Electronic Frontiers Australia (EFA) has responded to the extraordinary challenge and attacks directed at it by the Minister for Broadband, Communications and the Digital Economy Senator Stephen Conroy in Question Time yesterday and today.

In a response to a question asked by Senator Sue Boyce about Australia recently being added to a watch list of countries with worrying Internet censorship trends by Reporters Without Borders, Senator Conroy accused EFA of misleading the public and international organisations.

EFA rejects these assertions. "We are aggressive in educating the public on the drawbacks of this and other policies that threaten our online freedoms, but take great pains to provide factual information and analysis to the Australian public," said EFA Vice-Chair Colin Jacobs. "If we have erred in any particular instance, then we welcome a correction. That said, we have carefully considered the legalities and technical issues surrounding the policy and unreservedly stand by our assessment. It will achieve nothing for parents and police, it will cost enormous amounts of money, and presents a real threat to our freedom of speech."

As an international watchdog of press freedom, Reporters Without Borders conduct their own research on events around the world. "It should go without saying that Reporters Without Borders have not been coached by EFA; they have come to that conclusion on their own," said Mr Jacobs. "Reporters Without Borders is a reputable, independent international organisation who is justifiably concerned about a tolerant and liberal democracy such as Australia taking the first steps down a path of secretive and automated censorship of the Internet."

In response to a follow-up question by Senator Boyce, Senator Conroy also challenged EFA to provide a quote where he had equated his critics as child pornography advocates. Two such instances are set out in a blog post on EFA's website at https://www.efa.org.au/2010/03/16/efa-responds-to-senator-conroy/.

"Nobody, including EFA, have ever argued that the filter is a bad idea because child pornography is not worth combating," said Mr Jacobs. "Our argument is and has always been that the filter will be ineffective in doing so yet comes at enormous cost. To rail against 'people' for equating 'freedom of speech with watching child pornography' is simply a cheap rhetorical trick. We trust that with legislation imminent, we can move past such distractions."

Accordingly, EFA hopes that Senator Conroy will now be willing to participate a national debate on the relative merits of the Government's policy. "We are still awaiting a solid defence of this policy that references any evidence, study, or reputable expert that demonstrates this filter will help Australian children," said Mr Jacobs. "We challenge the Minister to produce such evidence."

EFA welcomes the opportunity to participate in this national debate. "Instead of engaging in a rational and important debate on the issue of mandatory Internet censorship, Senator Conroy has opted to use parliamentary privilege to make attacks against EFA and its board," said Peter Black, EFA's campaign manager. "Contrary his attack yesterday, our Open Internet campaign seeks to give the Australian public all the facts they need to form an opinion on the Government's policy. Our goal is to ensure the Australian public know what they're in for."

- Ends -

Below is:

- Background information
- Contact details for media

Background:
* Electronic Frontiers Australia
- https://www.efa.org.au/

* Full blog post "EFA responds to Senator Conroy"
- https://www.efa.org.au/2010/03/16/efa-responds-to-senator-conroy/

* Senate Hansard 15 March 2010
- http://www.aph.gov.au/hansard/senate/dailys/ds150310.pdf

* EFA's Open Internet campaign
- http://openinternet.com.au/

About EFA:

Electronic Frontiers Australia Inc. (EFA) is a non-profit national organisation representing Internet users concerned with on-line rights and freedoms. EFA was established in 1994, is independent of government and commerce, and is funded by membership subscriptions and donations from individuals and organisations with an altruistic interest in promoting online civil liberties.

Media Contacts:

Mr Colin Jacobs
EFA Vice-Chair
Phone: 0402 631 955
Email: cjacobs at efa.org.au

Mr Peter Black
Campaign Manager
Phone: 0421 636 496
Email: pete.black at efa.org.au

8 comments

  1. Go get em EFA!

    Comment by Mr1979 on 16 March 2010 at 6:24 pm
  2. +1 Keep up the good work

    Comment by Fictitious1 on 17 March 2010 at 4:43 am
  3. screw you conroy, dont you understand, we dont want it!

    Comment by mj on 17 March 2010 at 9:28 am
  4. Has Senator Conroy responded yet to the Question on notice put to him by Senator Ludlum in January 2010? I couldn't find any reference to him having done so. Perhaps it might be appropriate for Senator Ludlum to take advantage of standing order 74(5) which would allow him to ask Senator Conroy for a reason that he has not answered the questions.

    Comment by Josh on 17 March 2010 at 11:15 pm
  5. Conroy's misrepresentation of EFA and the results of his own filtering studies are so poor they are almost comical. He's either appallingly ignorant or appallingly dishonest.

    I just loved this gem [I have taken the liberty of adding a bit of detail the Minister overlooked]:

    "They [EFA] have argued that [automated, global] filtering will slow the internet and will result in overblocking, despite the independent live pilot trial showing that [manual, limited] internet filtering [by URL blacklist] can be done." (Hansard 16 March).

    Comment by Simon on 18 March 2010 at 12:09 am
  6. I took the time to write senator Conroy an email against this change and his response to me was a pre-scripted email which was obviously sent out to everyone else. This to me shows he does not care about what the Australian public has to say as he has made up his mind and will try to go ahead. This guy is a menace and nothing more, he is not helping only wasting good tax payers money that could be spent on health and re-building the country after the down turn. If the fliter comes in its simply VPN... problem fixed.

    Comment by Tim.C on 23 March 2010 at 6:45 am
  7. Can someone please tell me how something like this can just be implemented without consulting the general public?

    EFA, I stand by all you are doing. However, I am afraid of what is to come. I have to ask if your organisation ever contemplated requesting support from Google. They seem to be on the right page.

    This fight will be only be won by pushing out all the facts to the public in overwhelming numbers. Luckily the internet still allows us to do so. Lets utilise the tool we are fighting for.

    Comment by Jay Staal on 30 March 2010 at 6:07 pm
  8. Goliath doesnt care. Its a calculated plan that both parties will implement. Because its not them pulling the strings it all part of the elite global agenda.
    If they can control the internet they can go back to the shadows. Australia is generally a laid back country look at the workplace laws france rioted. But if they censor australia then it becomes easier to censor other countries.

    Comment by Kingla on 16 April 2010 at 4:44 am