Lots of people are writing
to their MPs to explain why the proposed Internet censorship regime,
as currently being pushed by
Senator Conroy, won't work and is a draconian imposition on the
rights of citizens. The biggest issue is that the system won't
actually work, as measured against its purported goals, but will
have a dramatic impact on the performance of the network and the
availability of perfectly-legal material.
So get over to
OpenAustralia to find
out who your local member is, and get writing! The only language
they understand is votes. Here's my letter to
who happens to also be Minister for Infrastructure, Leader of the
House and a big shaker and mover in the ALP.
Dear Mr Albanese,
I'm writing to express my concern about the proposed Internet censorship
regime being promoted by Senator Conroy. He would instead characterise
it as a "filtering" regime, but as has recently emerged it will not be
optional and so constitutes censorship, in the Great Firewall of China
model, used to stifle political speech in China.
Two aspects of the proposed censorship regime concern me most, but they
aren't the only problems.
First of all is the fact that it won't work. I'm an Internet technical
type, and I've looked through the lab trial report and can't see how
any technical approach could possibly work effectively. Regardless of
whether or not it will slow down peoples' Internet connections--and it
most certainly will--it will not actually be effective in blocking only
the targetted material, and nothing else.
Any filtering system will either need to break the security mechanisms
used for online commerce, trade and secure communications (like Internet
banking and stock trading) or will be trivially easy to bypass. So
illegal material will continue to be available to the people who want
it. Technically-savvy children will also be able to bypass it, with
their parents given a false sense of security that the government is
doing their job for them.
A friend of mine lived in China for six months and was upset that he
couldn't view sites like CNN, BBC or our own ABC to see what was
happening in the world. In about fifteen minutes I set up a method for
him to get around the Great Firewall of China and view these sites.
This method would be used to get around the Great Firewall of Australia.
My second major concern is the way Conroy is stifling public discourse
about his proposal. His office attempted to stop a respected network
engineer from criticising the project, by placing pressure on the
Internet Industry Association. He has also repeatedly characterised
any critics of the proposal as being pro child pornorgraphy. This cheap
rhetorical trick conflates the two aspects of the project: one is to
"protect children from bad stuff on the Internet" and the other is to
"censor illegal material".
The current system of voluntary Internet filtering software, made
available for free to Australian households, is flawed but is probably
the best approach we have. It means, at least, that parents have control
over the level of censorship they want to impose on their children.
Otherwise we end up with every special interest group banning their
own hobby horses for everyone. That means Steven Fielding wanting to
ban the human reproductive system and Nick Xenophon wanting all
gambling made illegal.
Education is the key to handling the diverse range of content on the
Internet. Families need the tools to make decisions for themselves,
rather than having Big Nanny make decisions for them. One of the
easiest approaches I've heard of is placing the family computer in
a public location such as the dining room, so that everyone can be
observed using the Internet.
I'd be happy to meet with you and explain the technical details of the
proposal, and why it won't work. I also have some ideas about a
face-saving fallback approach that does the maximum to prevent
genuinely illegal content (child porn, terrorist material) that can
be done by government without imposing draconian restrictions on
Marrickville NSW 2204