Fun With Stats: Do 80% Of Australians Really Support Gov't Censorship Of The Internet?

from the all-depends-on-how-you-ask-the-question dept

Ah, the fun you can have with survey data. It’s well known that if you get to control how survey questions are worded, you can get large groups of people to support almost anything. Take, for example, what’s happening down in Australia with the fight over the government’s latest plan (after many previous attempts) to force filters on the entire internet, requiring ISPs to block a secret list of sites the gov’t doesn’t like. A lot of people are up in arms about this blatant censorship. But supporters of the plan can eagerly point to a recent survey that got 80% of people to say they were in favor of “having a mandatory Government Internet filter that would automatically block all access, in Australia, to overseas websites containing material that is Refused Classification.” 80%? That seems really surprising.

But, it shouldn’t be if you saw how the question was asked.

SG points us to the news about how that particular question was prefaced by asking people to read the following “definition” of what kinds of content would be blocked:

  • child sexual abuse
  • bestiality
  • sexual violence
  • gratuitous, exploitative or offensive sexual fetishes; and
  • detailed instructions on or promotion of crime, violence or use of illegal drugs

You read that list — especially given what it starts off with — and who’s going to say “no, I want to make sure that’s available”? Not that many people. Obviously, they’re going to say they support blocking it. But that doesn’t really mean they support government censorship. It seems quite likely that what people want is for the government not to focus on useless and expensive censorship campaigns, but to focus that same effort on catching those who are actually breaking the law and stopping them from engaging in the illegal activities. In fact, the very same study found that 91% don’t like the fact that the government will be censoring the internet via a secret list. Basically, people don’t want government censorship, but that doesn’t mean they support the things in the list. It’s just that they would prefer the government do something real to stop it, rather than brushing it under a digital rug.

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Comments on “Fun With Stats: Do 80% Of Australians Really Support Gov't Censorship Of The Internet?”

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Chronno S. Trigger (profile) says:

List, BS

Can’t argue with Child abuse in any form. Needs to be gone.

I can accept bestiality because we can’t show that they want it. And not getting killed by the horse doesn’t qualify.

Sexual violence is an iffy thing. A lot of bondage is violent but isn’t considered wrong.

Define gratuitous, exploitative or offensive sexual fetishes.

I have no problem at all with posting details on crimes or even promoting some of them, it can show what may need to be fixed. Doing them is another thing.

Now (on to my point), if I answered that way, my vote wouldn’t have counted to ether side.

Ryan says:

The cool thing about not wanting to see something is that even if it is available to you, you don’t actually have to look at it if you don’t want to. For instance, I am strongly pro-choice – nobody should censor what you can see, and nobody should force you to see something. Why voting means a damn thing is beyond me, because even if 99% agree then 99% just don’t have to look at it. It won’t be hard to avoid either, since most sites are not gonna show stuff that 99% of the public would prefer to avoid.

Even the whole diatribe against possession of child porn/abuse media I don’t understand. If an individual has a fetish for that sort of thing, so what? They’re not committing the offense against the child. Making it a crime to simply view isn’t gonna make much difference on the number of abused children, and may even drive it underground where it’s harder to investigate(a lot like file sharing in that way actually, except on a much, much smaller scale). And even if it did, how is it possibly fair to punish the viewer for a crime they didn’t commit?

Richard (profile) says:

Re: Re:

Funny isn’t it that free filesharing of child porn is illegal because it (allegedly) encourages the production of more such material whilst free file sharing of legitimate (copyrighted) material is illegal because it (allegedly) discourages the production of more such material. Logic failure there somewhere I think.

Someone somewhere says:

Waste of time?

I’m still stumped as to why Senator Conroy is hanging into this policy with both hands when it is obviously badly flawed.

If they’re really going to insist on this (stupid) filter being implemented, then it should just block the worst-of-the-worst (child porn, sexual abuse, bestiality), which very few would disagree with. Stopping people accidentally seeing this stuff is about all it would do, although it’s not something you’d come across with normal browsing – you’d actually have to specifically go looking for it to find it most of the time.

But even then, the filter will continually have to be updated to really have any effect. In case Senator Conroy isn’t aware of it, the internet is a dynamic place with new (nasty) web sites popping up all of the time. Does he really think that just blocking some URLs is really going to fix anything? How long before the list goes from a few thousand to hundreds of thousands of URLs?

Beyond that – crimes are still going to be committed, drugs are still going to be used, and euthanasia will still occur regardless of whether the filter blocks this kind of material or not. Does Senator Conroy think he’s providing some magic-bullet solution to these problems? Or that levels of these activities will suddenly drop? Those who want to partake in these activities will find a way past the filter and look them up on the internet anyway.

It’s a waste of money in my opinion, better spent elsewhere on educational programs for parents and children on how to be “safe” on the internet. For children, I think cyber-bullying is more of an issue anyway.

Daniel says:

Fun With Stats

It’s understandable the government wants to be seen doing something about the internet. Let’s face it, if the internet were a newsagent or even a Club X shop, it would be shut down tomorrow considering the stuff that’s out there.
What’s so annoying though is that they’re pushing this useless waste of time and money that is the mandatory filter. Looking at some of the statements that emanate from the Dept. of Broadband you also have to wonder if anyone in there actually knows the first thing about how the internet works. Asking Google to censor YouTube on the governments behalf? LOL. What planet do they think they’re on?

Yeebok (profile) says:

Senator Conroy is also removing searches for the filter from his tag cloud ..
As to what planet they’re on, sadly the same one as you. Even more sadly I’m on the same continent as they are .. Problem is though, once one “democracy” gets it “working” .. it’s the thin edge thing.
Don’t laugh though, once it’s proven there’s some demand for this sort of thing, development will proceed with more complex stuff. Imagine the MPAA/RIAA (etc) reaction once someone gets a working filter that’ll spot encrypted P2P traffic.

Pseudonym (profile) says:

RC is wider than that list

What Senator Conroy actually wants to censor is RC material, most of which is legal to own and privately view in Australia, though not to buy.

The survey would have been different had the list included R-rated video games and edgy art movies, such as “Salo” and “Ken Park”. (Or, if a certain Prime Minister had his way, Bill Henson’s PG-rated photographs.)

Darren (Green Change) (user link) says:

A lot of people really would support a filter that would “automatically block all access, in Australia, to overseas websites containing material that is Refused Classification.” It’d be great. Just like free renewable energy and world peace would be great.

The whole problem is that it’s not possible. You can’t block ALL objectionable material, and you can’t guarantee that you’re NOT blocking legitimate material. So what you’re left with is a filter that blocks a lot of stuff, some of which is objectionable, and lets a lot of stuff through, some of which is objectionable.

Worded like that, I don’t think 80% of people would support it.

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