Pirate Party Australia has expressed its disgust at Communications Minister Stephen Conroy's announcement of legislation to make internet service provider level filtering necessary, while the Greens have vowed to attack the legislation in the Senate.
(Credit: Pirate Party)
The planned filter would see internet service providers (ISPs) block access to a blacklist of refused classification sites. Conroy yesterday released a report which said that blocking such sites would not significantly reduce internet speeds, but also acknowledged that the filter could be easily circumvented and that attempts to prevent that circumvention would cause speed loss.
The Pirate Party believed that the filter was censorship which could end in government manipulation. "Granting the government powers to censor information on the promise that it is for the best of intentions is like leaving a loaded gun in a room full of good people for their protection, but leaving the doors wide open for people to come and go." Pirate Party President David Crafti said in a statement.
Even if Conroy only had Australia's best interests at heart, he couldn't promise that successive governments would, he said.
"This is clearly the first step down a slippery slope that starts with a good, if misguided, intent of blocking child pornography and quickly spreads to blocking information based on morality (R18+ games, legal pornography, pro-euthanasia and anti-abortion sites) and eventually some government comes along and quietly stops anyone with opposing views from voicing them," Crafti said.
The 100 per cent filter rate experienced in the report was only for a very low number of sites, only a fraction of what the government considered illegal, the party said. "The feasibility that this trial established was purely from a limited, technical standpoint," the party said.
The Pirate Party thought that child pornography should be prevented via online policing organisations stopping people from producing it. Parents should opt-in to filters if they were concerned.
This is clearly the first step down a slippery slope that starts with a good, if misguided, intent of blocking child pornography and quickly spreads to blocking information based on morality
Pirate Party President David Crafti
The party said that implementing the policy would put the Australian Government in breach of Article 19 of the UN's Universal Declaration of Human Rights. "This article states that 'Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression; this right includes freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers'," the party said. "As Australia has ratified this declaration, it should adhere to the principles, even if not implemented explicitly in law."
Any censorship was too much censorship, the party said.
The Greens were also concerned by the decision to introduce legislation to make filtering mandatory. "The pointless nature of this proposal is set out in the report itself, which admits that the filters will be circumvented by people seeking blocked material," Greens Senator Scott Ludlam said today.
He was also worried by the government's acknowledgement that it would import blacklists from overseas to supplement the Australian filter. "As many people have said, this is the thin end of the wedge. The policy is simply misguided," he said. He encouraged the public to "communicate the full range of their concerns to the government rather than being deterred by what looks like a done deal".
The Greens would be mobilising to force "significant amendments" if the legislation made it to the Senate, he said.
The resistance by these two parties has not been matched by Shadow Communications Minister Tony Smith, who only said that he was sceptical of the filter's workability and that he would be looking closely into the details of the report. Internet service providers have also not raised an outcry. Telstra, Primus and Optus have all put forward their support for the government's scheme.