Australian Government moves closer to Internet censorship – what to do? #nocensorship #nocleanfeed

Via ZDNet News Editor Renai LeMay comes news that the Australian Government has received a report of its trial of systems to censor the Internet. Amusingly, as I type, the Government’s website announcing the report is down, presumably because of the amount of people visiting

The crucial finding is:

Filtering Refused Classification (RC) content

The pilot demonstrated that ISPs can effectively filter a list of URLs such as the ACMA blacklist with a very high degree of accuracy and a negligible impact on internet speed.

While it’s possible for technical people to argue about whether this is true or not, the political reality is that it will give the Government a good technical argument to go ahead with its plans to censor the internet. Therefore the plan will need to be defeated on political grounds.

At the moment, the Australian Greens and the Liberal/National Coalition still oppose the censorship plan, despite the Greens recently choosing to run Clive Hamilton, the moral architect of the censorship plan, as their candidate in the recent Higgins by-election. If this remains the same, it is likely that the plan will fail in the Senate as the Government is unlikely to ever have enough votes to pass the censorship plan without the support of one of those groups.

After the discussions we had here a year or so ago about this issue, I think we need to spread the idea that Australians need to take responsibility for their own viewing habits and not expect the Government to nanny them, and we need “maximum freedom for the maximum amount of people”. There was also a good discussion about laying a political cost on the Government by painting THEM as the creepy weird ones who are obsessed with people looking at nude pictures of children.


13 Responses to “Australian Government moves closer to Internet censorship – what to do? #nocensorship #nocleanfeed”

  1. 1 keza

    I’m surprised! I really thought that after the uproar a year ago, the Rudd government would have found a way to quietly back off.

    I doubt that it will get through the Senate, but we do need to consider the way in which the Greens (or some elements in that party) have been promoting Clive Hamilton recently.

    It’s really important to continue spreading the word about the extreme social conservatism of Hamilton’s world outlook. We should target him specifically. I think it’s probably still the case that most rank and file Green supporters have no idea that Hamilton not only supports net censorship, but was the architect of the whole scheme.

    I’ve just read an article in the Australian: ISP filter to block worst net nasties and noticed that there are already 103 comments – running about 97% against the censorship scheme. The sense of outrage is very strong. I only noticed one comment mentioning Hamilton’s role in it though.

  2. 2 youngmarxist

    I suspect that Rudd wants to be able to go to reactionary voters and say “at least we tried to protect your children, but those evil Greens stopped us”.

    I’ve spent the afternoon on Twitter and a lot of people there seem very suspicious of the way the Greens ran Hamilton in the by-election. But they are probably more politically aware than most other people.

    If the Greens want the support of internet-savvy people in the “latte belt” they are going to have to repudiate Hamilton’s views on censorship.

    I’ve made a list on delicious of links to resources that explain how to get around Internet censorship. The link is – the more we spread this, the more we can make people realise they have no choice but to accept a world in which people have free Internet access, whether the Government likes it or not.

  3. 3 keza

    It’s true that the most internet savvy people will be able to thumb their noses and say “well we can get around it anyway, your censorship will be ineffective”. But (a) ordinary people won’t know how to do this (and why should they have to?) and (b) it would not be possible in any case for everyone to use proxy servers since there are only limited numbers of these and they would collapse under the load. (That’s my understanding anyhow).

    I think that Hamilton may try to finesse the issue. Recently he’s attempted to distance himself from the Rudd/Conway proposal by by waffling on about how he’s concerned about an “apparent lack of transparency” etc etc. We need to point out that not only does Hamilton support net censorship, but he actually proposed it and lobbied for it when Howard was PM. Prior to the campaign from the Australia Institute, there was no proposal for mandatory filtering. The whole thing came straight from Hamilton. It was an orchestrated campaign in which Hamilton and Flood issued a series press releases citing their own dodgy opinion polls etc.

  4. 4 Bill Kerr

    I visited the Pirate Party Australian site . They are still very small but becoming more active and currently raising funds to run a candidate in the South Australian election next March.

    From their forum (>> Other Issues) someone posted a press release from Senator Ludlam (Greens) is maintaining his opposition:

    The Australian Greens are deeply concerned about the Federal Government’s announcement that it is proceeding with plans to introduce compulsory internet filtering.

    The Government has released the long-overdue test results for mandatory net filtering, alongside a discussion paper seeking feedback on increased accountability and transparency in blacklisting websites (see … s/2009/115).

    Despite the release of a discussion paper that tacitly acknowledges the huge concern this proposal has raised and the flaws in the existing blacklisting process, the Government is intent on ploughing ahead.

    The pointless nature of this proposal is set out in the report itself, which admits that the filters will be circumvented by people seeking blocked material.

    Testing showed that the filters used for the ACMA blacklist only were more easily circumvented than other more complex filters used to cover a wider range and volume of material.

    The Government has also indicated the open-ended nature of the filter by acknowledging they will be importing blacklists from overseas to supplement the Australian list. As many people have said, this is the thin end of the wedge. The policy is simply misguided.

    The ‘discussion paper’ only asks for input on one aspect of the policy, with the rest apparently locked in. I encourage people to communicate the full range of their concerns to the Government rather than being deterred by what looks like a done deal.

    Unless the Government changes tack, the Greens will be moving significant amendments to this legislation if it is introduced to the Senate.

    If you would like to voice your opposition, email Minister Conroy via


    Senator Ludlam

  5. 5 keza

    Hamilton really does hate the internet. In an article published in Crikey , in which he dismissed climategate as being clearly the work of professionals paid by “the fuel industry’s think tanks in Washington”, he also launched a broadside against “the modern curse of communication” (ie the internet).

    Climate denialism would barely register if not for the internet, the modern curse of communication that provides ready confirmation for every whacky theory or paranoid delusion.

    The other day a study found that one in four Australians uses the internet to diagnose and treat their illnesses without the need to consult a medical expert. “It’s hard sometimes on the net to work out whether opinion is being portrayed as fact,” said the AMA president. Amen to that.

    If a climate denier ignores expert opinion and uses the internet to diagnose and treat his cancer and dies as a result, it is regrettable. If he does the same for his daughter and she dies it is irresponsible. If he ignores the experts and uses the net to conclude the Earth is not sickening and other people’s children die then he is guilty of a crime.

    This is another example of Hamilton’s disbelief in the capacity of ordinary people to think and take decisions for themselves. He really does believe that we are “too free” and need to be regulated from above.

    His remarks about the use of the internet to find out about health issues reflects this. Of course it’s possible (and quite common) for people to come across crank theories and/or to misunderstand sound information. But in general (and over time) the tendency is for people who use the internet to learn all sorts of new things. And there are many cases of people becoming capable of active participation in the diagnostic process. I know a number of GPs who say that they have actually been alerted to real diagnostic possibilities and new information, by patients who have searched for information on the internet.

    But as David Jackmanson said in his article in The Australian

    Green Wowser is No Leftie:

    (Hamilton’s views) reveal a deep distrust of ordinary people. By beating up a moral panic about pornography available on the internet, and by denying people have the ability to make their own moral judgments and decisions about what they look at, Hamilton rejects the self-responsibility that real leftists demand for themselves and others, and instead insists that the government do that job for us.

  6. 6 youngmarxist

    Well it’s been a good 18 hours.

    I wrote a letter to the Courier-Mail (the only daily paper here in Brisbane) this morning and got the “did you send it to anyone else?” phone call just now, which means they’re considering putting it in the paper.

    Discussion on Twitter has moved into the stage of realising that we can’t just agree with each other about how bad this is, and there’s an organising meeting next Monday Dec 21 to plan public meetings and/or rallies.

    I keep mentioning that these meetings or rallies need to discuss strategy, not just lay down a line that people must follow. Not doing this properly was a failing of the rally I helped to organise a year ago and we won’t make that mistake again. These meetings need to be a place for real debate, not just a church service.

    I’ve also had an article about curerent Internet censorship plans published in forth magazine.

  7. 7 Jayjee

    Rank and file Green members? In te case of Hairshirt Hamilton surely you mean Rank and VILE!?

  8. 8 Bill Kerr

    the google australia blog has picked up on a recent australian academic study which opposes mandatory filtering from a moderate or respectable position:
    untangling the net: the scope of content caught by mandatory internet filtering

    I would say essential reading in order to tease out the nuances of crafting an effective political position which YM seeks

    part of this is the telling point about the RC classification:

    “Refused Classification (or RC) is a broad category of content that includes not just child sexual abuse material but also socially and politically controversial material — for example, educational content on safer drug use — as well as the grey realms of material instructing in any crime, including politically controversial crimes such as euthanasia”

    (outlined in more detail with other points in the pdf)

    the results of the Sydney Morning Herald survey are consistent with all previous polls of web savvy people, 95+% against the filter:
    Reader Poll Internet censorship
    What do you think of Senator Conroy’s plan to filter the internet? Yes, I think it’s a good idea – 2%
    No, it impinges on my freedom – 96%
    Not sure, it sounds good in theory – 2%
    I don’ t understand it – 1%
    Total Votes: 22218

  9. 9 informally yours

    If anyone is surprised that the Minister is committed to this course and will try and push it through by any means possible then they are looking in the wrong direction. It is currently a matter of lobbying and ascertaining what the numbers are likely to be. I’ve just been motivated to write this after catching the end of a radio segment on the issue, when it occurred to me this is not a question of making the internet safe for kiddies it is about the blacklist that accompanies it.

    The current situation establishes the dangers of the proposal opponents in accepting the ‘trial’ approach, because of course the trial has become the Minister’s rubber stamp having been deemed a success, and therefore consumers can rest assured that internet speeds will not be effected by this approach, and therefore there is nothing to worry about, and definitely not a contradictory approach to the provision of broadband services to Australians embodied in the Rudd government approach.

    So how lucky is Conroy being the Minister for goodness, safety, and light when he is trying to sell a nice ‘safe product’. I haven’t been following any of the Parliamentary stuff but is there any chance this could be postponed until after the ETS referendum election?

    Imagine it, the electoral material or the press conferences of Stephen Conroy delivering the word and the light from the mountain top.

    When I first became involved in the student union politics someone more experienced than I commented that some things are the slippery slope – and that to give ‘them’ (used for brevity only)an inch, would mean they’ll take a mile and I think this fits that category completely.

    This blacklist is about unprecedented political powers to determine what is acceptable information. The right-wing Catholic ABC radio commentators in this state continually denigrate the knowledge that is available on the net.

    Criticism/white-anting the Wikipedia project is a regular feature, and make no mistake they are attempting a rear guard action against the ‘evil’s’ offered on the net by the damned whores; Philip Nitschke and other voluntary euthanasia; and or abortion sites etc..

    Defending free speech, really defending free speech means adopting a position of tolerance of views you disagree with. As the now discredited Eustonites’ say “Liberty, if it means anything, is the right to tell people what they don’t want to hear.” (Noting difference between what is said, and what
    is practiced)

    Then there are the other ‘unacceptable’ information streams and ‘industries’ that lurk around the superhighway that are threatening to established sectional interests etc., and then you have determined agendas to close down debate and the net.

    Personally, I think the amount of general medical information available on the web and the mail order pharmaceutical companies is a force for greater consumer choices and medical accountability, rather than a force for evil rip-off-merchants preying on the vulnerable and selling non-existent cancer cures etc. (A rich argument when it is coming from the religious right) btw I think I nearly prefer Tony Abbott right-wingness to the nasty DLP kind within the ALP factions and the pseudo-left.

    It is only with the future use of the net that we can bring down the costs of medical care in this country and the world.
    Bring it on.

    It is little wonder the black shirts want to develop a black-list, and once implemented the categories will widen as the political impetus for greater Ministerial control against ‘inappropriate’ material. Say no to government Ministers who want to administer the political incorrectness list.

  10. 10 Barry

    Ha Ha. This is a letter in today’s ‘Age’ newspaper (Melbourne, 26/12/09):

    “Suppressing debate
    IN STEPHEN Conroy we have a Minister for Broadband who has displayed the amazing lack of internet savvy to neglect to register his own domain name. This ineptitude enabled the creation of satirical website ”Stephen Conroy: Minister for Fascism”. But don’t bother going to, it’s not there any more.

    In a dramatic display of Orwellian irony and presumably under pressure from the offices of Senator Conroy, the auDA (Australian Domain Name Administrator) has taken down the site. I think we can all be quite sure that if any of us found ourselves in the embarrassing situation Senator Conroy found himself in last week, we could not rely on such a speedy response from the auDA.

    This act of censorship and suppression of political comment is an omen of potential negative application of the almost boundless censorship powers the so-called ”clean feed” will place at the whim of our government.

    Australia, beware, censorship will not protect your children, it will merely make them ignorant.

    Gerry Meehan, Melbourne”

  11. 11 Sam da Communist

    How about internet censorship in a socialist world? And what degrees of policing would be needed on the cyberspace as well? Consider computer crime and undesirable Right-wing material.

  12. 12 Barry

    Sam, I see no reason to censor any ideas, including “undesireable Right-wing material” on the Internet. People should be free to express their political/philosophical views no matter how abhorrent/offensive others may find them. I would expect, and fight for, this to be the policy under socialism.

    As for cyberpolicing, I’ll leave that to others at this site who are more technically qualified than I, and probably have a better understanding.

  13. 13 informally yours

    Sorry I don’t know how to do a link here…This short article from Melbourne Art and Culture critic Mark Holsworth,Jan 5 2010 against censorship is worth checking out.

    “The State does not permit me to use my thoughts to their full value and communicate them to other men… unless they are its own… Otherwise it shuts me up.” – Max Stirner

    Censorship is religious, arbitrary and undemocratic; it is therefore a clear injustice to enforce censorship. However, Australian politicians love censorship; they censor the internet, publications, movies, television, political speech, video games, visual arts exhibitions and anything else they want to. The Australian constitution is weak and does not guarantee basic human rights or democracy. To understand the farce that is called “democracy” in Australia see the case of Albert Langer, one of Australia’s many political prisoners.

    Censorship is a type of magico-religious thinking; it is the belief that if you remove the words, signs or symbol then you will hinder the thing itself. Not surprisingly censorship is often employed to support religious beliefs or prejudices. The imposition of a magical-religious view on the public by the government is a breach of the public’s right to freedom of religious beliefs and practices. There is no evidence that censorship does any good but there is lots of evidence to indicate that it does a lot of harm; see Marjorie Heins, Not In Front of the Children, “Indecency,” Censorship, and the Innocence of Youth, (New York, 2001). People who support censorship are willing to harm people for their faith.

    There is no logic to censorship – it is an arbitrary act depending on time, place, the person, their history, their language, the media of communications, popular interpretations of religious traditions in the society and the mood of the politicians. It is impossible to definitively determine what will and what will not be censored, making the law arbitrary. Dziga Vertov, “Man with a Movie Camera” is G rated by the Australian Office of Film and Literature Classification but contains footage of topless young women on a Russian beach. Show it on children’s television and there would be an uproar in Australia, as happened when breastfeeding mammals, including a human mother and child, were shown. To draw any conclusions about the reasons for individual cases of censorship is to assume that they are not arbitrary and there is some logic to censorship. If you want to have censorship you can either be arbitrary and unfair you can be fair and look ridiculous.

    Censorship is anti-democratic in that not all citizens have equal access to information. Any system of censorship proposes special categories of elite citizens and that certain people due to academic or legal qualifications or motherhood, or gender etc. are able to look at material unavailable to other citizens. The class issues at the centre of the legal battle over censorship of Lady Chatterley’s Lover makes this point clear. When I was a post-graduate student at LaTrobe University I took advantage of this loophole in the law and read a few of the restricted books in their collection even though they had nothing to do with my thesis research. If you really believe that some citizens have special qualities that makes their judgement better than others then why allow those others to vote?

    Censorship, official or unofficial, is so acceptable in Australia that it is believed to be more important than copyright. To alter an artist’s work without permission, including the covering up parts, is a violation of copyright and the moral rights of the artist. However, these censors care nothing for the moral or legal rights of the artist because they think that censorship is better than all of that. Why respect the opinions of people who do not respect your opinion?

    Censorship is the exercise of power by one group over another group to deny them the power of expression. It is religious, arbitrary and undemocratic and people who support censorship should be castigated as dangerous fools and nobody should vote for them.

  1. 1 #nocleanfeed | Australian Government moves closer to Internet censorship – what « ftinfo4u Updater
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