EFA: Filtering 'damages Australia's reputation'

Civil rights and online free speech lobby group Electronic Frontiers Australia (EFA) today criticised the government's internet filtering report, claiming civil rights implications should be the focus rather than the technology's impacts on internet speed and performance.

Civil rights and online free speech lobby group Electronic Frontiers Australia (EFA) today criticised the government's internet filtering report, claiming civil rights implications should be the focus rather than the technology's impacts on internet speed and performance.

It damages Australia's reputation as a free and open democracy and as a technologically advanced and savvy 21st century country

EFA vice president Colin Jacobs

"The bigger policy questions haven't been addressed by this report, it's focusing on a minor technical aspect," EFA vice president Colin Jacobs said today.

ZDNet.com.au also asked Jacobs whether the EFA believed that the bulk of public outrage would be over the performance issues raised in the report rather than the civil rights implications of the internet filter.

"Our sense is that people will be much more worried about the fact that the government will have a secret blacklist that is not very compatible with our status as a democracy and a free society," said Jacobs.

In a statement released today, the EFA said it had expected the filter pilot to pass, and that the report left out several questions including what will be blocked, who will decide and the reasons for its implementation.

"So the question is, why is this policy being pursued? Especially considering there are financial costs as well as governance issues around a secret government blacklist that the public obviously doesn't have access to," said Jacobs.

Further concerns for the EFA include the blocking of websites that do not fit into the Australian Communications and Media Authority's classification guidelines, like R18+ computer games and adult material that falls outside of the X and R ratings.

Communications Minister Stephen Conroy also made a statement earlier today saying that the government will be consulting the general public to "improve the accountability and transparency of processes that lead to RC (Restricted Content) rated material being placed on the RC Content list."

While the government claims that the filter will protect children, Jacobs believes that it is a waste of money and lacks purpose.

"When you're actually looking down at what this filter will accomplish, it actually accomplishes very little for children," said Jacobs, citing that the filter was primarily targeted at adults and won't protect children from harmful materials.

"I've spoken to people overseas and they're asking: what's going on down there? Are you guys crazy?" said Jacobs. "It damages Australia's reputation as a free and open democracy and as a technologically advanced and savvy 21st century country that understands how the internet works and why a free and open internet is so valuable technologically and democratically."

Jacobs gave an example of a humorous overseas reaction to Conroy's filter referring to the British ISP Association's nomination of Stephen Conroy for the "Internet Villain of the Year" award.

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