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Something which has appeared on the BBC a couple of times now, but not once that I have seen in our own local media, is the Rudd government’s plan to erect a firewall to block Australians’ access to certain websites. The “cyber-safety plan” apparently comprised part of the 2008-09 budget, but was unfortunately overlooked by the Liberals so they could complain about taxes on luxury cars. The plan’s stated aim is to “help protect Australian children from the dangers of the internet” (as seen on the DBCDE website). Sounds good, right?

Well no, actually, it’s not good at all. I don’t care how many government-appointed consultative committees there are, how much they educate young Australians on how to be “responsible cyber-citizens”, how many different groups they insist they will be “working with”, nor how many excuses they offer as to why a mandatory firewall is necessary. Plainly and simply, it is not. This plan is an erosion of our rights, nothing more and nothing less — and should be opposed.

Firstly, the argument that such a measure is necessary to “protect” our children is rubbish. An entire generation has grown up with the Internet now, and I certainly haven’t seen any evidence to suggest that they have all been morally bankrupted. Where is this evidence? Why is this measure suddenly necessary?

Secondly, why is it now the government’s job to “protect” the nation’s children? Isn’t this parents’ job? If a parent wants to block sensitive websites from their children, not only is the technology available, but it is readily accessible. Their failure to use these technologies should not be construed as bad parenting — it means that these technologies are unnecessary. Again, have we seen any evidence that the Internet has lead to moral bankruptcy in our youth? Why not, if the link is so obviously present? Have the nation’s parents really failed?

Another, perhaps more convincing, argument against this plan is the rights that will be taken away from Australians. At present, Australians do not encounter censorship when they browse the Internet. If this firewall is implemented, as our government is determined it will, there will be censorship. All Australians will encounter it — not just children, not just parents, not just those in schools, everyone. Our Internet will be slowed considerably because whenever a website is accessed from Australia, it will first be checked by our Great Firewall. “Do we want Australians visiting this website?” If yes, you get to go through. If not, too bad.

Australians will get to choose between two firewalls. With the first, all “illegal websites” will be blocked. That might not be so bad, because truly horrible websites (mostly child pornography) would be blocked. However, the second filter adds an extra layer to the first. With that, all “inappropriate” websites will be blocked — legal ones included.

The second firewall will be the default. To be moved to the first, you’ll have to call your ISP and request it. “Hey, ISP, this is John Citizen and can I please look at those inappropriate websites?” You’ll have to identify yourself, as an individual and an Internet user who is somehow doing the wrong thing. Sure, many people will have no problem doing that. Many others will have their doubts. Do you really want to be on the record as someone who looks at inappropriate websites?

Then there is the problem of what will be blocked. The current list includes “illegal” websites, anything porn-related, and other sites as yet to be decided (pro-anorexia, pro-euthanasia…). Once the infrastructure is in place, however, it would be terribly easy for perfectly legitimate websites to “accidentally” get caught up in the block. Perhaps websites critical of the government will “accidentally” be blocked. It seems absurd, but if you’re going to the effort of imposing a vast firewall on the people of Australia, what else are you going to use it for? To block more porn? Once you start blocking websites, where do you stop? What’s to stop you from not stopping?

Elections, one supposes. Public opinion. Protests. However, the government has already decided that those against their plan must approve of child pornography — or so they seemed to say to Greens senator Scott Ludlam. If you don’t want censorship, you must be a bad person! If you’re so determined to keep your rights, you must be abusing them!

And really, who wants to look like they’re defending child pornography?

The whole thing, in my opinion, is stupid. There is no evidence to suggest that taking Australians’ rights away like this is necessary, and it’s certainly not desirable. Children don’t need to be “protected” by the government from the dangerous Internet; their parents can do that easily enough. Adults don’t need to be told what they may or may not look at; they should be capable of working that out for themselves. (Admittedly, there is a minority who are not, but why punish the entire nation for their stupidity?) Opponents of the plan are not “pro-child pornography”, and nor should they be accused of such.

The “cyber-safety plan” is useless, needless, taking our rights away, and offensive. It should be stopped; it has to be stopped. If we allow our government to take these rights away, where we going to stop them?

Further sites to visit, if you want to learn more, include No Clean Feed, ISP ‘Voluntary’ / Mandatory Filtering, and Cheap tricks not the right response on internet filtering. I couldn’t link to them all in the entry because I would have been crowbarring links in all day, but visit them anyway if you’re interested. There’s plenty there to think about.


One Comment

  1. This plan is really stupid. And scary. I don’t want my rights taken away… D:

2 Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. […] already have the Internet censorship scheme that our government swears is going ahead. We already have the issue that the government is […]

  2. By Censorship, revisited « Jayeless on 22 Mar 2009 at 12:38 pm

    […] I’ve written before that our government is planning to implement a compulsory filter on Internet access in Australia, […]

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