[LINK] Harradine back in guise of Fielding

Jan Whitaker jwhit at janwhitaker.com
Mon Oct 27 17:14:20 EST 2008


http://www.theage.com.au/articles/2008/10/27/1224955916155.html?page=fullpage#contentSwap1

Family First Senator Steve Fielding wants hardcore pornography and 
fetish material blocked under the Government's plans to filter the 
internet, sparking renewed fears the censorship could be expanded 
well beyond "illegal material".

The Opposition said it would most likely block any attempts to 
introduce the controversial mandatory ISP filtering policy, so the 
Government would need the support of Senator Fielding as well as the 
Greens and Senator Nick Xenophon to pass the legislation.

Industry sources said Senator Fielding's sentiments validated ISPs' 
concerns that the categories of blocked content could be broadened 
significantly at the whim of the Government, which is under pressure 
to appease vocal minorities.

A spokesman for Senator Xenophon said, should the filtering plan go 
ahead, he would look to use it to block Australians from accessing 
overseas online casino sites, which are illegal to run in Australia.

In a Senate Estimates hearing last week, the Communications Minister, 
Stephen Conroy, confirmed that his proposal would force ISPs to 
implement a two-tiered filtering system.

The proposed censorship is more advanced than that in any liberal 
democracy and would put Australia on a par with oppressive regimes 
such as Iran, the internet industry says.

Despite his earlier promises that Australians would be able to opt 
out of any internet filters, Senator Conroy said the first tier would 
be compulsory for all Australians and would block all "illegal 
material", as determined in part by a blacklist administered by the 
Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA).

The second tier, which is optional, would filter out content deemed 
inappropriate for children, such as pornography.

But asked to specify the categories of content that Senator Fielding 
would like blocked by the mandatory first tier, a Family First 
spokeswoman indicated the party would want X-rated and refused 
classification (RC) content banned for everyone, including adults.

"Family First would consider a mandatory ISP-based filtering system 
that protects children by blocking illegal content like child 
pornography, but allows adults to opt out of filtering to access 
material classified R18+ or less," Senator Fielding's spokeswoman said.

According to the Broadcasting Services Act 1992, X18+ content 
includes hardcore pornography, while content that is refused 
classification includes that which depicts drug use or sexual 
fetishes. Both are a step above R18+ content, which typically 
includes adult themes.

The online users' lobby group Electronic Frontiers Australia 
expressed fears that the internet filters could be used as a 
bargaining chip every time the Government needed to pass a piece of 
important legislation.

"Any group with an axe to grind and political clout will be lobbying 
the Government to blacklist websites which they object to," EFA 
spokesman Dale Clapperton said.

"Having all Australians' internet access subject to a secret and 
unaccountable government blacklist is completely unacceptable in a 
liberal democracy such as Australia."

Clapperton said most adult pornography on the internet was already 
"prohibited content" under the Act, and pro-euthanasia, pro-anorexia 
and pro-piracy websites could easily be caught by the system.

Today, such prohibited content, if hosted overseas, is added to 
ACMA's blacklist but Australians are still able to access it if they 
wish. This would not be the case if mandatory ISP filtering was introduced.

"Senator Conroy talks about blocking access to 'illegal material', 
but the ACMA blacklist of 'prohibited content' is not limited to 
material which is illegal - it includes X-rated material, and R-rated 
material unless it is protected by a government-approved restricted 
access system," he said.

Greens Senator Scott Ludlam expressed similar concerns when grilling 
Senator Conroy in Senate Estimates last week.

He said all sorts of politically sensitive material could be added to 
the blacklist and otherwise legitimate sites - for example, YouTube - 
could be rendered inaccessible based on content published by users.

"The blacklist ... can become very grey depending on how expansive 
the list becomes - euthanasia material, politically related material, 
material about anorexia. There is a lot of distasteful stuff on the 
internet," Senator Ludlam said.

John Lindsay, carrier relations manager at Internode, said: "I don't 
see that what Fielding has just described to you is necessarily any 
different to what the public should expect from the Government's as 
yet unstated filtering regime, because we haven't got a clear 
explanation as to what the Government's actual mandatory blacklist looks like."

The Opposition's communication spokesman, Nick Minchin, said it would 
take "a lot of convincing" for the Coalition to support the 
Government's filtering plan.

"That's the problem with having this sort of highly centralised 
government-mandated nationwide filtering system," Senator Minchin 
told the Herald in a telephone interview.

"The argy-bargy that would result over what is in and what is out 
strikes me as being almost impossible to manage and it would be a cat 
chasing its tail."

The Government's own laboratory trials have found that presently 
available filters are not capable of distinguishing adequately 
between legal and illegal content and can degrade internet speeds by 
up to 86 per cent.

Despite this, and significant opposition from ISPs, the Government 
will soon seek expressions of interest from telcos seeking to be part 
of a live trial of the filters.



Melbourne, Victoria, Australia
jwhit at janwhitaker.com
business: http://www.janwhitaker.com
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~Madeline L'Engle, writer

Writing Lesson #54:
Learn to love revision. Think of it as polishing the silver for 
guests. - JW, May, 2007
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