[LINK] Harradine back in guise of Fielding
jwhit at janwhitaker.com
Mon Oct 27 17:14:20 EST 2008
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
"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
Our truest response to the irrationality of the world is to paint or
sing or write, for only in such response do we find truth.
~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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