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Greens Senator attacks Aussie Net Filter

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From Electronic Frontiers Australia:

Senator Ludlam slams filter in Parliament

Posted by Colin Jacobs | Censorship, Mandatory ISP Filtering | Thursday 13 May 2010 12:31 pm

Greens Senator Scott Ludlam yesterday rose to address the Senate specifically on the subject of the Rudd government's mandatory internet filter. The speech is easily the most substantial given in Parliament to date, and was withering in its assessment of the merits of the scheme.

Calling the filter "an inappropriate and off-target attempt to engage with a series of problems that deserve a much more serious and nuanced response", Senator Ludlam outlined three major areas in which the policy was a failure. Firstly, it doesn't achieve its policy objectives such as protecting children online. Secondly, it "establishes the architecture" for future censorship, as the list is expanded in future. The third line of attack deals with the technical unworkability of the system.

Summing up the policy failures, Senator Ludlam said:

If the government has its way and if it is passed through this parliament none of the issues that parents grapple with, that teachers are concerned about, that child safety and protection advocates worry about will have disappeared as a result of the enactment of this filter. It will not result in a single prosecution, it will not close down a single illegal website and it will not result in the removal of a single harmful image from the internet. So let us be very clear about that.

Many of us in the community have long noticed that what was presented as a "cyber-safety" policy, applying to internet connections with children, has since become a plan to "harmonise" our censorship and classification scheme by targeting material only adults would see. Clearly the Government did not get a mandate from the electorate to introduce a new censorship system for its own sake.

EFA have long warned that the system, once in place, will one day succumb to inevitable pressure to make it even more broad. Senator Ludlam pointed out the following comment made by Senator Conroy on Four Corners:

"If a majority of the Parliament in the future want to broaden the classification - meaning of material caught by the filter - well then, Australians should stand up and say ?just a minute', and I'll be one of them."

Of course, that's exactly what is happening now. If it gets to this situation, it will be too late, as Senator Ludlam points out. He goes on to say:

Once the architecture is in place, the idea that future governments will not be tempted to expand its scope is impossible to entertain. The reasons are technical, as well as political. The time for Australians to stand up is not down the track in that hypothetical vote; it is right now. People are standing up...

We expect that several parliamentarians, will be amongst the special interest groups knocking on the Government's door on day one. Given Senator Conroy's willingness to entertain a "three strikes" system for punishing internet downloaders, this is a very legitimate concern.

Of course, technically the filter is almost too easy a target. Once you appreciate the scope of web content and the scattershot nature of the blacklist, the filter can only be described as ridiculous. "The proposition that you could take a list, even with a classification scheme as vague as ours-this ?refused classification' bracket-and somehow plug everything that would be deemed to be refused classification is quite absurd," said Senator Ludlam and we agree.

Senator Ludlam finishes by removing any ambiguity about the Greens vote on this issue. "If the government presents its mandatory internet censorship scheme to the parliament in the form that the minister has been describing to us, the Australian Greens will vote against it."

Finally, EFA got its second mention in Parliament in recent times, but a bit more positive than the first.

Electronic Frontiers Australia has done essential research and advocacy over the last couple of years. I congratulate them for their work despite the hostility that they have drawn from the government. For a number of years, they have laid the foundations for a much larger number of individuals and organisations who have added their voices to the campaign.

We're grateful for the Senator's recognition, but even more grateful that there is a parliamentarian with the energy and understanding to give Conroy's filter the scrutiny the Australian public deserves.

We recommend watching the full speech below, or reading a transcript here.

Senator Scott Ludlam's speech on Internet Filtering Legislation from Greens MPs on Vimeo.

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If Aussies were filtered from the Net, who would we have left to laugh at...except maybe the Welsh.


Seriously, as both a parent and a teacher (in a former life), I'm against any government attempts at this kind of thing. In government, less is more.

The stated goal of child protection is all too frequently used for political adventage without any real understanding of or concern for children - only for votes or monetary gain.

"Moral busybodies are taking the perfectly good word 'family' and using it as a code for censorship the same way 'states' rights' was* used to disguise racism in the mid-sixties." -John Waters

Two things strike me on the subject after all those years of the above: (1) actual children are just young humans, both for good and ill, and shouldn't be mistaken for angels, (2) there really is no way to control children, all that parents & teachers can do is try to guide.

Children will, by their own choices, devices and mistakes, turn out badly...or not. Most of it comes down to luck, upbringing, genetics...and more luck. Very little adults do makes any difference and few things politicians try will do anything but make possibilities worse.

"Parents can only give good advice or put them on the right paths, but the final forming of a person's character lies in their own hands." -Anne Frank

The only reason the angelic and vulnerable image of children is so popular with politicians and other madmen is that it seldom fails to tug at the heartstrings...but that view of children is ficticious.

"A person's a person, no matter how small." -Dr. Suess


Children are little people: some are bad, some good, some smart and some stupid, some capable of change, some not, many kind but no small few are vicious.

They, like us, are limited by their own humanity.

:bunny: TR

*and is again, witness Arizona's most recent bid for national attention in the form of lightly coded racism.

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I agree with TR. So much complete and utter nonsense has been justified by it's for the children.

They don't vote, can't run for office and have no political voice. No one questions good intentions so children are the ultimate patsy.

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Thanks TR and James, for your support in our stand against the government tyranny over the Aussie Net filter.

The dangers of interference in the freedom of information on the Internet is not just for political purposes, but has 'religious' motivation and support as well.

However, no matter how much it may be religiously influenced or motivated, the manipulation is very political in that it shows as James contends; "children are the ultimate patsy."

Often attributed to Hitler in his book Mein Kampf, the following is no less an observation of manipulative propaganda:

"As long as the government is perceived as working for the benefit of the children, the people will happily endure almost any curtailment of liberty and almost any deprivation."

For many people this seems to be a rule to be followed in order to achieve control over the masses, even in their ignorance of them doing so.

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I don't think that's really in Mein Kampf, one of those hoax quotes, but I agree with the sentiment expressed by the hoaxer and poster above.

So, check out the Aussie Pirate Party - while you still can - and their weapon against this legislation and what they call The Great Australian Firewall:


:spank: TR

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From what I researched, I too have my doubts about the quote being in Mein Kampf, and that is why I said it was 'attributed' to Hitler.

Like you TR, I agree with the sentiment the hoaxer expresses.

Thanks for the link to the Pirate Party's Great Australian Firewall -great stuff!

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  • 1 month later...

I just got my electronic copy of the June 2010 issue of IEEE Spectrum, a publication of the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers. It has an article in the Update section about the proposed internet filter that the Australian government, spearheaded by Stephen Conroy, plans to introduce. I can't provide a link since this is a member- or paid subscription-only publication; I am a student member of IEEE.

To summarize, it points out the impacts on non-child porn sites, and how any Australian citizen can send a complaint about any internet site to the Australian Communications and Media Authority which will send it on to the Classification Board. The article points out that this could lead to the blocking of hundreds of thousands of sites, including those that are purely educational or online game gaming sites like World of Warcraft and Second Life. The blacklist is to be kept secret, so a site that is unfairly blocked might have no way to appeal that decision. "Recent polls show that 90 percent of Australians are concerned about the proposed law." The article mentions that there are a number of technical ways to get around filtering, including the use of virtual private networks like JonDo or Tor.

This article shows that the Australian internet censorship proposal is beginning to get wider public scrutiny outside of Australia, including in the technology sector.

Hmmm... if this law is passed, maybe what Australians should do is search every government website for any "banned" or in their opinion "offensive" words and issue thousands of public complaints to ACMA demanding that they be blacklisted. Gotta keep all them high-paid government bureaucrats in ACMA and the Classification Board busy, ya' know!

Colin :lol:

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Thanks Colin, I think you will find that the EFA (Electonic Frontiers Australia) have already discussed a campaign along the lines you suggest.

As I have posted in another thread, concerning VPN services, things are getting worse:

In light of recent ABC news report that the Australian government is now looking at forcing ISPs to keep the history of their customers, it would seem that a VPN service that offers the Open VPN protocol is the better choice over the PPTP protocol.

That narrows the service down to probably someone like BlackVPN which offers both PPTP and the more secure Open VPN.

In light of the reported Lieberman legislation to provide the US President with the means to 'kill' the Internet, I wonder if out politicians ever had the plot to lose it. Senator Lieberman has since, "...dismissed the idea that a recently introduced bill would give the president access to an Internet kill switch as "misinformation." He then said, however, that the government needs to be able to "disconnect parts of its Internet in a case of war." - PCMAG.com 6-21-2010

We have to ask ourselves what on Earth is obsessing the US and Australian governments with the freedom of information that the Internet provides, that they wish to emulate those countries that limit free speech, like China and various other regimes?

We can see some hope that cooler heads will prevail, but there are also some clouds over the freedom of expression that the Net has given the world.

Not the least among such dark spots is the threat to LGBT literature in the case of the Australian filter. Even Codey's World would be refused classification if the guidelines are applied as indicated in the proposed bills. And I presume the Texas GOP's desire to reinstate sodomy as a criminal offense is now well known.

What we can say is that we are seeing a conservative reaction against the loss of political control over the people, due to the Net and the freedoms attained by minority (but large) groups like the LGBT.

The silver lining however is contained in young people like this 10 year old activist.


Can there be any doubt remaining in anyone's mind that we live in er, 'interesting times'? How interesting it gets, depends on getting involved in the transition to what will hopefully be a better world.

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