Conroy's filter masterstroke

Conroy's filter masterstroke

Summary: Communications Minister Stephen Conroy's Friday filter announcement was obviously designed to get the toxic topic of internet filtering out of the news before the election, giving an impression of progress without a real policy change. Clever, but will the strategy work?


Communications Minister Stephen Conroy's Friday filter announcement was obviously designed to get the toxic topic of internet filtering out of the news before the election, giving an impression of progress without a real policy change. Clever, but will the strategy work?

Conroy's announcement had three main threads. A series of changes to the way the Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA) compiles the blacklist of Refused Classification (RC) material that the filter is intended to block. A comprehensive review of what constitutes RC, which is expected to take a year. And meanwhile some major internet service providers will start voluntarily blocking access to part of the RC blacklist, the child abuse material.

To look at how this might play out, on Patch Monday this week Stilgherrian speaks with Peter Black, who teaches internet law at the Queensland University of Technology and blogs at While Black thinks the review of RC is long overdue — something we covered on Patch Monday in March — he points out that there's still a chance it could all be derailed.

Earlier this year, Black took a sabbatical to work with Electronic Frontiers Australia on its anti-filter campaign. While he believes that the more passionate opponents of the internet filter will still try to make it an election issue, he has doubts about whether they'll succeed.

Patch Monday also includes Stilgherrian's idiosyncratic look at some of the week's IT news headlines.

To leave an audio comment for Patch Monday, Skype to stilgherrian, or phone Sydney 02 8011 3733.

Running time: 22 minutes, 52 seconds

Topics: Censorship, Government, Government AU


Stilgherrian is a freelance journalist, commentator and podcaster interested in big-picture internet issues, especially security, cybercrime and hoovering up bulldust.

He studied computing science and linguistics before a wide-ranging media career and a stint at running an IT business. He can write iptables firewall rules, set a rabbit trap, clear a jam in an IBM model 026 card punch and mix a mean whiskey sour.

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  • Fair enough, but masterstroke? Please, it is a belated and clumsy attempt at disaster control, already rejected by Iinet, Internode and even Linton.
  • This is Laser focus?
    for gods sake I have been saying this for a week and I'm not even a geek.
    Mights, ifs, maybes? isn't even good journalism.
  • I wouldn't call it a masterstroke...
    The net result (no pun intended) is that all of the anger and disgust over the proposed legislation will now fester. While Labour might get through this next election, you can be sure that the memory of the legislation will continue to percolate at even higher levels as each new bit of "news" continues to dribble out.
    People will thus never celebrate the good news fully (NBN), as it will be dragged down by the bad news (censorship filter) ad infinitum...
    Already on Whirlpool there is a vast amount of discussion about churning away from the "sellouts" unless they allow for opting in or out.
    I think that the mistake that Senator Conroy is making here (and it's a HUGE one) is that he is vastly underestimating his opponents...the proud IT community of Australia (and the world for that matter).
  • A 'masterstroke'?

    I think you may have been watching too much porn, Stig. It's affecting your vocabulary. Get yourself a filter and wash your mouth out. ZNet is a family-friendly site :-)
  • Saying what for a week? Senator Conroy's announcement was on Friday morning. and here is a backgrounder for those new to the topic -- not "breaking news" -- posted the very next working day. I'm not quite sure what you expect.
  • Whatever you want to term it, the move was clever in it's attempt to remove the whole subject from the upcoming election (well, at least for a while).
    Scott W-ef9ad
  • Imho, problem being Scott, the Libs are doing the exact same thing too?

    As one who has no allegiances, I'm finding it hard to vote for either of the two big options... but I'm particularly steering away from Abbott at this point, because I believe if he's elected we'll get the double whammy...

    a filter and NO NBN!
  • Well if no NBN is the important issue for you then you've made the right call. It'll be gone under the Libs.

    But your argument doesn't make a whole of sense where the filter is concerned. Conroy DEFINITELY and CERTAINLY wants the filter. The Libs MIGHT implement something similar but have given no clear indication on their plans. How is "certainly" a better choice than "maybe"?
  • Agreed Villan! Maybe... “should” be better than definitely, in relation to net filtering. But…

    You seem to have missed the gist of my comment? That being firstly and as clearly indicated… “It is simply my humble opinion” that if elected, "I believe" we will get the double whammy from Abbott… filter and no NBN!

    Q. can we trust Politicians?
    A. (I’m sure it’s) of course not! So why trust one but not the other?

    We rightly, refuse to take Conroy’s filter on face value – as politicians cannot be trusted – which is my point, entirely. As such, we are all reading between the lines, assuming the absolute worst in filtering censorship. Some are even making comparisons of this government to the most oppressive regimes on earth, because of the filtering issue.

    But conversely, some of the very same people are doing the complete opposite, regarding the opposition’s refusal to "say NO" to net filtering! Oddly, these people do not apply the same untrusting rationale, to the historically even more conservative side of politics and naively hope that a “maybe filter”, actually equates to a “no filter”?

    Well, the Libs have said NO NBN… so answer me simply, if there isn’t to be a filter, why don’t they also come out and clearly say - NO FILTER? Seriously...! Are some of you fair dinkum or simply displaying your political biases?

    I wonder in a year’s time, if Abbott wins (either deservedly or through apathetic voter naivety) will we turn back the clock and again be whinging about Telstra’s monopolistic dominance, after the dismantling of the NBN? Also, will we be “complaining about more untrustworthy polliticians, because of Abbott’s gleaming new net filter”? And...even the unthinkable, will some even be saying (as I’ve since read about Alston and Coonan) that Conroy wasn’t that bad after all?

    I hope not… but what’s the odds?
  • For many other reasons, than just the net filter, the current has to go. Still, I wouldn't trust Abbot either. There are however checks and balances in the system, as long as the government doesn't control the senate. Maybe it is time to consider the Greens for the senate, as they are also openly opposed to the net filter.