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 -
- Background information
- Contact details for media
* Electronic Frontiers Australia
* Full blog post "EFA responds to Senator Conroy"
* Senate Hansard 15 March 2010
* EFA's Open Internet campaign
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.
Mr Colin Jacobs
Phone: 0402 631 955
Email: cjacobs at efa.org.au
Mr Peter Black
Phone: 0421 636 496
Email: pete.black at efa.org.au