U.S. Leaders Should Heed Their Own Advice On Internet Filters
from the glass-houses dept
It has been kind of entertaining (some would say frightening) watching the Australian government's futile efforts to clean the Internet of its naughty bits. As part of their filtering plans, the government conducted trials with a handful of ISPs, many of whom have been very vocal in their beliefs that the filters won't technically work. These ongoing trials had no quantifiable metric to determine whether the trials were a success or failure, so obviously, Australian Communications Minister Stephen Conroy proudly announced that the trials proved the filters to be 100% effective. Political leaders in favor of the filters haven't exactly been open to feedback on the dangers of filters, and the country learned nothing early on, when a teenage kid hacked their original filter system in all of half an hour.
Recently, U.S. politicians have been ramping up their criticism of Australia's filtering efforts, with the State Department last month issuing a rather vague statement indicating "we have raised our concerns on this matter." This week, the U.S. Ambassador to Australia Jeff Bleich was willing to get a little more specific in a low-quality poetry sort of way, insisting that the Internet "needs to be free" in much the same way "the polar caps have to be free" (whatever that means). Bleich went out of his way to state that there are other methods to deal with extremism and child pornography, like addressing them at the source:
"We have been able to accomplish the goals that Australia has described, which is to capture and prosecute child pornographers and others who use the Internet for terrible purposes, without having to use Internet filters. We have other means and we are willing to share our efforts with them in order to allow them to at least look at a range of choices, as opposed to moving in one particular direction. It's an ongoing conversation."
While Bleich insists it's a conversation, all indications are Australia's government isn't listening. They've already spent a fortune on the idea, and have ignored critics every single step of the way. As is usually the case when talk of imposing filters fires up, the specter of child pornography and other societal menaces are used as the scary red herring. Given how susceptible U.S. citizens are to sales pitches involving "protecting the children," it seems like only a matter of time (and lobbyist effort) before the United States requires ISPs to impose copyright filters at the behest of the entertainment industry and Bono. We've already had a few close calls, like with the ACTA or with U.S. lawmakers trying to bury filtering plans into the broadband stimulus effort -- so it sounds like Uncle Sam should heed his own advice.