Time is running out

Mandatory ISP filtering in Australia continues to rear its ugly head. In his first address to the IT industry, Labor’s Communication Minister, Stephen Conroy, continued to talk up the filtering plan.

“Labor has never argued that ISP filtering is a silver bullet solution, but it is an important step in the overall strategy to make the internet a safer place for children,” Conroy said.

Although he acknowledged ISP level filtering could potentially affect Internet speeds, Conroy added little else to quell concerns surrounding the issue, other than to say there would be a trial process to iron out any technical anomalies.

“I can assure you that we will go forward through an informed, consultative and considered process to ensure that a workable solution is found,” Conroy said. “This evening, I ask the industry to continue engaging with the Government and with my Department to ensure that we achieve an outcome for ISP filtering that meets the needs of industry and the wider community.”

And then there are these excerpts from the Hansard on 18th February 2008:

(page 119)
Senator FIELDING—Perhaps I could direct a question to the minister in parallel with that question while they are coming back with that. The question revolves around the communications powers in section 51(5). The question was about public libraries in Australia, local libraries. It was referred to as being a state issue, of which I am fully aware. But the department has used, I think at maybe even the minister’s request, section 51(5) of the communications powers in regard to gaming when looking at states’ online gaming industries, and the federal government stepped in and used those powers. I asked a range of questions about why the minister could not direct the use of those same powers in directing local libraries to those at state level to use filters, rather than their saying they could not do that. In other words, at the federal level we intervened on internet gaming, but we seem reluctant to use those same powers to address internet filtering at the state library level. The advice came back that, yes—
Senator Conroy—I appreciate the answer given by the previous government. As you would know, our policy that we have been advocating is that these would be mandatory in libraries. We probably have a different approach from the previous government’s.
Senator FIELDING—Will you be using those communication powers under section 51(5) of the Constitution that were used federally, not by this government but by the previous government, on gaming? Will you use that to ensure that the state libraries use the filters?
Senator Conroy—As you know, this is a process that we are developing at moment. We will be consulting the state and territory governments about the implementation of our policy. We will be taking advice on the best way to achieve the mandatory filtering in libraries. That is an option that will be part of that consideration. Unlike the previous government, which was opposed to this aspect of the policy, as you know well, it is certainly something we are prepared to consider.
Senator FIELDING—The federal government can intervene, as we have seen in the last few years, where there is a matter of urgency and when the states may not have been able to do things themselves. We have used those powers before. I do not think it is acceptable even at federal level to assume that kids can walk in off the
street and go to their local library and have access to internet pornography. I think that is absurd. Most families would find that confusing. I placed a question on notice and got an answer back that, yes, they did rely on those constitutional powers under section 51(4) for gaming. I thank the government for those answers, albeit it that they were awfully late. We should be directing the states and using those powers to filter internet pornography.
Senator Conroy—As I have said, we are pursuing a different approach. And we will certainly consider that as part of our deliberations on the best way to achieve the outcome of our policy.

(page 125)
Senator BARNETT—Would you confirm your commitment to mandatory ISP filtering?
Senator Conroy—That is the stated policy. As you have seen, I have been out there campaigning for it.

(page 128)
Senator BIRMINGHAM—We have obviously covered the testing that is taking place already on mandatory ISP filtering. What work is being done on the scope of blacklist?
Ms O’Loughlin—We are currently looking, in line with the government’s policy, to expand the ACMA blacklist. We are currently investigating ways in which we can do that. At the moment we are talking to our international organisations that we deal with, particularly hotlines that deal with child pornography sites, and we are discussing with them the capacity to get some of their international sites on to our blacklist as well.
Senator BIRMINGHAM—How wide is the brief for this blacklist?
Ms O’Loughlin—At this stage, that is where we are looking at, but we are also talking to the government about how wide they want the blacklist to go.

How wide they want the blacklist to go. Given that Labor’s stated policy is to “prevent Australian children from accessing any content that has been identified as prohibited by ACMA”, and that ‘prohibited’ has a specific legal meaning, I’d say it’s, oh, fairly wide. Bodes well for us, huh? I think it’s well past time I got off my own butt and started contacting my representatives.

If you need more information about Labor’s plans for playing unwanted net-nanny to the entire nation, libertus.net has a very good write up, and has good articles about censorship in Australia in general.

Published in: on February 24, 2008 at 2:38 am  Leave a Comment  
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This post is restricted. Please contact your ISP for access.

Australia, as you may or may not be aware, has some of the most repressive censorship laws in the western world. We just happen to be fortunate that law enforcement, by and large, see enforcing our draconian legislation to be an utter waste of time and money. What is deeply concerning is the level of censorship is getting worse. Quickly.

The Australian Communications and Media Authority has just released new rules for ‘age restricted internet and mobile content’ that will take effect on January 20th. To say that they are both onerous for all parties and highly intrusive is an understatement. Here’s the gist, in handy point-format:

  • “The new Restricted Access Systems Declaration places obligations on all content service providers to check that individuals accessing restricted content provided in Australia are at least 15 years of age for MA15+ content or 18 years of age for R18+ content. ” Note that they say provided, not hosted. Fortunately, they have no hope in hell of forcing content providers based offshore into complying. Less fortunately, Labour has a plan to counter this.
  • “Similar to previous obligations relating to stored content, the new rules provide that after receiving a complaint and investigating internet or mobile content, ACMA may require the content service provider to either remove the content or place the content behind specified access restrictions.”
  • “A prohibition on X18+ and RC content.” X18+ is the rating for porn, even straight up, heterosexual missionary sex.
  • “Providers of hosting services, live content services, link services and commercial content services to have in place access restrictions if providing R18+ and commercial MA15+ content”
  • An access control system must “limit access to the content through use of a PIN or some other means”
  • “The acces control system must make provision for the keeping of records to demonstrate how the age of the applicant has been verified in relation to each applicant who has been granted access to r18+ content.” These records must “be kept for two years starting on the day in which the record is made”.

Bad enough, right? Now go and combine this with the mandatory ISP filtering legislation federal Labour is itching to introduce, and the picture becomes bleak indeed, not to mention a colossal waste of time and money. If children need to be protected so badly from the dangers of the interweb, why don’t we just make it illegal for individuals under 15 to surf without parental supervision?

Published in: on December 26, 2007 at 2:12 am  Comments (3)  
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Give this man a goddamn medal

“The library system is not a baby-sitting service, and the librarians are not our children’s nannies,” he said. “Let’s not surrender our parental responsibility to a software package, the librarians and the county government.”

Fair enough, I’m actually against porn in the library, because:

  • Australian law is different to US law
  • Our computers offer no privacy (which prevents people from looking at porn in my experience, anyway)
  • Muggins here is the resident technowiz and does not want to go anywhere near a keyboard or mouse when someone’s been jerking off in front of it, and would refuse on the grounds that it’s an Occupational Health and Safety issue.

But the above statement remains valid. If you don’t want your precious little snowflake to see something that might damage his or her delicate sensibilities, come to the library with them. Sit with them while they surf the web. Read books before they do. Playtest computer games, read up on movies before you dump them at the cinema, do your job as a parent. Don’t foist the responsibility off on to me because, frankly, it’s not my responsibility. And I don’t actually care if your 13-year-old checks out a sex manual. She and her friends are probably going to giggle and think it’s kind of icky.

I do care if you try to make me start filtering the net. Because, you know, filtering software sucks, and has this nasty tendency to block out valuable information, particularly about health issues. Can filtering software always tell the difference between when I’m looking for porn and when I’m looking for information on breast cancer? And it’s not that much harder to censor access to, say, opposing religious views on the grounds that they’re immoral and harmful to children than it is to ban porn on those grounds.

Published in: on November 13, 2007 at 2:42 pm  Leave a Comment  
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