It's an old chestnut, being bewildered at the "opposition to the governments plan to protect kids", and this time it was put forward by Dr Joe Tucci from The Australian Childhood Foundation .  When supporters of government proposals to censor the Internet run this line, they tacitly imply that those who disagree with them are supporting the abuse of children - or at the very least holding other matters in higher regard to the detriment of children.

To me this is very distressing, in my work with EFA I've had this one levelled at me by Brg. Jim Wallace (ret.), and now Dr Tucci on Sunrise this morning and in reality nothing could be further from the truth.  I understand how passionate Jim and Joe are about their causes, but they are wrong in how they approach them, and it's difficult to find any class in their painting of people who disagree with them as supporters of child abuse.

EFA's position on this matter is clear.

Mandatory Internet censorship, and for that matter voluntary censorship, will not protect children in any impactful sense. While voluntary censorship fixes some of the problems of the mandatory model, the overwhelming preponderance of content which it is illegal to possess is still not published on the open web but rather inside of secret networks of criminal associates.  While there is no benefit to censorship for children, a national censorship system represents a power over free speech that no western democracy has ever had - sure some have come close, with Germany even getting so far as to pass a law allowing it before deciding against it anyway, and the UK has attempted for seven years to make voluntary censorship work and has only really succeeded in breaking Wikipedia.  The "refused classification" category, unique to Australia,  is a mixed bag of illegal-to-possess material that police should be appropriately resourced to deal with (as in all crime), and perfectly legal material that an open government has no business stopping adults from accessing.

So what should we do?

We have options.  Rather than spend more than $40m on an Internet censorship system that won't work, we could take up the US Ambassador to Australia's offer for assistance in combating child abuse as I mentioned on Sunrise; offered by a country that can't censor the Internet because of constitutional rights.  This is an important thing to consider for two reasons, the first being that our long-history of alliance with the United States could benefit enormously from their expertise, and secondly it gives us a reason to stop and consider what  doing something that is impossible in a country with a legal right to free speech means.

We could take the approach of German anti-censorship campaigner Alvar Freude and contact hosting providers to advise them what their resources are being used for (Freude knocked 60 child abuse websites off the Internet in one day in this way), or we could apply a host of other crime prevention methods that police already use to track and deal with people who delight in the abuse of children.

What we shouldn't do, is implement a system that is illegal or abandoned in other countries, which won't protect children, will waste tens of millions of dollars and represent an unheard of intrusion into the lives of law abiding families.

While we do that, I'd appreciate no further inferences that I don't understand or care about the abuse of children.  Those inferences make me stare at the photos my sister sends me of my 6 month old niece, and question why we can't advocate online rights without becoming the subject of baseless attacks.

23 comments