Rather Than Respond To Criticism Of Aussie Censorship Plan, Conroy Attacks Google

from the that'll-win-them-over dept

With more and more complaints coming in about Stephen Conroy’s plan in Australia to start censoring the internet, it appears that Conroy, rather than responding to the critics, has decided to just lash out at them. For example Google recently filed comments with the Australian gov’t suggesting that the plan was “heavy-handed” and raised “genuine questions about restrictions on access to information.” Now, these seem like legit concerns — and from what we’ve heard, many citizens in Australia agree. So you might think that Conroy, the main backer of the plan and Australia’s Communications Minister would take the complaints seriously and respond to them.

Instead, he just starts trashing Google over a variety of totally unrelated issues and taking quotes totally out of context:

“Recently the founders of Google have got themselves into a little bit of trouble because notwithstanding their alleged ‘do no evil’ policy, they recently created something called Buzz, and there was a reaction, and people said well look aren’t you publishing private information?,” Senator Conroy said.

“[Google CEO Eric] Schmidt said the following: ‘If you have something that you don’t want anyone to know maybe you shouldn’t be doing it in the first place’. This is the founder of Google. He also said recently to Wall Street analysts, ‘we love cash’, so when people say, shouldn’t we just leave it up to the Googles of this world to determine what the filtering policy should be….”

Of course, none of that has anything to do with the censorship plan. With the Buzz controversy, it’s also worth noting that within hours of the controversy coming out, Google changed its plans and corrected its mistakes. Has Conroy done that at all? Nope. The Schmidt quotes are then both taken totally out of context and also have absolutely nothing to do with filters. No one is saying that it should be Google who determines what the filtering policy is, but Google did raise important questions, which Conroy doesn’t even bother to address.

And it’s not just Google. As the article notes, these comments were made on a radio program where the majority of phone calls were against the censorship proposal. And yet Conroy wants to “defend” the proposal by attacking Google? On the whole, it seems like a lot more people are willing to trust Google than trust Conroy to tell them what they can and cannot do with their internet connections.

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Comments on “Rather Than Respond To Criticism Of Aussie Censorship Plan, Conroy Attacks Google”

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Sarah James says:

What can you say – Conroy is clearly a buffoon. The only people who want this filter is a very small but powerful Christian right lobby who are keen to live in a theocratic dictatorship. All rational intelligent people are against it because they can see it for what it is: a serious threat to civil liberties and freedom of speech and democracy itself.

JC Carter says:


Conroy? Unwilling to address legitimate criticism? Stop the presses!

That man is an idiot. He’s been told over and over that his pet project won’t work, can’t work, and he’s been told explicitly why.

Instead of listening, he keeps on trucking ahead. It’s no surprise that he has to lash out like a child having a tantrum; he’s not far removed from that scenario.

bigpallooka (profile) says:

What exactly is the problem?

Aside from the fact that it is generally a bad policy to trust a politician, what exactly is the problem everyone has with the filter? If what Conroy has said over and over again is true then:
1. The independent tests show the ‘slowing down’ of the internet that the filter will cause is micro seconds,
2. The only thing that will be filtered is pages (not whole sites) that have been confirmed to contain content that is RC (Refused classification) in Australia i.e. Kiddie Porn, Snuff Films etc.,
3. The list of pages (the so-called blacklist) will be monitored by an independent body (similar to the existing censorship body) so nothing that isn’t illegal already for an Australian to upload onto a site will be included.

I realise there is always the chance of the system being abused but no more than any other government funded institution. The only people I can see this affecting are people who want to access illegal content. Please tell me exactly what the concerns are. I’m finding it a little hard to get excited one way or the other.

Seumas Hyslop (profile) says:

Re: What exactly is the problem?

The issue is that “refused classification” is a very broad classification that doesn’t just include child pornography and snuff films, it can include politically sensitive material (like discussion of abortion and euthanasia), and it sets the bar far lower than illegality as the basis for having something blocked. What’s more, there are no safeguards in what is blocked, and we are not told that it is being blocked. When a film is refused classification in Australia, we are able to freely discuss the film in the knowledge that it has been banned and can have a discussion about whether that’s a good thing. With the proposed legislation, we can’t do that about banned sites. Linking to sites that are on the banned list is associated with big fines and even prison.

A system where someone decides what’s banned based on a broad definition (including material which is not illegal), and then complete secrecy about its banning? You really can’t see how that couldn’t be abused?

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: What exactly is the problem?

1. Not so. Some tests show up to 17% delay, but that’s not really relevant either, because no tests have been done for the particular filtering he is now proposing.
Microseconds don’t sound like much, but that’s per packet, and (as a computer engineer I’ll tell you) when you have hundreds of Mbits or more flowing through an ISP they soon add up.

2. It doesn’t include R or X rated stuff, only RC rated stuff (kids are still allowed to surf X rated…).
Apart from child porn, RC material is perfectly legal to possess in Qld, NSW, Vic, SA and Tas.
Material related to petty crimes such as graffiti or shoplifting could be blacklisted.
Euthanasia and safe drug use would be censored.
Computer games rated 17/18+ in the UK and US are RC here – they would be censored, despite being perfectly acceptable entertainment for adults.
Some weird but not illegal fetishes would be censored.

3. Most bizarre of all, WE WON”T KNOW WHAT IS CENSORED.
Perhaps you trust government appointed independent bodies, but I can’t imagine why. I certainly don’t. The government will be able to RC what it doesn’t like.

The people who want to access child porn will easily do so:
– The filter can’t filter everything (there is simply too much).
-It only filters http traffic (not https, or ftp, or email, or p2p, or instant messaging, or streaming…).
-Even the censored http content is easily accessed via proxy or vpn (virtually no knowledge required for either of these).

So we bear the brunt (network performance drop, monitoring costs that ISPs will pass on to us), and child porn watchers remain unaffected.
We also get put at the top of the slippery slope of secret government censorship, and gain the dubious honour of becoming the very first western democracy to use network level filtering (ie what The Great Firewall of China is made of).

btr1701 (profile) says:

Re: What exactly is the problem?

> Please tell me exactly what the concerns are. I’m
> finding it a little hard to get excited one way
> or the other.

Perhaps it’s just a different philosophical outlook, but as far as I’m concerned, there is no need for, nor is it the proper place of government, to be telling me what I can and cannot see, read, hear or watch. I’m a grown adult and I can make these decisions for myself, thank you very much. I certainly don’t need to be protected from the big bad world by a bunch of government bureaucrats who think they know better than me what’s good for me.

If people are uploading or looking at child porn, then punish them for doing it when it happens. But censoring the internet for 22 million people based on what a tiny few *might* do is ridiculous. It’s a kindergarten approach to government and is unfortunately becoming all too prevalent around the world.

And if memory serves, isn’t in Australia where the government won’t even make the censorship list itself public, so that the citizens know exactly what their government is hiding from them? Sounds like a system ripe for abuse.

JC Carter says:

1. independent tests don’t show the effect of deep packet inspection on a national scale

2. So we’re told. The problem is that nobody knows what’s being filtered, and that’s quite convenient, isn’t it?

3. See above.

As far as a “chance” of this being abused? It’s almost a foregone conclusion. Not a chance of it being abused – its mere existence is abuse. The gov’t cannot justify this filter because it cannot do its stated job: kiddie porn isn’t trafficked on HTTP port 80 plain-old-websites, and even if it were, Tor or a VPN service would get around it without a hitch.

So we have a filter that can’t do what it says, but is perfect for controlling what you can and can’t see online. Hmmm.

RE: the red herring comparison to other gov’t funded institutions, that’s a horrible analogy because when they really have so few opportunities to destroy democratic freedoms on this scale.

If you aren’t worried about this filter, you simply don’t understand what it implies.

Del Boy (profile) says:

I agree

People just DO NOT like being told & controlled by political powers. Thats what the fuss is all about.

Conroy should re-consider using this as a political issue & get back to whats important Health, Education, Employment & stop being a big nanny.

It should never be a governments job to censor the internet, they are too bias – look at China.

The internet belongs to the people & if they want to use it illegally then thats upto them, as long as they can do the time when caught.

bigpallooka (profile) says:

Please explain

Without political bias (if that is even possible) is Conroy just unable to understand the technology, is he misinformed by his “experts” or has he just been given a job to do and his doing his political best to shout down the nay-sayers? I’m trying not to be gullible but I’m not big on conspiracy theories either. I don’t happen to think it is possible to keep enough people silent (which is not an issue in this discussion) to believe that nefarious plans are afoot so why are they so adamant that it will go ahead? Political expediency? (Please the wowsers) Bloody mindedness? (I’m the minister so I know what is best)

Putting aside the whole “internet shouldn’t be censored” debate, governments do have an obligation to enable laws to be enforced so is there an alternative?

Any creditable links would be appreciated. I hate being so obviously ignorant of the technical issues.

Thanks for the information that has already been provided. It does give me something to Google!

Planespotter (profile) says:

Governments no longer represent the people, whether you are forced (Australia) or not forced (UK) to vote.

The people have a much harder time getting their voice loud enough for it to be heard over the racket from paid lobbiests. Lobbiests who because of the large companies they represent are able to get the ear of a politician by slipping his campaign fund a few thousand in crisp notes.

Freedom says:

Growing up...

Maybe I’m just noticing it more as I get older and see through the BS, but it seems like a growing trend to ignore the questions raised by a XYZ group of concerned citizens and instead attack them on the personal front. This is my #1 sign of knowing when one side is full of it.

In the US we see it with the tea party movement. Does the other party address the concerns with facts and honest debate? Nope, they instead call them haters, racists, and imply that they are so ignorant and stupid that their questions don’t even have any merit. Yet, ironically if that was the case, then why not address the questions raised by the movement so everyone can really see just how stupid they really are ???


marak (profile) says:


As an Australian,
Id just like to say, its nice to have known you all! The last 10 years have been fun and im sure i can speak for all of Australia when i say we have laughed, cried, giggled, blogged and gamed our selves through the collective worlds of the internet.

Soon we we will be no more, you may hear a whisper from us now and then, but our ”splendid isolation” will return. Like England of old, we will be divided by a large ocean, with very little information about us getting out.

Remember us fondly, we were not that arrogant, we instead were the flippant ones, always making jokes. We were not the destructive, we built for fun and laughter. We shall miss you all.

– Australia

A little over the top? Wait until each different group gets their hands on the ”secret” filter list…. Ill probably end up in jail for working around the filter, but by god its going to be fun!

Daemon_ZOGG (profile) says:

....About Senator Conroy

It would seem Senator Conroy is trying to push the initial stages of returning Australia to a prison colony. I would imagine that after the information and communication lines have been fully filtered(cut), limitations on movement and travel will be next. You’ll need “special papers” to go anywhere. He’s a Chinese Government Stooge and he knows it.

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