May 14 2010

The Australian Internet Filter

Senator Conroy is the first name I think of when the Australian Internet Filter is mentioned.

I watched him on television this morning, and when he mentioned that some people call this the “Conroy Filter” I thought I would look into it a bit more.

Not being affected by this I haven’t really thought too deeply about it, and of course, with politicians being involved, I wouldn’t believe anything I read on either side of the argument anyway.

My first reading of the day was at www. abc.net.au on the 2007 article announcing this Filter, and I immediatey noticed this comment from Senator Conroy: “Senator Conroy says anyone wanting uncensored access to the internet will have to opt out of the service“.  Assuming this is still correct, then anyone who does not wish to be censored, can avoid being censored.

Does this not invalidate any argument against it ?

However, to keep looking into this further…

The main points of the filter seem to be to exclude content that the Australian Classification Board deems unclassifiable for Australia.

Classification policy
In Australia, it is a legal requirement that films, computer games and some publications be classified before sale. The Commonwealth, States and Territories share responsibility for this regulation under the National Classification Scheme and all jurisdictions have legislation.

Senator Conroy said that Internet content comes under the same classification, and is already covered by this for web sites hosted in Australia.  The new filter would bring content hosted outside Australia under the same regulations.

At this point, I will re-iterate that I know very little about this filter, but my first impressions are that it sounds a good idea in principle.

  1. The Government says: Pornography will become harder for children to easily access.
  2. The main anti-filter organisation says: The filter will not prevent children from accessing inappropriate material.

Obviously one of these is wrong.  My personal view, based on common sense logic, is that the Anti-filter organisation is wrong, and that is not a good starting point for them in my opinion.

Inappropriate material

Currently young children can easily access inappropriate material, and a filter would probably give a 95% fix to this aspect.
However, do we need a mandatory filter, or individual filters set up by the parents ?  Common sense says that “individual filters set up by the parents” would do the job perfectly, to cover this aspect of things.  But on this occasion “common sense” didn’t work.

In 2006 the Federal Government gave every Australian household the opportunity to obtain a FREE Internet filter software package, such as Integard, which was able to block inappropriate websites and monitoring chat programs.  This FREE filter was available until the end of 2008.

It appears this was not sufficiently used by parents.

Effects to the speed of the Internet

I have read a few comments that the filter will reduce the speed of the Internet, and Senator Conroy this morning stated that this was untrue.  He also stated in 2007:

“There are people who are going to make all sorts of statements about the impact on the [internet] speed,”  “The internet hasn’t ground to a halt in the UK, it hasn’t ground to a halt in Scandinavian countries and it’s not grinding the internet to a halt in Europe. “

I can’t help but wonder on this point… Does Europe have an Internet filter ?

6 June 2004 www.guardian.co.uk
British Telecom has taken the unprecedented step of blocking all illegal child pornography websites in a crackdown on abuse online. The decision by Britain’s largest high-speed internet provider will lead to the first mass censorship of the web attempted in a Western democracy.

Is the Australian one similar to the above British one ?

From the nocleanfeed website:

The list of material to be banned includes much more than child sexual abuse material. The category of material that has been ‘refused classification’ includes websites about euthanasia, controversial movies such as ‘Ken Park’ and ‘Baise-moi’, and many games that are designed for people over 16 years of age.

But even here, I then read that access to those games for people over 16 years of age will not actually be banned, but will be looked into to be considered if they are suitable or not.  And again, I wonder about the original point: “Senator Conroy says anyone wanting uncensored access to the internet will have to opt out of the service”.

I did wonder about the term CLEAN FEED, and noticed it being used in June 2004, in the United Kingdom at: www.theregister.co.uk/2004/06/07/bt_cleanfeed_analysis

BT has begun fleshing out its plans to block its Internet users from accessing websites containing illegal images of child abuse.
The system, called Cleanfeed, will censor access to several thousand websites on a blacklist compiled by UK Internet trade body, the Internet Watch Foundation (IWF). The blacklist features sites contain images of child sexual abuse that are “illegal to view” in the UK, under the 1978 Child Protection Act.

It is obvious that this is not a simple and understandable proposal, from either side of the fence. I will stay sitting on the fence until I know more about it.

I will continue to read up, and add more to this page as I do so.

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