Hungrybeast: 80% of Australians want mandatory internet censorship? REALLY?
Thursday February 11th 2010, 1:58 pm

ABC’s HungryBeast commissioned McNair to poll 1000 Australians by telephone on whether they want mandatory internet censorship. Despite previous informal polling on December 15 2009 by the Sydney Morning Herald indicating 96% opposition to mandatory censorship…

…the HB/McNair poll indicated 80% in favour of mandatory censorship.


What could possibly account for this major backflip?

Or was there a backflip?

The ABC ran an online poll after the HungryBeast episode aired… and despite a poorly publicised poll, conducted late in the evening, got this result:

There was no public opinion backflip- HungryBeast simply made the mistake of crafting the polling questions based on Conroy’s muddled description of Refused Classification.

RC is NOT just child porn, nor is it only ‘illegal’ material, but Conroy would like you to believe it is. Conroy has repeatedly characterised RC as “the worst of the worst,” failing to mention that a fair chunk of RC is simply the politically inexpedient. If Conroy succeeds in fooling the public about what RC is- and so far he has been successful- he’ll get compliance or at least apathy from the public at large as regards implementing mandatory internet censorship.

The definition of RC is so poorly understood by the general public that any HungryBeast/McNair survey question that used the term ‘Refused Classification’ (like this one) can safely be dismissed as invalid. HungryBeast themselves fell victim to one of the biggest furphys about the censorship scheme (the opening gag in the HB bit was about one fellow going home for his midday wank)- that it’s about porn. Ordinary X rated porn will not be filtered.

Naturally, if a survey asks ‘Would you be in favour of mandatory filtering of child pornography’, you’re going to get 100% in favor of filtering. I’m actually a bit shocked that Hungrybeast/McNair only got 80% in favour of censorship, given the public’s poor understanding of all the materials RC covers.

RC is SO broad that even Google, which kowtowed to China’s demands for censoring search results, won’t comply with Conroy’s demand to remove RC videos from YouTube. Conroy even lied in a recent interview and claimed Google WOULD comply and that YouTube were somehow masters of ‘deep packet inspection’ when they do not use it at all.

It’s incredibly hypocritical of Conroy to moan out of one side of his mouth that anti-censorship advocates compare his plan to repressive filtering regimes in China and Thailand, but out of the other side to proclaim “[Google] have experience in blocking material in other countries at the behest of Governments, including China, Thailand and a number of other countries.” Can’t have it both ways, Senator.

Now, HungryBeast, if you want to really be enlightened- do another survey- and ask people what they think RC covers.


17 Comments so far
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The complete survey is quite interesting, even I probably would have answered yes to that question (Q2). They defined RC very tightly in the survey (unlike what Conroy is proposing).

Q5 result was very telling; 91% were “in favour of the community being advised which websites have been Refused Classification and the reason why they have been refused classification?”

If I’d read Q5 before answering Q2 I would be much more inclined to answer Q2 yes.

If the government stated they were going to have full transparency of the filter list, I think a lot less people would be worried about the filter.

Comment by OzAz 02.11.10 @ 2:26 pm

Oz, the problem remains that the public in general don’t understand what ‘Refused Classification’ is.

Conroy has successfully led the public to believe that ‘it’s the worst of the worst.’ He’s said that over and over. While some RC content may be foul and distasteful, some even unlawful, some is simply stuff the government doesn’t like. It’s far too broad and poorly defined. I don’t think even Conroy fully understands the classification.

Worse, some material can be called ‘RC’ only on the merit that some public servant decided that ACMA MIGHT call it RC. No public consultation, no review by a judge.

The bigger problem is that we have an official censor in Australia at all. Australians are all grown up and don’t need anyone telling us what will or won’t poison our brains.

Comment by weez 02.11.10 @ 2:49 pm

Wholeheartedly agree, which is why this internet filter thing should never happen.

As HB alluded to, it only needs one person to complain to have a site made RC (and we all know what sort of people that will be) and no one ever finds out why. At least if the list was fully transparent there would be avenues for re-dress.

I’m a bit torn when it comes to censorship, I do see some merit in censoring the real hardcore stuff (though what is deemed hardcore can be difficult to define) and see merit in classification of material. On the other hand, people over 18 should be able to decide what they want to view.

Comment by OzAz 02.11.10 @ 3:02 pm

I’m not torn about official censorship at all. Not one bit. There’s no need for it. I was born in and lived my first 30-odd years in the USA which has no official censorship. No form of speech can be banned by the US government. The minds of Americans are not poisoned and no-one’s heads have exploded in the absence of a speech-controlling nanny.

However, free speech in the US is not absolute. The old ‘yelling false warnings of fire in a crowded theatre’ example comes to mind.

Comment by weez 02.11.10 @ 3:22 pm

That question is awful! There is no indication whatsoever of how broad the last criterion would be (the one about detailed instructions or promotion of crime). So many things are illegal and it doesn’t mean they should be. And of all Australia’s social problems today, exactly how many can be traced back to free internet access? How many do people think will be fixed by constricting it?

I’m sure the government can (and possibly will) gleefully point to this as proof that when Australians are “fully informed” about their scheme, they will be all for it. (At least, 80% of them will be. The other 20% are probably all paedophiles anyway, so who cares about them.) But to fully fully inform people, I think the question would have pointed to things like how broad the definition of “crime” will be, how easily the government can criminalise things, and basically what I stated in my first paragraph.

Comment by Jess 02.11.10 @ 3:54 pm

People viewing hardcore is not the problem. Its the sex obsessed people who rather bully other people about their obsession instead of dealing with their problem. Your children are not being molested in a brothel but are abused at home, in a church or at school. Censorship feeds on itself, kills justice and ends up in misery.

Comment by Melchior 02.11.10 @ 4:17 pm

Jess, you better believe that Conroy’s going to trot out the HB/McNair poll to support his seriously flawed plan.

I suspect that the 20% who said they didn’t support censoring RC were not paedophiles- more likely, that 20% is the segment of the Australian population who actually do understand what RC really is.

However, it’s really hard to tell exactly what this poll means, if it means anything at all. There’s several conflicting results. This one needs a serious revisit by HungryBeast.

Mel, ordinary hardcore porn, believe it or not, isn’t going to be filtered. X and X18+ will not be captured by the filter, if Conroy is to be believed, Mind you, if Conroy told me that the sky is blue, I’d go outside and look.

Comment by weez 02.11.10 @ 4:25 pm

Remember World Youth Day in Sydney. It was against the law to say or wear anything that would upset the pope and his deluded flock. Guaranteed that the censorship once in place will cross the boundaries of the net.

Comment by Melchior 02.11.10 @ 6:04 pm

Internet porn? We don’t look at it, say Aussies

one of those conflcts in the HB survey, fer feckin’ sure

Comment by weez 02.11.10 @ 8:16 pm

Mel, yeah, WYD, $84million worth of letting cathlicks abuse the shit out of Sydney, how could we forget…

Comment by weez 02.11.10 @ 8:17 pm

Jess, you were close. Conroy’s advisors trotted out Hungrybeast’s bent poll before he did.

Comment by weez 02.11.10 @ 9:41 pm

Apparently if you’re attracted to women who don’t have huge breasts, you’re a pervert. When I heard that I wondered just exactly who it is writing these classifications?

Comment by Armagny 02.12.10 @ 12:50 pm

But it’s worse than just pervs attracted to small breasted women, Armo. My housemate wore a 12D (US34D) at age 13. Since ACMA are reliant on cup size as proof of age, ACMA could well have greenlighted porn featuring busty 13 year olds.

With Australian official censorship, the stupid never stops.

Comment by weez 02.12.10 @ 1:01 pm

Senator Conroy’s misguided plan to filter the internet will set a terrifying precedence. The word “filter”, after all, is just a sanitised word for CENSORSHIP – but the end result will be the same. Whilst, I am sure, many people (myself included) find child pornography absolutely abhorrent, I steadily maintain that CENSORSHIP will never be the democratic answer. If you don’t want to watch something, there is always the OFF button and nothing takes the place of good old parental supervision in relation to children/minors using the internet. Our parents fought long and hard so that our country could enjoy all the freedoms of a democratic country, ie freedom to see, hear, view and say whatever we wanted without fear of censorship. If they start this nasty ball rolling, where does it stop? Do we start burning books? Democratic freedoms are removed in tiny, little steps before you realise, too late, that you have handed over your civil rights on a platter to self-serving politicians. The ultra patriachal right-wing views of current Australian politicians (both Liberal and Labor) is very worrying. Australians really need to be “on guard” and aware of what is going on around us. The fact that the government is “twisting” these questionable polls to suit its own agenda speaks volumes! The worst thing is that the “Refused Classification” has not been clarified – it will not just exclude pornography; anything deemed “unsuitable” by a faceless minority of “grey suits” could be targeted! Ask yourself if YOU want to be told what to see and hear by some bureaucrat in Canberra? Censorship is dangerously insidious. Once introduced, its very difficult to claw back freedoms lost to legislation. Wake up Australia! Email your protest on this issue to Conroy:

Comment by Kathy 02.17.10 @ 7:26 pm

I’m as against the censorship as anyone, but this article is quite misleading. Internet polls are not scientific, people who aren’t VEHEMENTLY opposed to the censor don’t bother voting.

The poll run by Hungry Beast was a phone poll across demographics in Australia (not just people who watch Hungry Beast, or read SMH online). The 80% figure concerns me, particularly because of the people polled, a majority ALSO said it would be used to block political websites in the future. This means at least 30% of people thought it was a good idea AND that it was dangerous!?!

Anyway… perhaps the 80% figure was a result of the question, but comparing it to online polls is simply misleading.

Comment by Mr Speaker 02.19.10 @ 3:54 pm

So, what was misleading?

The difference between the rate of censorship opposition via online polls and that indicated by the phone poll run by Hungrybeast is that more people in the online polls know what RC is really about- that was my point! Why didn’t you get that?

Pro-censorship online media consumers definitely DO vote in online polls and most definitely DO put comments on blog entries (you’ve kept up with comments on Kate Lundy’s blog, haven’t you?) and news stories- the nut is that there’s so incredibly few of them. If you’re online, you more than likely accurately know what RC encompasses. If you know what RC covers and yet are still in favour of Conroy’s censorship, you’re an outlying ideologue and probably already sympathise with the Australian Christian Lobby. Wowsers really do comprise a very small part of the Australian general population.

Anyone who is au fait with the entire censorship debacle knows that porn is not really the target of Conroy’s censorship- ordinary X & X18+ porn will not be censored. Quite a lot of people don’t know that basic fact. A number of completely non-porn-related issues, some purely political, will also be censored- but Conroy never mentions that stuff- he just wants people to think that his censorship is all about protecting children from viewing porn and stopping kiddie porn- and it’ll do precisely nothing about either.

aturner writes in a bit called ‘Why Conroy loves porn‘ on SMH’s Digihiub today:

A recent survey by the ABC’s Hungry Beast found 80 per cent of Australians support the idea of “having a mandatory Government Internet filter that would automatically block all access in Australia, to overseas websites containing material that is Refused Classification”.

Survey participants were first read a definition of “Refused Classification” as follows:

Images and information about one or more of the following:

– child sexual abuse
– bestiality
– sexual violence
– gratuitous, exploitative or offensive sexual fetishes; and
– detailed instructions on or promotion of crime, violence or use of illegal drugs

Of course your average person is going to support filtering when you put it this way. Even most of the anti-filtering campaigners would support such a statement. At this point it looks like Conroy’s filtering plans have overwhelming public support but, when you dig a little deeper, the tide starts to turn against him. The survey found an overwhelming 91 per cent of people are concerned about the government’s plan to keep the list of filtered websites a secret. The potential for the government to abuse such secrecy is what primarily concerns most anti-filtering campaigners, but this is lost on the general public whilst the focus remains on porn.

…which is what I wrote! Was aturner ‘misleading’ as well?

Simple as this, if those surveyed didn’t know what is in the sights of censorship and their only exposure to the actual content of ‘RC’ was the Conroyised description given to the survey respondents, naturally, they’d vote for censorship- and that’s all my bit said.

Comment by weez 02.19.10 @ 4:25 pm

The amazing Irene Graham unpicks Conjob on HungryBeast: RC material, the NCB & Senator Conroy’s claims

Comment by weez 03.07.10 @ 5:14 am

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