The Big Bad Internet

As a bit of a follow up to my dashed out letter to my local MP that I posted last night, with regards to the Australian government’s plans to implement mandatory ISP level internet filtering, I thought I would talk a little about my experience with the internet as an “early adopter” from the mid-90’s.

One of the “reasons” being touted by the Australian government for implementing filtering is to prevent people from “accidentally” stumbling into material such as child pornography or terrorism sites.  I’ve been using the internet for about 15 years now, and as part of my job, I have had to do things like look up lists of sites on filtered lists for public internet access (not to censor them, but because they are inappropriate for a public venue), I’ve had to run search engine tests on BIZARRE phrases and keywords, I’ve even had to go actively looking for sites that would be considered offensive, even illegal as part of usability testing.

And with my hand on my heart, I can tell you I have never accidentally stumbled into either child pornography or terrorist sites.  Of course I’ve encountered plenty of porn sites, none of which weren’t blatantly obvious that they were porn in a search list, or by their URL.  So I can say I’ve never accidentally stumbled into those either.

The thing is, people who want to publish child pornography and terrorist material know  how to hide it.  If every day people could stumble into it, it would be much easier for the authorities to find it and track it.  They know how to protect themselves, to mask their material so that only they and those they trust and want to view it can view it.  No national internet filter is going to be of any use to keeping these cretins away from everyday people because they do it themselves.

All filters like these are going to do is force this stuff underground.  In countries like China and Iran where regular websites are filtered (Facebook, Twitter etc), lots of people know how to work around it and not be caught.  If we put filters on all internet access for Australians, all it is going to do is push the child pornographers and nutcases to be even more cunning than they already are, waste a lot of tax payers money and turn our access to online information in this country into a joke.

What WILL help the Australian population have access to a safe online environment is the education of both children and adults in how to use the internet in a savvy and sensible manner.  How to recognise high quality information and sites, and how to use their own brains to filter out the trash and the offensive stuff.  We need to sink money into good quality internet access for ALL Australians so that Aussies can become the creators and curators of high quality internet content.  We need to educate parents in using the internet and taking responsibility for what their children access on the internet.

We also need our tax dollars to be spent on finding and catching child pornographers, sex offenders, drug traffickers and other criminals.  We need to be engaging the police at all levels with funding and resources to do their jobs and remove the evil element from our society.  Not spend tax money on ineffective and censorious internet filters.

By censoring what Australians have access to, and how we use the internet, which is just another form of media as radio, television, press etc are, our government is turning our nation into an embarrassment on the world stage.  It puts us in the league of China and Iran, who heavily censor the internet access of their people.  We should be in the league of Finland, who recently ruled that broadband internet access is a legal right of their citizens.

It also leads me to ask just what is going to be filtered.  We start with child pornography and terrorist material.  Ok, those are things that we definitely want to keep out of any media.  But then it covers things that are “refused classification” because they are offensive.  But offensive to whom?  Offensive to the government?  Does this mean that if I speak out against the government in my blog, that my work becomes refused classification on the grounds that it is offensive?  From the leaked ACMA blacklist, we see that sites on euthanasia, suicide, abortion, gambling and pornography are refused classification.  Who is the government to tell us that we cannot access this information?  I am an adult, I have read books and seen websites on all of these subjects, and yet I have never committed a crime or partaken in the activities detailed in such books and websites.

Australians have always been proud of our freedom of information and right to free speech.  Censoring the internet is no different to censoring the media.  We need to tell our government that this plan to implement mandatory internet filtering is not acceptable, and that we have the right to free information and speech in this country.

For an excellent opinion piece on the subject from Google’s official blog, click here. Google make some excellent points on how they already take responsibility to filter child pornography from their search results, and their concern about the broadness of “refused classification” as a level of filtering.

For more information, try the following sites:

Stop Internet Censorship

Somebody Think of the Children

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December 16, 2009. Australia, censorship, ethics, freedom, information, internet, morals, No Clean Feed, responsibility.

2 Comments

  1. justsal replied:

    Kath,

    If I ever run for politics I’m totally having you in my corner 🙂 Your thoughts on the matter were well stated, to the point, and most of all it was done without being rude. You rock 🙂

    • sleepydumpling replied:

      *blush*

      I can promise you one thing I will never do is run for politics. Egads! I can’t think of anything worse.

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