Filtering out reality?

Filtering out reality?

Summary: IIA CEO Peter Coroneos, Greens Senator Scott Ludlam, Bravehearts executive director Hetty Johnston and Internode chief Simon Hackett have their say on the government's controversial internet content filter in the latest Twisted Wire podcast.

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Late yesterday, Communications Minister Stephen Conroy announced the six (mostly) small ISPs who will be participating in the first phase of the government's internet service provider (ISP) filtering live pilot.

If the trial demonstrates no technical issues, the government intends to enforce an Australian Communications and Media Authority blacklist of sites on all internet users. Only paedophiles would be concerned about this applying to child pornography sites, but the ACMA blacklist is designed to cover all illegal content. Is this practical? Does it amount to censorship?

You'll hear a variety of views on the subject in this week's Twisted Wire, from those who say it won't work, those who are concerned about the implications if it does, to those who say there's too much at stake not to at least give it a go.

Press the "play" symbol below to listen to the podcast.

Voicing their concerns are:

  • Peter Coroneos, CEO of the Internet Industry Association
  • Senator Scott Ludlam
  • Hetty Johnston, executive director of Bravehearts
  • Simon Hackett, founder and MD of Internode
  • Senator Stephen Conroy declined our invitation to explain more from the government's perspective.


Be sure to give your views in the comments section below.

Phil Dobbie is a broadcaster and businessman with more than 15 years commercial experience across the telecommunications, internet, tourism, advertising and radio industries. Phil also provides a daily podcast for our sister site BNET.com. Join him for BTalk Australia, where he provides a lively and insightful view on business issues, adding his blend of irony and humour to the discussions.

Topics: Censorship, Government AU

About

Phil Dobbie has a wealth of radio and business experience. He started his career in commercial radio in the UK and, since coming to Australia in 1991, has held senior marketing and management roles with Telstra, OzEmail, the British Tourist Authority and other telecommunications, media, travel and advertising businesses.

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32 comments
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  • ACMA list is more than "illegal"

    It's interesting to see a lot of comment in the media about the list extending to illegal content beyond child pornography.

    While the list content is secret there is a statistical breakup of what sort of content is in there from the ACMA. This was confirmed by Sen. Conroy's response to Sen Scott Ludlam's questions on notice.

    The ACMA list is internet "prohibited" content. This allows for material all the way down to MA15+ in some circumstances. The stats show that more than 50% of the list is already legal content. It also shows some items made it in the list after being determined "R18 Nudity"

    The list already goes well beyond illegal. If it is applied in a mandatory fashion it will block content from adults that can be seen in Cinemas, TV and adult bookstores.
    anonymous
  • Prohibited vs. Illegal

    You state the following in this article: "but the ACMA blacklist is designed to cover all illegal content". This is very misleading. What the ACMA blacklist contains is prohibited content as specifically defined on the ACMA website. It is not necessarily illegal and the word illegal is not mentioned in their definition of "prohibited". This was demonstrated recently when a person (who opposes the filter) submitted a complaint about an (perfectly legal) anti-abortion website and successfully had it added to the blacklist.
    anonymous
  • sen. Ludlum's Questions on Notice

    Yes - anyone wanting to read Sen Ludlum's Questions on notice, here's the link to Hansards:

    http://parlinfo.aph.gov.au/parlInfo/genpdf/chamber/hansards/2009-02-09/0023/hansard_frag.pdf;fileType%3Dapplication/pdf
    anonymous
  • Response to Podcast.

    I welcome Hetty Johnson involvement in this podcast because it raises one point I feel is important and that is empowerment. Leaving it up to governments to handle the control and dissemination of content on the internet is something that arguably DISEMPOWERS users. How about trusting parents and educating parents and educators to empower THEM to help protect their own children instead of leaving them to feel like child abusers because they object to having governments tell ADULTS what can or cannot be seen on the internet.

    Yes my kids need to be protected, just give me the tools or encourage my efforts to help protect them myself. I don't need any government to do that on my behalf thank you very much.
    anonymous
  • Misinformation

    I see a lot of misinformation being circulated and promoted. The entire pilot is totally voluntary and people can opt-in if they wish and opt-out if they wish. Internet users have total freedom and ultimate power in their hands. Don't opt in if you do not want to!
    anonymous
  • RE: Misinformation

    And what happens when the filter is brought in? How are you going to opt-out of that?
    anonymous
  • Not the intention

    Yes, the govt is intending to introduce a mandatory filter. Listen to the podcast.
    anonymous
  • Misinformation

    'Internet users have total freedom and ultimate power in their hands.'

    That's the whole point. Why is it necessary at all then??

    Surely money could have been much better spent on helping ISPs provision their own solutions to handle customer requests for greater and better tailored filtering solutions at the ISP level.

    Such a waste for something that may turn out to have a predetermined outcome.
    anonymous
  • End filter is mandatory

    The pilot may be voluntary, but if the trial is "successful", then the filtering of the ACMA blacklist will be mandatory..

    What concerns me (and many others) is that the government is just going through the motions with this live trial and has no intention of cancelling this proposal, no matter how bad the results. If they are serious about taking an evidence based approach, I would like to see them define the testing methodology before the trials start. and define what will constitute success. If they do not do this, they can always try and put a positive spin on the results afterwards, which is exactly what they did for the Tasmanian lab tests.
    anonymous
  • @Anonymous Response to Podcast

    You're right to want to keep your kids safe online....and the tools are already available to do so...just sign up to an IIA ISP and receive a filtered "clean feed."
    anonymous
  • Misinformation

    There are several good reasons for testing an Opt-in/Opt-out voluntary filtering system, including there are families out there who want a facility of this type and economies of scale in common development and testing.
    anonymous
  • Response to Podcast

    If that is the case, why are you objecting to the voluntary opt-in/opt-opt out systems trial?
    anonymous
  • Protecting Children

    You have conceded the need to protect children and also the need for you as a parent to access to such tools. This is the objective of the pilot: To help develop and refine such tools and provide these tools to you for your use. There are thousands of parents like you who are concerned about protecting their kids.
    anonymous
  • END FILTER IS MANDATORY (NOT!)

    Your are attributing motives without any basis in fact. Why should we deny millions of parents their right to exercise choice to protect their children? The pilot is quite clear: Opt-in if you want and when you want and Opt-out whenever you want if you have opted-in. What could be more democratic than that?
    anonymous
  • Mandatory and Optional

    "The Government's election commitment was that filtering would block content using a blacklist of prohibited sites maintained by the Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA) in accordance with legislation. The ACMA blacklist is a list of internet web sites, predominantly comprising images of the sexual abuse of children, which are defined as 'prohibited' under Australian legislation which has been in place since 2000.

    Consideration is also being given to more sophisticated filtering techniques for those individual families who wish to exclude additional online content in their own homes."

    The first para refers to a mandatory filter. The scond para indicates additional filtering might be optional. The contents of the ACMA blacklist has been the subject of some of the concerns in the podcast.

    Hope this clears up any confusion.

    See http://www.dbcde.gov.au/communications_for_consumers/funding_programs__and__support/cyber-safety_plan/internet_service_provider_isp_filtering
    anonymous
  • ACMA Blacklist

    You can assume that the ACMA blacklist (which does NOT cover AU hosted content) is almost identical to the list published recently by wikileaks:

    http://wikileaks.org/wiki/Denmark:_3863_sites_on_censorship_list%2C_Feb_2008

    and

    http://wikileaks.org/wiki/1%2C203_new_websites_censored_by_Thailand
    anonymous
  • opt out?

    Your assertion is factually incorrect;

    The program will NOT allow anyone to 'opt out' of content ruled by ACMA to be 'prohibited'... nor will the list of 'prohibited' content be published.

    The assertion that the program is opt in / opt out is terribly misleading. In fact, only PART of the program will be 'opt out'.
    anonymous
  • opt out?

    Your assertion is factually incorrect;

    The program will NOT allow anyone to 'opt out' of content ruled by ACMA to be 'prohibited'... nor will the list of 'prohibited' content be published.

    The assertion that the program is opt in / opt out is terribly misleading. In fact, only PART of the program will be 'opt out'.
    anonymous
  • Attributing motives....

    You are either being deceptive, or you are genuinely misinformed. If it's the latter, then I suggest you read the tender invitation which clearly identifies the program as having;
    a/ a mandatory component (ACMA blacklist)
    and
    b/ an options (opt-out) component

    This is not difficult to grasp. Please check your facts:

    http://www.dbcde.gov.au/communications_for_consumers/funding_programs__and__support/cyber-safety_plan/internet_service_provider_isp_filtering
    anonymous
  • The Filter

    What a waste of money, its not enough that we have to pay for our bites, uploads now included with some providers, and unlike other countries where they pay for speed and get unlimited access, but now we have all these internet technology experts in Government who want to control the masses via the internet, and half of them still finding their way around a keyboard. You know what I think; I think education is the key. Not this bullshit, get on with the job at hand you idiots and fix the network so every Australian can connect, if you want to filter the internet then I suggest you set up your own internet service and give it to Australia for free. Opt in/opt out.
    anonymous