The recent announcement by the government that the mandatory blacklist will explicitly target computer and video games has caused much alarm in Australia. In order to clarify, we have put up a page to quickly cover the issue and which we will update as things progress:

EFA: The mandatory blacklist and computer games

Please feel free to spread the word. I'd like to reinforce a couple of extra points here, though.

For one, this latest expansion of the scheme has to be seen in the wider context of the plan as a whole. Sold to the electorate as a plan to protect children, it actually only targets websites that an adult is likely to encounter, and applies indiscriminately to all Australian homes and businesses. Due to technical limintations, it can't and won't stop the traffic of child abuse material. The blacklist is secret, there is no appeal, and what goes on there is controlled by Government. The potential game ban is only one alarming aspect of the plan as a whole.

EFA has repeatedly warned that, regardless of its intial scope and intentions, any government-controlled blacklisting scheme will expand in time. It's simply impossible to imagine this and future governments resisting the temptation to add content to the list when politically expedient or in response to powerful lobbies. Even if the blacklist was just targeted at child abuse material, it would soon expand to include hate speech, violent games, copyright violation, incitements to crime, adult pornography, and any other political panic of the day.

So far, however, the blacklisting scheme only applies to web sites. This means that online games such as World of Warcraft or Second Life would continue to work - only web sites making them available would be banned. Due to the limitations of filtering technology, you will be able to circumvent the filters and get to those, too. EFA will show you how - as long as the Government does not criminalize such circumvention.

Bearing in mind the ineffectiveness of blacklisting in actually protecting children or stopping illegal material, it's hard to argue that the censorship scheme will help children, Australian adults, or the speed and cost of internet access. Banning popular games would just add insult to injury. Let your elected representatives know what you think.

30 comments

  1. So as an adult I can go to war or drive a car, in either case risking my life and others' lives.

    Yet according to CONroy and Chairman Krudd I cannot decide my own life of imaginary people in imaginary houses: Second Life the computer game.

    God help this country.

    Comment by john thorne on 29 June 2009 at 23:23
  2. What is going on in Australia and what is CONroy doing?

    Who gave this government the mandate to censor the internet? I didn't and I believe the best way to kill the internet is to censor it.

    And why can't adults be allowed to play games for adults.

    Conroy seems to believe he holds the keys to decency in his hands, But walk down any street in Australia and not much is being done there to protect anybody.

    Ah I get it stop everybody from knowing about it! if knowledge of whats happening in the world can be controlled by Government censors there will be no difficult questions to ignore. As an aged apparently by virtue of age and health unemployable person Second Life is my only way to join with groups of people and keep friends. i can't afford to go out and meet people often and quite frankly I don't feel particularly safe on the streets or even in my home these days because the police seem to have other priorities than making the streets safe to be on. In fact I think plice walking down the street now is a reason to cross the road .

    Comment by IAN on 29 June 2009 at 23:49
  3. What needs to be clarified is if something like Second Life is Refused Classification or Exempt from Classification. (or if its been looked at to be classified) I am unable to find this game on the Classifications Database. So it actually hasn't got a Classification and in that case based under the current classification laws it cannot be sold or hired in Australia. Since Second Life is free to play but you can upgrade your account for a fee to allow you to do more in the game, but the game itself is free.

    http://pointzeroone.blogspot.com/

    Comment by Jared on 30 June 2009 at 00:51
  4. Further more doing some digging around in Victoria it is illegal to sell a computer game this is unclassified - Source (http://www.legislation.vic.gov.au/Domino/Web_Notes/LDMS/PubLawToday.nsf/a12f6f60fbd56800ca256de500201e54/F99B478036B5DDE9CA25740C001820C6/$FILE/95-90a021.pdf section 34)

    A person must not sell a computer game or demonstrate a computer game in a public place unless the computer game—
    (a) is classified;

    Comment by Jared on 30 June 2009 at 02:29
  5. Settle down folks! I don't see any "announcement" from Conroy? Games are already an issue. It's a classification matter for the Attorney General.

    Comment by Don on 1 July 2009 at 22:41
  6. I have written to my local representative and to the senator and all I got back was a standard reply about how they were aware that people were concerned about censorship and that this filter wasn't about that, I mean, WTF.
    As I've told them that this filter is about censorship and nothing more and all I get is stonewalled. So I continue to write a letter to both of them, expressing my displeasure in nice words.
    Who gave this fool this idea anyway?? It's not called the - Australian Wide Web - is it. Biggest idiot I've ever come across!!!

    Comment by Ross on 2 July 2009 at 08:41
  7. oh yes.. Ban the internet. (well half of it would become inaccessible AT LEAST if CONroy has his way..
    Secondlife is already putting actions in place to stop Minors accessing 'Adult classified stuff' (age verification etc) to help prevent 'issues'

    Is it going to stop there? what about all the other stuff that a child MIGHT have access to? Are they going to close all the Adult book stores as they sell Adult related items that a child might find.. Porno's they are still available in Australia.. yes there are Adult R 18+ games around the world.. most extremely violent ones.. some of these are not available here now as M 15+ is the maximum rating for games and they get banned.. but funnily enough.. NOT MOVIES.. maybe all R Rated movies should be banned as well!!!
    what's the big difference between movies and computer games???

    Comment by Stefan on 4 July 2009 at 09:48
  8. this whole internet censorship is fucked up, dont they actually realise people here on SecondLife for a reason? people are here to have fun if they dont feel safe in the streets they stay home.
    hell why is'nt the goverment stopping people carrying knifes there is a 70% chance someone is going to get stabed and killed in the city than someone going on SecondLife just meet and have fun with there online friends what a fucked up and twisted society we live. Conroy, pull your head out of your arse for a change!!

    Comment by Alex on 4 July 2009 at 09:55
  9. This is ridicilous!!! There are soo much RL stuff that they cant catch up to, and now they wana ban a game!!! It makes me laugh LOL

    Comment by Seema Andel on 5 July 2009 at 00:24
  10. I think Parents should control their own kids, some sound like they cant control their own kids, thats why they are asking to get the stuff banned! If they cant control their own kids, dont stuff others lifes up!

    Comment by Seema Andel on 5 July 2009 at 00:26
  11. And that will not stop technically saavy users who will just simply spend about AUS$30/month (at currnet exchange rates) and use an offshore VPN account to avoid the filters. VPN traffic cannot be analysed, monitored, cracked, or sniffed.

    Comment by Jimmy Ribbitt on 5 July 2009 at 14:00
  12. world of warcraft and second life are both games enjoyed on so many differant levels and i do understand that they are hard to classify.. but does that give the government the right to remove our choice of playing them...have they not heard of parental filters on computers and parents should be paying attention to what their children are doing on the internet anyway.

    I too find my social release on SL as I don't trust ppl in the general public. I moved here not long ago and don't know many people so I prefer to stay in the safety of my own home and socialise on SL. How many of us play this game in public anyway. What we do in our own homes is really up to us and believe it or not some of us work in SL too running businesses, modeling, fashion design, building etc etc.

    It would be a great disgrace to the censorship laws if games like SL and WoW were banned and where would the government stop?

    Comment by Aussie SL addict on 6 July 2009 at 21:03
  13. Long live the dictatorship and Chairman Krudd. I believe the next law to be passed will be to make us all put locks on our bedroom doors in case a little kiddlywink walks in and sees something he/she shouldn't.The fun police will be empowered to enter all homes to make sure they are inplace.

    Comment by Jemima on 6 July 2009 at 21:45
  14. In the beginning was the plan
    and then came the assumptions
    and the assuptions were without form
    and the plan was completely without substance
    and darkness fell upon the face of the Workers.

    And they spoke unto their supervisors saying;
    "It is a crock of s#*t and it stinketh".

    And the supervisors went unto their managers and sayeth;
    "It is a pail of dung, and none may abide the odour thereof".

    And the managers went unto their group heads and sayeth unto them;
    "Its a container of excrement, and it is very strong, such that none here may abide it".

    And the group heads went unto their superintendents and sayeth unto them;
    "It is a vessel of fertilizer, and none can abide its strength".

    And the superintendents went unto the directors and sayeth unto them;
    "It promoteth growth, and it is very powerful".

    And the directors went unto the CDS, and sayeth unto him;
    "It promoteth growth, and it is very powerful".

    And the CDS went unto the minister, and sayeth unto him;
    "This powerful new plan will actively promote the growth and efficiency of the department.... and this office in particular".

    And the minister looked upon the plan and saw it was good.....

    And, in time, the plan became policy.

    ...... isn't this how Policy is made??

    Comment by Charlea on 6 July 2009 at 22:20
  15. Something else to

    Comment by Charlea on 6 July 2009 at 22:51
  16. It's already happened, I verified my age and everything is there, but I cannot access any adult areas.

    When I do it crashes the whole browser, if I try to login from last location it screws up and crashes until I tell it to go to a PG area...

    Comment by Linda Truong on 7 July 2009 at 02:23
  17. I think we are looking at the issue from the wrong angle, we are focusing on the problem that's bothering us and not looking for solutions. we need to look at the strengths and weakness's of the internet and the same for the political system. as Stephen Conroy is a senator for victoria the only people who can unelect him is the victorian people. first of all I would recommend efa or someone else start a petition website that encourages the victorian people and only the victorian people to state that they are against the filter and will vote against senator conroy at the next election and register their dissatifaction. it will give us an idea of some numbers and the government won't be able to hide the level of decent not like receiving mail.

    We could also use some leaflets in pdf that we can print out at home and drop off in our neighbourhood

    Comment by Daniel on 7 July 2009 at 08:44
  18. I am a active user of second life who also conducts business there in world. This will not only cost me real money but also the effort of years of hard work i have put in game.
    Second life is more then a game it is a social platform with many positive aspects such as education, business, interaction of people who normally are not able to leave their homes due to disabilities.

    To black list this would be the worst thing the government can do to it's people. It would mean thousands of peoples right to interact, create, learn and explore will be taken away.

    Second life has a teen grid. It is the responsibility of parents to monitor what their child does infront of a pc. We shouldnt have to pay the price just because people can not monitor their childs internet access or pc activities!!!

    Comment by Jack on 7 July 2009 at 10:40
  19. If you read the classification laws like I've said earlya. Something like Second Life does not have a classification in Australia and so is already being illegally distributed to Australians. All that they are doing with this filter is enforcing this.

    Instead of complaining the filter is going to stop you accessing the websites for these applications for downloads.

    Complain about the classification laws in this country.

    Comment by Jared on 8 July 2009 at 00:32
  20. @Jared: We can't do both?

    Comment by Brendon Higgins on 10 July 2009 at 22:04
  21. There's much bleating about censorship. It isn't Steven Conroy as an individual. He's simply reflecting the Australian people. And he's reflecting them well. Self-righteous and arrogant. "Oh, we know about these things (Iraq, famine, HIV, child-labour, climate-change) so much better than you!"
    Too many say too much without a moments thought. Pointing the finger at an individual or political group is simply denial. This is how we are as a people; as a country. God help us.
    This censorship stuff has been around since I was a kid seventy years ago. And the power-seeking cognicenti will always lord it over the weak.
    Stop bleating, and actually say something!
    There are too many over-educated, over-indulged brats, with five minutes experience who believe they know something.
    Get out and live a decent life, instead of shovelling up this "liberal" claptrap.

    Comment by Robin on 13 July 2009 at 22:19
  22. @20 Brendon Higgins

    Yes you can complain about both but there wouldn't be an issue about these game websites being blocked if the classification laws were fixed.

    Comment by Jared on 14 July 2009 at 08:09
  23. Hi all.

    There is _NO_ way to censor the internet. Even if the govenment tries to, it will be near impossible (nothing's foolproof, as fools can be sometimes very ingenious!)for them to be successful. Even many Chinese can get around the "bans" that the so called "govenment" has placed on their internet.

    While I'm all for banning child pornography sites and the like, beacuse of the infrastructure that the internet is made from, there are just too many ways for people to circumvent bans.

    What I'm talking about is servers in other countries, (that you can pay to get access to) that wouldn't be affected by our bans, (if they take effect). Just connect to these and se your favourite browser. Consider the bans circumvented! This is only 1 of _MANY_ possible ways to circumvent the bans if they take effect.

    The Government can't block all of the 65535 TCP/IP network ports used, otherwise there would be no point in having the internet, as it woudn't work anyway.

    Eg. ports 80 and 443 are used for http and https traffic respectively. But there's nothing to stop you sending other traffic over these ports, disguised as normal http / https traffic, thus fooling any "Packet Inspection" performed by some of the more secure firewalls out there.

    Another example is ports 20 and 21, which are used for FTP traffic, but that is for non "Firewall-Friendly" FTP, called "Active FTP".

    The way most FTP is configured, is called "Passive FTP", which ignores port 20 (Predefined as FTP-DATA) and sets a random port # above the predefined 1024 for the FTP-DATA port on the client. This is a more "Firewall-Friendly" way of implementing FTP and requires less configuration on firewalls to work properly.

    The point of this explanation is to show that if Govt starts blocking incoming and outgoing traffic on certain ports, without packet inspection being used, on a firewall capable of this, Passive FTP will have a greater chance of not working properly. Thus getting many people angry and voting the Govt out of office. :-)

    This is of course a very hypothetical situation. For a more detailed description of how FTP works, (with pwetty dwawings and evewything) :-þ check out this link:

    http://slacksite.com/other/ftp.html

    There's also nothing from stopping you from sending traffic over these ports disgused as FTP traffic too. :-) Just need the ability to decode it at the other end, which isn't hard to do at all.

    Gazza.

    Comment by Gerald Sullivan on 4 August 2009 at 05:40
  24. It seems to me they are overstepping their legal authority. Surely adults should have the right to enjoy RC games in the privacy of their own home. AFAIK, they currently do have that right in Australia as long as they aren't selling the game.

    Comment by truthspeaker on 20 August 2009 at 19:23
  25. Sorry, Truth, but that's incorrect. The exact penalties vary from state to state, but in the ACT owning an RC'd game, or even having one on your premises, is illegal and has a maximum penalty of a year in jail.

    Comment by Az on 21 August 2009 at 02:14
  26. Wow. That is just crazy censorship. It's one thing to restrict sales, but to restrict ownership by adults?

    Comment by truthspeaker on 21 August 2009 at 15:32
  27. Az: (Quoted here) Sorry, Truth, but that’s incorrect. The exact penalties vary from state to state, but in the ACT owning an RC’d game, or even having one on your premises, is illegal and has a maximum penalty of a year in jail.
    =-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=
    Yes, that might be the case, but how are they going to enforce this?

    I can't see the the police going into every person in the countries house, to check their list of Games on their PC's and then handing out this penalty.

    #1 reason is the current privacy laws in this country.

    #2 reason is that it would be a _massive_ waste of manpower, considering over half the people in this country don't give a crap about these sorts of "non-enforceable" laws anyway.

    Comment by Gerald Sullivan on 23 August 2009 at 22:33
  28. Have you been to the iaps security store to see their vpn combo specials? You can get up to a 10 country VPN combo special from all different kinds of countries. Thats prime security. See it here: https://www.intl-alliance.com/store/index.php?mai...

    Comment by Kimberly on 12 November 2009 at 10:58
  29. I want to know if the government plan on compensation from loss of income that second life provides to persons that have worked LONG and HARD to set up and run very successful businesses. Myself , i am in the top 300 earners in the Second Life business world and was able to retire from RL work at the beginning of 2009. I pay Taxes on my SL income and do everything by the ATO rules and regs. So Mr CONroy.....are you going to compensate my lost investment or RL $$$ and RL woorknig hours put into building a successful company within Second Life????? I think probably not.

    Comment by JInx on 25 December 2009 at 18:56
  30. I... as well as many other people in the world are waking up to whats really going on around us... this whole censorship bullshit is all part of a much larger agenda.

    I am 16... I like to play video games... I think we all know the whole "video games are bad for kids" thing is a load of shit... It's all an excuse to get us into the mindset that censorship is good and is in "our best interests"

    well, thats all just my opinion, and opinions aren't set in stone (that would be could arrogance ;)
    so let me hear what you think about it?

    Comment by infinitypattern on 3 February 2011 at 19:29