Saturday 19 January 2008

Freedom isn't free

The freedom of our Internet is under threat.

With discussion rampant of new Labour government censorship guidelines to block child pornography and violent websites, we may all soon be praying to Chairman Rudd.

The government announced last week plans to restrict and block content and provide a censored version of the internet.

"The government policy applies to computers in homes, schools and libraries and targets pornography and ultra-violent sites," said Communications Minister Senator Stephen Conroy. "These will be identified by the Australian Communications and Media Authority and blocked by internet service providers."

Whilst I decry any such material being accessed by youth, there is huge concern for any move to block access to some online content. Chinese authorities famously censor their population from accessing thousands of general sites, to suit their government's agenda.

The Greens say that it should have been the other way around.

"If as a parent you're worried about your children accessing adult porn, then you would ring up and get the filter put in place," Greens Senator Rachel Siewert said.

Former communications minister Helen Coonan previously learn't that ISP-level filters can cut network speeds by up to 78% and were often inaccurate and expensive to purchase. British Telecom use a filter system that was cracked only last week by Cambridge researchers.

ACMA will run a trial on all aspects of filtering over the next 5 months. Coonan's study estimated the system would cost $79m and $34 million a year to operate.

In the US, a hugely popular TV show called To Catch a Predator set up entrapment houses and lured people in after chatting online to what they thought were minors between the age of 12 and 15yrs. The show, in it's fourth year, works alongside local police organisations, has raised the issue into the national spotlight. They also work with Perverted Justice to stage the online chats with child actors. It's edgy, if not sick, TV.

Most children who get tricked by online offenders, spend excessive amounts of time surfing the net, usually in chat rooms and almost always in evening hours. They often lure children with explicit photos. One of the signals that something is wrong is when children turn the computer screen off or quickly changes the screen when an adult comes by.

The Government's NetAlert site is a comprehensive resource to make every adult think about how to mange online predators. Here's their Parent's Guide and the free internet content filter.

Personally I advocate for proper parental or adult supervision when any minor is using the internet. We hardly need anymore censorship in this country.

I'm reminded of Team America's song Freedom Isn't Free.


Anonymous said...

It amazes me that as time goes on, a minority of parents demand that they take less resposibility for their children. The unfortunate part of this is that everyone must pay the price for these people.
I do not advocate child pornography. I think it is the most disgusting thing around. I have surfed the internet for about 10 years now, and have to say, I have only stumbled across 3 sites in that time that depicted child pornography and child abuse. These sites I directed to the AFP.
Parents should be taking resposibility for their childrens internet behaviour. Parents I know dont allow their kids to use the internet without a parent at home, and the kids arent allowed to have the computers in their rooms. It is a cheap and easy way of policing what their kids are viewing while online.
It is about time parents became parents again, and the government allowed, no, forced parents to become parents again.

Anonymous said...

Paul is right. This issue is basically about parents being parents and not leaving their responsibilities to the Government.

Anonymous said...

I agree with the comments above.

I'd like to add some comments about the danger of what Conroy seems to be proposing.

It is appalling, but eerily predictable, that the new Federal Labor Government seems keen to ratchet up governmental control of the internet. As we saw in Britain under Blair, Labour Governments can strip civil liberties away faster than the Tories would ever dare. That's because they face little 'opposition' when they do this. In similar vein, Howard was able to bring about greater changes to gun laws (a traditional right-wing sacred cow) than Labor ever could.

If ever it becomes obligatory for ISPs, who serve as our gateway to the internet, to block access to specified websites, we thenceforth live in a reality more like North Korea than the connected modern world we gained through the work of Tim Berners Lee and others.

Child pornography, I suspect, is simply a convenient ruse. The real goal of the people pushing the ALP Government to consider ISP-level censorship is to block access to political sites.

Censorship software, mainly marketed as an aid to child protection, already exists. There are numerous such 'services' - it's a growth industry.

I've had personal experience of a website I once ran being blocked by NetNanny or some such ‘web safety’ program (it was a few years ago and I don't recall the details).

The blocked site had zero sexual content, let alone child pornography, unless you count a photo on the front page of a small, courageous Palestinian boy, rock in hand, standing in front of an Israeli tank. That child was certainly underage. But he was fully clothed.

Try to get a site 'unbanned' from a service like NetNanny if you disagree with its ruling. It's like trying to get fast service from Telstra in the cyclone season. You might as well forget it.

Now imagine appealing a ban decision with the Federal Government - especially a government that sucks up to the Zionist lobby.

Suddenly, sites about the Second World War that are disliked by Zionists will begin to vanish.

Try to appeal those decisions. If you do, look forward to being pilloried by the entire mass media and political establishment, banned from your job or worse.

Sites about 9-11 and the JFK assassination will also begin to disappear. Not all of them, of course. Just the 'wrong' sort. You'll never know exactly what sort... unless you emigrate to a freer country, such as India, Venezuela or Iran.

Sites that support the Iraqi resistance? I think you'll see them disappear over time. Pro-Palestinian sites? Only tame, more or less collaborationist websites will survive.

And so it will go on... until our public discourse is utterly distorted and violated by the biased meddling of a nanny state.

Soon it could be 1984, ladies and gentlemen – unless we say NO to this abominable trend towards State censorship. Rather later than George Orwell's book title, but unmistakably a world of thought control, where might determines what's right and debate is curtailed, restricted and molded by largely unseen censors and propagandists.

With characteristic irony, Labor Governments are called upon to put in place the last few bricks of Orwell's nightmare.

Whoever said the Masters of Manipulation lack a sense of humour?