Let the internets run free, bosses

Summary:The implementation of internet filters in workplaces always creates a severe disconnect between those enforcing them and those living under them. It's not surprising that the phenomenon is at its worst in parliament.

The implementation of internet filters in workplaces always creates a severe disconnect between those enforcing them and those living under them. It's not surprising that the phenomenon is at its worst in parliament.

Prior to my illustrious debut as a journalist for ZDNet Australia in 2010, I worked for a company that was, let's just say, required to watch what the media does all of the time.

It was an incredibly bureaucratic and corporatised company, and, as you'd expect, there was a filter installed to keep those pesky employees from looking at anything they shouldn't. But it wasn't just about blocking the usual porn and gambling sites; it was about blocking any sites that the powers that be deemed irrelevant to the normal everyday work function. But working in a media organisation, the definition of "what's relevant" can be quite broad.

Often, I'd come into work at some obscenely early hour and find that legitimate news sites like Gawker were suddenly unavailable. When you have to endure monitoring Kyle & Jackie O, it's important to have all the gossip sites at your fingertips, just so you have some idea of what they're babbling on about.

Quite a number of times, I (or one of my colleagues) would email IT support to request that a certain site be unblocked. This could take hours or days, and by the time they'd assessed my request (and often denied it), the reason why I'd asked for the site to be unblocked had long since passed.

As draconian as the internet policy of my former employer was, it didn't compare to what our duly elected senators have to deal with. As we found out earlier this week, the Department of Parliamentary Services brought in a filter on the network of the Senate and staffers in October last year that blocks some 35 million websites, including all websites ending in .info.

Greens Senator Scott Ludlam found that he couldn't visit websites about nuclear disarmament until he requested that the filter be unblocked.

As the US Government's ex-CIO Vivek Kundra said earlier this week, the filter stifles productivity. The time people spend trying to get around these pointless filters for work purposes is much greater than any time lost to casual internet browsing.

And besides, if we really want to visit a website, we all have smartphones now. Casual internet browsing is the new smoking break, and workers who are treated like adults by their employer and trusted with what sites they think they need to access at work are much more likely to be happy, productive little worker bees.

Topics: Censorship, IT Employment

About

Armed with a degree in Computer Science and a Masters in Journalism, Josh keeps a close eye on the telecommunications industry, the National Broadband Network, and all the goings on in government IT.

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