Conroy trusts public's view on what to filter

Conroy trusts public's view on what to filter

Summary: Communications Minister Stephen Conroy this afternoon said that he trusts Australians to get the mix of content to be blocked under Labor's controversial mandatory internet filter project right, and that the government remains committed to the initiative.

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Communications Minister Stephen Conroy this afternoon said that he trusts Australians to get the mix of content to be blocked under Labor's controversial mandatory internet filter project right, and that the government remains committed to the initiative.

Facing strong opposition from the Coalition, the Greens and the general public, Conroy last year postponed legislation associated with the project while a review of the Refused Classification category of content (which the filter is intended to block) was carried out by the minister for home affairs for the consideration of federal and state attorneys-general.

Speaking in a Budget Estimates hearing in Canberra this afternoon, Conroy said that the process of public consultation about what should be included in the Refused Classification category had begun, and he noted that he is "very relaxed" about that fact. "I'm very comfortable [for] all Australians to have their say," he said. "Here is an opportunity to make your arguments. I trust to the common sense of the Australian public with respect to the classification system."

Conroy said that he had passed on his private viewpoint to the review, notably that he believes that content featuring child pornography, bestiality and pro-rape material should be blocked under the mandatory filter.

A number of surveys with regard to the filter over the past few years, since the policy was introduced, have shown that the Australian public has mixed feelings with regards to the filter. On the one hand, a number of surveys run by the Sydney Morning Herald, ZDNet Australia, Whirlpool and other media outlets have shown stark public opposition to the plan. However, in May 2010, a survey commissioned by groups opposed to the policy have found that most parents strongly supported the filter idea — although the more information they received about it, the less likely they were to support it.

A number of ISPs, initially including Telstra, Optus and Primus, but now including two more — Webshield and a company Conroy described as "IT Extreme" — have already committed to implement mandatory filtering technology on their networks to block the smaller category of child pornography. However, Conroy said today that several other companies — TPG and Internode — have refused to do so. Others are believed to be awaiting the development of an industry code on the matter.

Internet regulation in general

In a broader sense, Liberal Senator Simon Birmingham asked the minister whether the government remained committed to the filter project.

Conroy said he believed that the debate over the filter had reached the point where "nobody is trying to pretend" that there is any issue with the filtering technology reducing broadband speeds while providing its blocking functionality, or that it is either under-blocking or over-blocking content. The debate, he intimated, is now about what content should be included in the Refused Classification category of content.

On the matter of whether the existing voluntary filter regarding child pornography might be enough to meet policy objectives, he said: "If you believe a voluntary filter should block child abuse, how would you justify having a voluntary filter not block a bestiality or pro-rape website"?

"We'll be moving to implement our policy, yes," he said.

In a broader sense, Conroy noted that governments around the world are speaking to major internet companies with the intent of regulating the internet in various ways, stating that the argument that the internet should be unregulated doesn't hold water. "If the starting point is that there should be no regulation of the net," said Conroy, "it's one that I am going to disagree with."

Conroy pointed out that when spam had become a problem over the past decade, companies had "beaten down the door" in trying to get governments to address the problem in a systematic way, so therefore there is currently some regulation in place with respect to the internet.

"The internet is becoming a major centre of economic activity," the minister added, stating that the online environment opened up significant opportunities for organised crime, and that it is necessary that governments therefore examine the internet in terms of privacy and security.

"I think there's a more mature debate developing around the world and I look forward to having that in Australia, as well."

Topics: Censorship, Government, Government AU

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18 comments
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  • it just a shame the public don't trust Conroy.
    gikku-2ce6c
    • A politician is meant to represent the will of Australian's, not run around labelling any dissenters as paedophiles and pornographers. That's the real shame!

      Review his previous comments regarding those against filtering. He clearly doesn't trust the very people he is meant to represent.
      Scott W-ef9ad
  • Trust on the selection of categories to block is all well and good. The filter still won't work - it's simply not technically possible to produce a blacklist-based, encryption-permitted filter that's effective against anything but the most incredibly casual attempts at circumvention.

    Every computer made in the last 5 years ALREADY HAS SOFTWARE INSTALLED to bypass the filter, in the form of pptp and IPSec VPNs. Macs and linux also support ssh out of the box. More importantly, any web browser can be used to connect to https services on a non-standard port, and such traffic is COMPLETELY INDISTINGUISHABLE FROM ANY OTHER SSL TRAFFIC like secure email. Which, of course, also won't and can't be filtered.

    Getting the point? It won't work. The real bad guys, the kiddy fiddlers etc, won't even notice it's introduction because they're already using highly effective software for private and secure encrypted communications.
    ringerc-d5785
  • Hands off our internet you dork!
    fibretech
    • Goes to show Australian's what happens when we let career bureaucrats with no life experinece tell us how to live our lives.
      Scott W-ef9ad
  • "The debate, he intimated, is now about what content should be included in the Refused Classification category of content."

    Hmm, how about NOTHING? Take the good and the bad both, or else stay the hell out.
    Hyperion09
  • Look, I get that it is important to hide some of the internet from younger people, but I believe the approach is wrong.
    A white list would be more appropriate.

    If it was done correctly, ratings could be included into the DNS systems that control the internet. The problem is, no matter how hard you try it is impossible. Plus, the simple fact is, a lot of the news of the world is potentially bad for youngsters.

    What's that old song? Horror movie, right there on my TV... ... it's the 6:30 news.
    myne-819b4
    • Who paid you to "support" the "filter"?
      Hyperion09
  • "Conroy said he believed that the debate over the filter had reached the point where "nobody is trying to pretend" that there is any issue with the filtering technology reducing broadband speeds while providing its blocking functionality, or that it is either under-blocking or over-blocking content. The debate, he intimated, is now about what content should be included in the Refused Classification category of content."

    Umm what????? He's now decided that everyone who brought up technical issues with the filter has now miraculously resolved all their qualms?

    "Child Porn, Beastiality and Pro-Rape" websites already contain illegal content. You're adding another layer of laws to now "refuse classification" to them, and then creating a list of these site, and attempting to keep it secret. It's just piles upon piles of horrible ideas. There should be sooooo many flashing red lights going off in front of people that the couldn't even consider a proposal like this.

    But who am I kidding, we still have mandatory censorship in this country, of course this will come in, of course people will hate it, but once it's in place it will be impossible to remove. Why? Because Australians seem to just bend over and take whatever their told to. If the government decided to go on a genocide spree the worst they'd get from their citizens would be a few angry blog posts.
    m00nh34d
  • (sigh) how many times must we say "No" loudly and popularly?
    The problem isn't about whether or not the sites he named are evil or not. That's not the question.
    The fact remains that censoring free speech for good reasons is a slippery slope toward censoring free speech for bad reasons. I remain unconvinced that the government will not filter free speech from then onward to advance their own agendas. There is no politician without a touch of the slaver in them.
    NefariousWheel
  • Oh, and Julia? By keeping this jerk and his authoritarian agenda on your staff, you've lost my vote.
    NefariousWheel
  • Didn't we just see an article about the AFP complaining that the bad guys were getting too tech savvy with encryption for the AFP and its internation law enforcement partners to crack. I guess this is why Conroy wants to apply filters to mums and dads, its all about being seen to be doing something, rather than actually doing something. Shame on you Conroy, your misallocation of funding on this filter will just deny the AFP of resources and in the end more kids will suffer, SHAME SHAME SHAME, you are pathetic. Julia for the kid's sake, wake up, this bozo will bring you down.
    ptrrssll@...
  • A politician is meant to represent the will of Australian's, not run around labelling any dissenters as paedophiles and pornographers.

    Review his previous comments regarding those against filtering. He clearly doesn't trust the very people he is meant to represent.
    Scott W-ef9ad
  • "I think there's a more mature debate developing around the world"...

    Pity ours has been hijacked by a minister with the ethics of a schoolyard bully and the morals of an infant...
    anonymous
  • The last thing Australia needs is more laws, especially ones that cover areas that are ALREADY illegal and that carry considerable penalties.

    Give the money for the filter to the Australian Federal and state Police Services so they have the resources to catch the people that are actually doing these things in real life, this filter is a cop-out treatment to a symptom rather than actually addressing the root cause of the issues.

    Better yet, put the money into getting treaties with the countries that are hosting these sites so they can be removed entirely. That way seems to work rather well for the US with things like the Free Trade Agreement, where we copped all the enforcement parts of US law with none of the rights/freedoms they are granted from having a real constitution.

    I changed my vote last election because of this, and I refuse to vote for any party that puts in a system to filter information when the list of what's filtered is both secret and easily added to by the government of the day.
    Tinman_au
  • The last thing Australia needs is more laws, especially ones that cover areas that are ALREADY illegal and that carry considerable penalties.

    Give the money for the filter to the Australian Federal and state Police Services so they have the resources to catch the people that are actually doing these things in real life, this filter is a cop-out treatment to a symptom rather than actually addressing the root cause of the issues.

    Better yet, put the money into getting treaties with the countries that are hosting these sites so they can be removed entirely. That way seems to work rather well for the US with things like the Free Trade Agreement, where we copped all the enforcement parts of US law with none of the rights/freedoms they are granted from having a real constitution.

    I changed my vote last election because of this, and I refuse to vote for any party that puts in a system to filter information when the list of what's filtered is both secret and easily added to by the government of the day.
    Tinman_au
  • The last thing Australia needs is more laws, especially ones that cover areas that are ALREADY illegal and that carry considerable penalties.

    Give the money for the filter to the Australian Federal and state Police Services so they have the resources to catch the people that are actually doing these things in real life, this filter is a cop-out treatment to a symptom rather than actually addressing the root cause of the issues.

    Better yet, put the money into getting treaties with the countries that are hosting these sites so they can be removed entirely. That way seems to work rather well for the US with things like the Free Trade Agreement, where we copped all the enforcement parts of US law with none of the rights/freedoms they are granted from having a real constitution.

    I changed my vote last election because of this, and I refuse to vote for any party that puts in a system to filter information when the list of what's filtered is both secret and easily added to by the government of the day.
    Tinman_au
  • The last thing Australia needs is more laws, especially ones that cover areas that are ALREADY illegal and that carry considerable penalties.

    Give the money for the filter to the Australian Federal and state Police Services so they have the resources to catch the people that are actually doing these things in real life, this filter is a cop-out treatment to a symptom rather than actually addressing the root cause of the issues.

    Better yet, put the money into getting treaties with the countries that are hosting these sites so they can be removed entirely. That way seems to work rather well for the US with things like the Free Trade Agreement, where we copped all the enforcement parts of US law with none of the rights/freedoms they are granted from having a real constitution.

    I changed my vote last election because of this, and I refuse to vote for any party that puts in a system to filter information when the list of what's filtered is both secret and easily added to by the government of the day.
    Tinman_au