by Mike Masnick

Filed Under:
australia, filters, porn, regulations

Australian Internet Filters Have No Real Opt-Out; Only Opt-In To Fewer Filters

from the can-i-have-my-porn-license-please? dept

We've covered the long history of Australian politicians looking to set up their own censored internet "to protect the children" (of course). The plans have changed over time, but the end goal has always been the same: to force ISPs to block a list of sites provided by the government. In the latest incarnation, the plan supposedly included an "opt-out" option, where a web surfer could specifically ask to opt-out of the filters (effectively asking someone to sign up for a "porn-surfing license"). That, on its own, might scare some people off, but now it turns out that the opt-out isn't really an opt-out. Instead, it's just opting you in to a somewhat less restrictive blacklist. Once again, this idea of mandatory filtering out of "bad" sites on the internet sets a dangerous precedent. Whoever has control over that list has tremendous power, and it will be abused. On almost every "filter" list we've seen sites that certainly don't belong there, and this will be no different. If a site is doing something illegal, then charge whoever is responsible for the site. Trying to deal with it through filters and blocklists is both bound to fail and dangerous to free speech.

Reader Comments (rss)

(Flattened / Threaded)

  1. identicon
    Craig Foster, Oct 13th, 2008 @ 4:14pm

    Don't get me wrong...

    I don't support filtering, but as devil's advocate, the current laws that stop child pornography and spam do little to stop the tide. The law has been proven time and time again to be too slow and easily circumvented.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  2. identicon
    Rose M. Welch, Oct 13th, 2008 @ 4:39pm

    Child pornography existed long before the Internet did. Spam is no worse than the legal and sanctioned bulk mail that the US Postal Service delivers to my house every day. And spam and child porn are so far apart on the 'Bad Shit' scale that it's not even funny. Filtering child porn does not mean it stops happening - it means you stop seeing it. Thus far, the head-in-the-sand approach to crime-fighting and prevention is a failure.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  3. identicon
    Fonda Cox, Oct 13th, 2008 @ 5:37pm

    I'm tired of my personal website on kitten grooming being blacklisted...

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  4. identicon
    Executer, Oct 13th, 2008 @ 6:17pm


    Attempts by governments to stem the tide of illegal activities on the internet have become a much more commonplace occurrence in recent years. Illegal content of all kinds has been used as a warrant to impose sanctions on internet providers, and use their records to track "offenders" world wide. Starting with the US Supreme Court decisions to fine persons found to be “making available” copyrighted media and software, world governments have begun a witch hunt for “software terrorists”. The action taken by Australian officials to require ISPs to block traffic from “black listed” sites is only the first step that recording industry advocates will likely use to impose a global ban on peer-to- peer networks. As occurrences like this one become the norm, internet users will find themselves appealing to the electronic “higher powers” to allow their content to be posted on the web. Recently in China, one of the more prominent world governments to embrace net censorship, a blogger was imprisoned for expressing ideas that violated the ruling party’s ideals. This proposition of regulation raises the same question as any other conduct guideline, who will enforce the standard? To borrow terms from the standard model, who will “police” the new internet frontier? Certainly this kind of regulation could be used to protect children from predators and questionable material; however this protection comes at the cost of potentially limiting their access to useful information as well. What criteria will be used to determine if a site is “unfit” for youth viewing? By what standards are the individuals to be held who are placed in the position of reviewing it? And what of the hundreds, if not thousands, of new sites introduced to the internet each day, will these sites be automatically blacklisted until they are reviewed and declared acceptable? I am reminded of the movie Equilibrium where the decision of a fictional government declared that “questionable” materials where declared of no value and subsequently destroyed. Actions like this one have been shown by historic world powers, bent on media domination and propaganda driven control, to be the first motions in a trend toward more radical change. It is the responsibility of internet users to ensure people are aware of the dangerous ramification of this kind of legislation. We must be vigilant in fighting to insure access, for everyone, to our most incredible sources of civic power, information.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  5. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Oct 13th, 2008 @ 6:23pm

    penalty ?

    What is the penalty for circumvention ?

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  6. identicon
    Lawrence D'Oliveiro, Oct 13th, 2008 @ 6:35pm

    Re: Don't get me shite

    Craig Foster wrote:

    The law has been proven time and time again to be too slow and easily circumvented.

    So you think the whack-a-mole filtering game will be able to do any better?

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  7. identicon
    Sos, Oct 13th, 2008 @ 8:33pm

    Sorry no free speech

    The Australian Constitution does not have any express provision relating to freedom of speech. In theory, therefore, the Commonwealth Parliament may restrict or censor speech through censorship legislation or other laws, as long as they are otherwise within constitutional power.


    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  8. identicon
    Jesse McNelis, Oct 14th, 2008 @ 8:21am

    Re: Don't get me wrong...

    Technically it's impossible to stop the distribution of child pornography. Anyone who says these filters are about that doesn't understand the technical details.
    All these filters do is stop children going to google and typing "free porn" and actually getting it. Kids are pretty smart and computer savvy these days so it won't take long before every kid that wants to view pornography realises that all they have to do is use a proxy(or even easier, a proxy web application). Making the filters a huge waste of time and money.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

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