the leader of the ALP… but try, just TRY to get Rudd on record even mentioning ISP level censorship. KRudd has successfully fobbed this radioactive potato off on his Minister for Prevention of Communications.

As regards Sen Lundy’s note that there would be a stigma to opting-out, Mark Newton makes this comment on Lundy’s blog:

Author: Mark Newton
I’m not convinced that there’d be any stigma associated with opting-out at all.

This whole thing has been so poorly handled that everyone who cares knows full well that it’s a total disaster, and there’s no shame whatsoever with opting for the status quo we’ve all enjoyed for the last two decades.

Will there be a stigma associated with the circumvention option the Enex report confirmed is always available? Of course not. And there won’t be any stigma with partaking of an option that’s functionally equivalent to using circumvention methods all the time.

My advice to Sen. Lundy would be to forget about the “stigma” argument, it’s much ado about nothing.

If the Conroy conjob regarding the actual purpose of filter being about porn (of any flavour) has been successful- and I’m not so sure it has been- Lundy is correct that people in ‘polite society’ who choose to opt out could face some stigmatising. However, Mark’s correct in noting that Conroy has made such a dog’s brekkie of the thing that no-one trusts that filtering has anything to do with porn or paedophilia at all. However, there are people out there who are still labouring under the false impression that the filter is about porn.

A better solution isn’t opt-in; it’s no filter at all. We’ve done fine, as Mark notes, with the status quo for the last 20 years. Moreover, filtering of any kind, simply won’t work. If it’s about protecting children from seeing porn or preventing paedos from accessing/trading kid porn, it will be worked-around by either targeted group, quick-smart.

Comment by weez 01.14.10 @ 4:10 am

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