Tough filter campaign ahead: Black

Opponents of the government's proposed internet filtering legislation face tough challenges, according to Peter Black, the recently appointed manager of Electronic Frontiers Australia's (EFA) anti-filter campaign.

Opponents of the government's proposed internet filtering legislation face tough challenges, according to Peter Black, the recently appointed manager of Electronic Frontiers Australia's (EFA) anti-filter campaign.

There's no doubt it'll be quite hard to get the government to change their mind

EFA campaign manager Peter Black

The groups lobbying against the filter need to gain mainstream awareness of the issue and either convince the government to modify its legislation or persuade the Liberal and Greens parties to vote against it in the Senate, he told ZDNet.com.au this week.

"There's no doubt it'll be quite hard to get the government to change their mind," he said. "There's been a lot invested by Senator Conroy and the Rudd Government in this policy. One way is to try and get the legislation blocked in the Senate with the support of the Liberals and Greens. But we're also hoping to lobby the government to make changes to their policy before it goes to Parliament."

One approach EFA is considering is to encourage the government to offer a voluntary filter, either as an opt-in service or provided as standard with the ability for internet users to opt out. "Ideally, we'd like to see no filter at all, but it may be down the line we'll have to have a discussion about an opt-in or opt-out filter," he said.

Labor Senator Kate Lundy yesterday told Crikey she was lobbying within the party for an opt-out filter, describing it as the least-worst option.

While the Greens Party has already announced its opposition to the government's policy, the Liberal Party currently has no official position.

"It's possible the Liberal party will come out against the filter; that was their statement at the last election, and a number of subsequent comments from Liberal MPs," said Black.

"When Tony Abbott became the leader of the Liberal party, he said it's the job of the opposition to oppose. We'd like to see the opposition oppose this policy which they've said before repeatedly is a bad idea."

To succeed, the campaign also needs "a universal message" and to "[get] the word out beyond the technology sector to mainstream, non technology savvy Australians", Black said. EFA wants to "shift the focus away from the 'no clean feed' slogan to a more positive message not only on the flaws in the proposed filter but also provides solutions to the Australian public", he told Crikey.

Black, a senior lecturer at the Queensland University of Technology's School of Law, was appointed EFA's campaign manager last week. He has previously conducted research and written journal articles on media and internet regulation. He is a regular blogger, cricket fanatic and self-described "obsessive-compulsive Twitterer".

There's quite a bit that's been planned for the new year and lots of activity going on behind the scenes

EFA campaign manager Peter Black

"They were looking for someone to manage the various online and offline aspects of the campaign as well as to help with strategic direction," he said.

"It is something I'm very passionate about and there's no shortage of passion around this issue."

Despite this passion, a lack of coordination between groups has reduced the effectiveness of the anti-filter campaign to date, Black said.

"One of the things that I'm hoping to do ... is to become a campaign hub for the activities and facilitate the communication between the organisations," he explained. While Black admits the issue has died down over the Christmas break, "a natural occurrence at that time of the year", he believes the campaign will regain momentum over the coming weeks. "There's quite a bit that's been planned for the new year and lots of activity going on behind the scenes," he said.

"There's the Great Australian Internet Blackout, that'll be in the last week of January. There's been talk around petitions, television commercials and online videos. By the end of the month, we'll see a lot of these things moving out into the public."