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Thoughts on the Aussie net filter + today's protest 
13th-Dec-2008 06:26 pm
(x-posted to divabat)

Today I was at the rally against the proposed Clean Feed (Internet filter), which is being implemented by the Aussie government under the guise of "stopping child porn". (If you were there: I was the Malaysian speaker in black with the "Do Not Want" sign)

Never mind that this doesn't actually stop child porn - they'll just go underground. Find other ways to distribute their rubbish. It's not like there's going to be extra funding being given to the groups actually responsible for prosecuting child pornographers anyway.

The rally mainly concentrated on geeky things, very lefty things - pro-marijuana decriminalisation, anti-government sites, etc. They're definitely at risk of the filter; however, saying that those sites will be affected won't help our cause. The rest of the world doesn't care about our LOLcats.

However, since there's no way of knowing what exactly's going to be filtered (all we know is child porn, adult porn, euthanasia), there are potentially many sites that are going to lumped into this filter:

* Sites about Islam (OMG TERRORISTS ALQAEDA!)
* Sites advocating for rights for sex workers
* Sexual and reproductive health, including cervical/breast/prostate cancer
* Independence and ethnic struggles
* Sites by dissidents of other countries - for example, if Australia plans to have a trade agreement with China, China may demand that their blacklist be applied in Australia, and that they should go find any Chinese dissidents hiding in Australia. Money or freedom?
* GLBT rights and support networks
* Academic studies on pornography (hell, even a report on why people make child porn in the first place) or any other "controversial" topic
* Sites by minority religions and other small groups
* Support groups for drug users and drug addicts
* Sites dealing with radical politics, including anarchy
* Support sites for people who have dealt with abuse (including child exploitation survivors)

basically, anything that could potentially rankle others. It happens in Malaysia - the land where an upside down JPG of a flag is a "threat to national security". This is why the filter idea pisses me off; I've seen how it goes back home, seen the danger. Ironically the Internet isn't actually censored in Malaysia - they just arrest those that speak out and scare the others into submission. Fun.

And what if some old auntie got hit by spyware because she thought she was opening an e-card by her niece? Spyware that dials up child porn? The logs would point to her and she'll get in trouble - but the spyware people go free. My aunts and uncles have computers FULL of spyware because they don't know well enough not to click on "You won this today!" or "Free icons!".

All that money and effort spent on the damn filter, which doesn't seem to have any advantage at all but just breaks technology, could be spent on:

* Actually going after the bad guys in the first place
* Educating the public about Internet safety and Internet use
* Getting parents, schools, childcare people, etc to work out how to take care of kids collaboratively
* Give kids more things to do and get involved in aside from the Internet
* Working out other methods of going after child porn/hate sites/etc together with ISPs and hosting companies and other Net techs
* Connect communities together to care about each other's livelihood and keep kids safe from exploitation
* Create better tech that blocks spyware/malware/viruses/etc

The filters hurts most and helps none. You want to fight child porn? FIGHT CHILD PORN. Closing our eyes doesn't make child porn disappear.
13th-Dec-2008 09:02 am (UTC)
* Sites by minority religions and other small groups

If this is actually true, and the filter would block these kinds of sites then this filter effects me directly.

Not only do I run a Pagans in the Park group who have a site online; I also run an Ascension (new age, hippy shit) Information website and chat room.

All three of my sites would likely be blocked by this cock-and-bull filter! BAH.

I agree with you, what we need is communication, education and more appropriate targets for this money.
13th-Dec-2008 09:11 am (UTC)
I figured the Pagan groups would go - other filters overseas have blocked "occult" sites. I hang out with Coven of the Wildwood and even their site would probably vanish.
13th-Dec-2008 09:06 am (UTC)
I was disappointed in the turnout. 1000 people said they were going to be there, it didn't look like 1000 people there today, not even close :-(
13th-Dec-2008 09:12 am (UTC)
Yeah! What happened man, too hot? Apparently there was a Deviantart meet and an ANTAR rally too.
13th-Dec-2008 09:17 am (UTC)
word has it that sites like LJ, Myspace and facebook will be banned too as being a risk
13th-Dec-2008 09:19 am (UTC) - [citation needed]
What, like a blanket ban? Geez, that's like a massive chunk of the Internet right there! Where's that from?
13th-Dec-2008 09:32 am (UTC)
I wondered if that was you. I really enjoyed your speech and I think most people there did too. I agree the focus of the rally was somewhat muddied by all the injokes, which are fun for those of us who are of the intarwebz, but really confuse John Q Public whose entire knowledge of the internet is hotmail and facebook.

But from little things, big things grow and all that.
13th-Dec-2008 10:18 am (UTC)
Hee, thanks! I thought it was important to give the perspective of a country that does something similar. Hopefully this could spark some discussion on how the filter would effect people outside the "intarwebs" (like the colon bag guy).
13th-Dec-2008 09:43 am (UTC)
It'll also slow down our internet heaps, and you have to ask yourself even IF this filter is ok, and you trust this government, do you trust every single government after it? When did restrictions on freedom ever just stop? The current blacklist will NOT be the final blacklist, things can get much worse.
13th-Dec-2008 10:19 am (UTC)
Exactly! And then there could be the case of innocent pictures of naked kids (in a bath or something) being marked as child porn and sending the parents into jail. It has happened in the US.

And what's the point of the blacklist if you're not going to do something about the people that MADE THE SITE in the first place?
13th-Dec-2008 09:46 am (UTC)
yeah this movement is a little goblin coming to nibble at our liberties. ultra lame.

But I'm too lame to go to a rally. Also the effect of protests on events seems negligible. So I figure hit them were it really makes a difference.. In the wallet!
With my power as a consumer in the market I gave some money to the EFA (Electronic Frontiers Australia).

The people who have the energy and the smarts to go fight against silly things like this in the senate etc.

Also you dont have to become a member. Just a bit on paypal works too.
Though it'd be awesome if they had a store. Some merchandise would really got my dollars flowing at them. As my need for shirts is bountiful

13th-Dec-2008 09:48 am (UTC)
ooh and heres the link. http://www.efa.org.au
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13th-Dec-2008 10:22 am (UTC)
That's true; it would be counterproductive to discourage the LOLcatness. However, the lack of people making more real-world points, aside from Mike the colon cancer guy, really does not do anything. It just makes us look like freaks - doesn't help that the anarcho-lefties start jumping in waving their flags around!

The way to connect to people is to be relatable - and the average Joe isn't going to understand LOLcats or the damn 1337 signs. What we need to get through is why this filter is a bad idea for everyone - even those who only go online once a week.
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13th-Dec-2008 12:31 pm (UTC)
While I realise the potential danger of this filter (and all of the sites you've mentioned could potentially be blocked, yes), I think that getting panicked about what could happen isn't going to help anything. Our government isn't facist or communist, and it has no reason to impinge on the rights of minority religions or support groups for drug users/self injurers/etc, and so forth. While I foresee some sites being unintentionally blocked because they set off the filter (for combinations of words, I think it's a little paranoid to think that every site that conflicts with the government's interest will be blocked.

Of course, I do agree that the money put toward this could be spent on a hundred better things. However, I do support blocking access to child pornography sites - many of them are hosted out of places that make it very difficult to prosecute the operators, so just going after the pornographers isn't the most practical of solutions. However, the operators of these sites make money from every hit they receive, through paid advertising or by running a subscription service. By blocking access to these sites, you cut off this source of income for child pornographers, and make it far more difficult for them to do their nasty business.

I realize I'm probably going to get flamed for this comment - I'm not saying I support an internet filter. But I do think that spreading conspiracy theories about what the government will use it for and attempting to protest against it on the basis of these theories is an ineffective way to fight it. The guy who recommended donating to organizations who can fight this on a governmental level has the right idea. Even if the filter is put in place, these organizations will be in a position to fight against website bans that make no sense/are obvious censorship for political purposes.
13th-Dec-2008 12:36 pm (UTC)
I'd say that those sites will be blocked not out of maliciousness, but out of stupidity or ignorance. Most current filters on the market already block those sites anyway - I think Boing Boing has tons of posts on this topic. If they just put up any random filter, there's no guarantee they'll be making sure the filter's effective.

And then you'll have campaigns from everywhere going "Block XYZ sites! They're evil!" and it keeps going on and on.
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13th-Dec-2008 02:20 pm (UTC)
I'm not actually from Australia, but I am coming over for the year in April, so forgive my ignorance on this subject. I knew the Australian government wanted to get rid of potentially dangerous sites (child porn, pro-terrorism, etc etc) but I had no idea it applied to ADULT porn, too. Is this entirely true? And general sexual health websites? wtf?

This does need to be stopped. Surely there's an infringement of some human right or another somewhere along the lines..?

What is the current status on this, then? Does it look like it will be going ahead?
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13th-Dec-2008 02:36 pm (UTC)
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13th-Dec-2008 02:42 pm (UTC)
sometimes the movie V for Vendetta is closer to reality than we think. we may end up that way if not careful, everything black listed..this is just the start I fear.
14th-Dec-2008 12:17 am (UTC)
I only counted one Guy Fawkes mask at the rally.
13th-Dec-2008 09:29 pm (UTC)
You can add "Artwork that they disagree with" to the list of what might get blocked as well.

Makes anything like the Bill Henson case much easier for them.
13th-Dec-2008 11:26 pm (UTC)
That makes me sick at the very thought.
13th-Dec-2008 11:59 pm (UTC)
i was there briefly, but had to leave early in the piece

i'll agree with the comments made by others that the whole thing felt a little TOO 'geeky' for want of a better descriptor - i'm not sure that the protest itself would have changed the mind of anyone who wasnt already a supporter, although maybe the mainstream media coverage may play a bigger part in that.

i also think i heard, although i may be wrong, and someone can correct me if so, but did the first speaker finish his talk with something along the lines of 'let's get this back to china where it belongs?' i'm against censorship everywhere, not just where it affects me directly...
14th-Dec-2008 04:00 am (UTC)
That was me, yes I did say that. It was a piece of rhetoric off the top of my head, not an expression of support for filtering in China. I'll be aware of the implications, however, and think of a way to fine-tune that sort of comment so it sounds better.
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14th-Dec-2008 08:48 am (UTC)
This comment should be up on all the official No Clean Feed sites prominently. Well stated.
15th-Dec-2008 12:56 am (UTC) - Since the Howard days
In the lead-up to the 2004 election I brought the Net Filter issue to the attention of the Greens, and they issued press releases and (along with the Democrats) raised questions about the issues we have today.

Nice to see them still in the front lines almost 5 years later.

This net filter issue is not going to go away, because someone not on the Labor/Coalition axis is pushing it at both sides quite hard. Conroy's refusal to accept the expert advice that it is an idea of epic fail demonstrates someone, somewhere, with something Labor want, has a Happy for compulsory net filtering.

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