Note: This story was an April Fools' Day joke. Minister Conroy still supports a blacklist filter.
Facing a barrage of criticism over the government's controversial internet filter, communications minister Stephen Conroy today blamed "those meddling kids" for its failure and announced that the blacklist will be scrapped in favour of a new public whitelist administered via viewer votes on a new weekly television show.
The decision is a response to recent controversy after the government's blacklist was leaked online, providing a veritable White Pages of smut that is accessible to any 12-year-old with even rudimentary Google skills. The move put Conroy on the defensive at this week's Get Ready for Digital TV conference, telling attendees that the blacklist strategy would have worked "if those meddling kids hadn't showed up and ruined everything".
"I've pushed the blacklist agenda for over a year and I've gotten nothing for my troubles but headaches, the Prime Minister breathing down my neck, and my own Twitter impersonator," Conroy said as blacklist protestors waved placards outside the event, attended by a virtual who's-who of the television industry and promoted as the kickoff of a renewed push towards digital TV dominance.
"Labor is just trying to clean up the Internet, but what did the people of Australia do? They protested for months, mocked me in public forums, and then some fool leaked the whole damn list," Conroy said.
After covering the microphone, Conroy momentarily consulted with an advisor before resuming. "Excuse me; it was something they said was the list. Which it obviously wasn't. Or perhaps it was. Or something pretty close. The point is that it's clear that we won't be able to get this blacklist idea through without those whiny civil libertarians making the rest of my time in office a living hell, so today I'm announcing a completely different approach: we're going to make web censorship both airtight and entertaining at the same time."
New regime built on whitelist, digital TV-only show
Announcing a significant shift in web censorship policy, Conroy said the Department of Broadband, Communications and the Digital Economy (DBCDE) has struck a partnership with the Nine Network and nascent wowser group the Internet Temperance Society to develop The White List, an interactive digital TV show that will air once a week to showcase purportedly useful Web links and let the audience decide whether they should be added to Australia's national whitelist.
Unlike a blacklist, which is a list of banned content, a whitelist is a list of acceptable content. Advocates argue that the technique provides for a much simpler filtering method than blacklists, since there is no ambiguity or risk of false positives.
In a style similar to that used for Australian Idol and Dancing with the Stars, viewers can SMS their votes and links will be approved on a majority-rules basis before being added to the whitelist. Consistent with his role, Conroy will maintain ministerial veto powers over any approved links.
"Developed on consultation with the Internet Temperance Society, the Australian Whitelist And National Knowledgebase strategy will not only serve Labor's goal of cleaning up the Internet, but will frame the cleanup within a familiar context that provides full visibility to the Australian public," Conroy said. "This is democracy at its best — and glitziest. And while I know it's too early to discuss 2010's Logies nominations; well, I think we're going to be in with a chance."
Under the new rules, Australian web users will only be able to visit web sites that have been explicitly vetted and approved through the show; all requests for unlisted URLs will be redirected to a form on the DBCDE web site offering visitors the chance to submit the URL for review. New legislation will force ISPs to check all web page requests against the list, which for security's sake will be hosted on servers managed by DBCDE.
How the new system works
"Say your daughter is researching a project on Queensland's newly heritage-listed Big Pineapple," Conroy explained. "The whitelist doesn't currently have any sites referencing this important landmark — in fact, the DBCDE web site is the only thing on it right now — so your daughter would simply gather some URLs from a Google search, then submit them to DBCDE via our interactive online form."
"She would then tune in at 7:00pm the following Friday to see whether her requests had made the schedule for the show, or had been delayed until the next week for consideration. Once they were finally voted upon, those that were approved by viewers would be added to the whitelist during our weekly batch updates. She would then be able to access the sites, hopefully completing the process within the three-week turnaround time we have targeted."
Ossie Ostrich is tipped to make a TV comeback as
one of numerous guest hosts of The White List.
To ensure The White List has maximum audience appeal, the show's producers have organised for guest hosting appearances from celebrity ambassadors including The Wiggles, children's dance group Hi-5, Sesame Street's Elmo, Ossie the Ostrich, and the cast of ill-fated home renovation show Domestic Blitz. The show will also offer extensive advertising and sponsorship opportunities, with interest already expressed by the Christian Democratic Party, China National Tourist Office, and the re-election campaign site of Family First senator Steve Fielding.
"We have assembled a star-studded cast to bring our whitelist policy to the people in a way they will respond to," said Conroy. "This comprehensive strategy will not only bring censorship to the masses, but it will do so in eye-popping full high-definition video that also gives Australians a compelling case for digital TV. Although waiting three weeks or longer to view a Web site may frustrate some, we're sure the show's entertaining format and many exciting sponsorship opportunities will make this new policy a win-win situation for everybody."
Happy April Fools day: Did you fall for our story?