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Internet filtering: Trust us. We know what’s bad for you.

December 21, 2009

"Hear no evil see no evil speak no evil" by Bei Shu Lan. CC By

“The best filters we can provide to kids are the ones we build in their brains,”according Rebecca Randall, the vice president for outreach for Common Sense Media, in this article in Education Week. Unfortunately, Senator the Hon Stephen Conroy, Australia’s Minister for Broadband, Communications and the Digital Economy disagrees. This 15 December 2009 media release anounces the Rudd government’s intention to introduce mandatory internet filtering in Australia before the 2010 general election. This follows a trial ealier this year to test the effectiveness of ISP filtering. Further coverage can be found here (thanks, Britta). Fibreculture has set up a discussion forum and a public blog in response to this initiative. Described as a move to “improve safety on the internet for Australian families”, the rhetoric plays on, and encourages, fears of the dark side. The strategy is a familiar one — imbed the problem statement into the proposed solution so that it becomes self-justifying and imune from critique.

From the media release:

The cyber-safety measures announced today include:

  1. Introduction of mandatory ISP-level filtering of Refused Classification (RC) –rated content.
  2. A grants program to encourage the introduction of optional filtering by Internet Service Providers, to block additional content as requested by households.
  3. An expansion of the cyber-safety outreach program run by the Australian Communications and Media Authority and the Cyber-Safety Online Helpline – to improve education and awareness of online safety.
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4 Comments leave one →
  1. December 21, 2009 1:46 pm

    This is an issue I am keen on keeping an eye on – not least because the various European attempts of regulating and censoring the net haven’t proved very convincing. I had provided a brief summary of the German approach (and failure) as comment on this article earlier this week:
    http://www.theinquirer.net/inquirer/opinion/1566179/australia-try-censor-internet

    • Mark Mcguire permalink
      December 21, 2009 8:26 pm

      Hi, Britta.
      Interesting to read your comments about failed efforts to filter the Internet in Germany. It seems that Australia is setting itself apart from other democracies in this regard. We should support our Aussie friends in battling this one.

  2. December 22, 2009 12:28 am

    Hi Mark, I gain an impression, a number of Western industrialised countries had already looked into this (also Sweden, France, 4 US states) but none of them at such comprehensive level. I expect further attempts to be made, as I said earlier, the political motivation is what drives the move, in my opinion, rather than genuine interest in dealing with the underlying issues.

    My comment on The Inquirer regarding the German attempt: “Germany was among the first Western democratic nations that introduced a controversial internet censorship in June 2009 – which is marked by technical flaws that resulted in October 2009 in a temporary removal of those bans. Interesting, UNICEF had pushed for the review.

    The government’s move triggered some collective organised resistance in Germany, in the general election in September 2009 the Pirate Party (based on the Swedish party founded in 2006 with an aim to regain more ) gained 2% of the votes.

    Having said that, Germany’s history of control-obsession and it’s position as nation with the lowest birth-rate world-wide make it prone for success of such kind of censorship. Half-baked as it was in its technical conception the main aim is and remains to reassure voter – and secure votes. Censorship never deals with the underlying issues (child porn is still produced in the real world) nor does it prepare citizens to deal with the thoughts and actions deemed necessary to censor in the real world.”

    This overview, compiled back in 2002, is quite interesting: http://www.efa.org.au/Issues/Censor/cens3.html
    More updated and clearly categorised according to level of censorship:
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Internet_censorship

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