One of the reasons EFA so opposes the Government's mandatory ISP-level filtering scheme, of course, is that once it's in place, special interests will be knocking on the Minister's door seeking to have their own bugbears addressed by the blacklist. Even if, on day one, the list is limited to the "worst of the worst" of violent, illegal material - which it won't be - how long do you think it would be before AFACT's lawyers are lobbying for BitTorrent trackers to be added? Even members of Parliament have gone on record with their own ideas of what should be banned, such as racist Flash games, Bill Henson photography or "pro-anorexia" forums.

Now, before the results of the pilot have even been released for public discussion, the Australian Christian Lobby are crowing about how they received a special briefing from the Minister himself on the filtering scheme. Although they say the pilot's results were not discussed, they clearly received an update on the scheme's planning, something the rest of us have long been denied. (When was the last time detailed policy information was made available to the public?)

We've written before about the confused nature of this policy. Will it act like a home-based filter, keeping age-inappropriate material from children? No. Will it prevent the trade in illegal child pornography? Not that either. We've been assured that the list will contain "almost exclusively" RC (refused classification) material, whatever that may mean. Could all adult material be grist for the blacklist? Previous indications have been that this is not the case, but with anti-filth crusaders receiving a special briefing in the Minister's office, one might have doubts about whether the list might have more puritanical applications than have been disclosed so far.

After all, why should the minister be giving the Australian Christian Lobby, of all the possible stakeholders, a special briefing? They have a right to lobby for their members' wishes, certainly, but they do not represent a very broad section of the community, and have demonstrated on many occasions an inability to grasp the policy and technological issues surrounding mandatory filtering. Even looking at it cynically, the ACL is hardly a bastion of ALP supporters. Is it because the ACL's view on how the Internet should ultimately look is in line with the Minister's?

The Greens have called for an explanation, but sadly if the Government stays true to form we probably won't be getting one soon.

The Australian electorate demands transparent and evidence-based policymaking that represents broad community interests. EFA will be contacting the Minister's office in order to get a meeting and again put our concerns with the plan on the record.

9 comments

  1. I'm wholeheartedly sick of politicians allowing their religious beliefs to compromise their jobs. This isn't a government worth having if all they are going to do is run to Rome every time a decision is to be made. It's disgusting.

    Comment by Stuart on 1 December 2009 at 13:38
  2. Where's my special meeting with Conroy?

    I want to slap him with a trout and tell him what a douche-nozzle of an idea the filter is.

    Comment by doughnut on 1 December 2009 at 20:09
  3. i'm wholeheartedly sick of politicians full stop. minimal government, sack them all.

    Comment by cybergrunt on 1 December 2009 at 21:44
  4. Conroy really is coming across as something of a zealot. I assume he has some sort of strong religious motivation? We may as well vote for the Libs and Tony Abbott- at least he is open about his religious views.

    If I really believed that these policies would have any of the desired effects I might consider them. But they won't.

    And who will pay for the larger and more expensive servers that can cope with the massive load imposed by all this filtering? Conroy? Or are we to revert to the old days of dialup speeds?

    Comment by Mycelius on 2 December 2009 at 06:19
  5. I haven’t been able to find an answer to this, maybe the EFA can answer.

    If I were to visit a blacklisted page under the Government’s mandatory ISP-level filtering scheme what would I see? A 404 error? A Screen saying “This page has been blocked by the Australian goverment”?

    I think this is an important question because if it’s an ambiguous error it would be too easy for a corrupt government to silently censor content and avoid appeal.

    Comment by Treb on 3 December 2009 at 21:50
  6. Treb: Here's a screengrab I took in the UAE. It'll probably look similar.
    http://tinypic.com/view.php?pic=1zdnp50&s=6

    Comment by Travis on 4 December 2009 at 01:12
  7. Is that link meant to be a joke? I get a 404.

    Comment by Treb on 4 December 2009 at 06:41
  8. It is worth remembering that religious groups are interest groups just like those opposed to a filter. Those supportive of free speech and freedom of religion (which includes freedom not to follow a religion) should not whinge at the ACL's right to lobby.

    If they receive special treatment over other groups, however, that would be a problem.

    I would like to hear what info the update gave as it could not be possibly considered confidential. Out with it ACL.

    Comment by luke on 9 December 2009 at 22:07
  9. A land grab for our freedoms from people who believe in the man in the sky. Get the word out: http://bit.ly/6KyYBy

    Comment by Realism on 16 December 2009 at 20:42