[LINK] Hey, Senator - leave us discerning viewers of pornography alone
brd at iimetro.com.au
Sat Jan 24 14:46:10 AEDT 2009
Hey, Senator - leave us discerning viewers of pornography alone
January 24, 2009
The famous maxim "I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the
death your right to say it" was never actually uttered by Voltaire. It
was the work of an upright lady named Evelyn Hall, summarising his
attitudes in her book, The Friends Of Voltaire. An exacting biographer,
she was aghast to find the quote misattributed. And she might rethink
writing it at all in the era of the internet.
In any case, Stephen Conroy probably wouldn't let her.
In case you hadn't heard, Senator Stephen Conroy, the Communications
Minister, will soon serve Australians a smut-free internet. Or, at the
very least, he'll soon supervise the audition for his sanitised feed.
Late last year he announced it on his now-defunct blog. Any day now,
some of Australia's internet service providers - the companies you pay
for your web access - will join in a pilot of the minister's filter.
It will defend to the death our right to be spared from digital filth.
Part of the Federal Government's cyber-safety plan, the initiative will
block content blacklisted by the Australian Communications and Media
Authority. It is claimed the blacklist will prohibit access to child
pornography - and no rational person would argue with that. Not even
Evelyn Hall or Voltaire. And certainly not me.
Nonetheless, rational people are arguing with a scheme that could block
anything a government authority doesn't fancy.
Last November, Conroy said the blacklist would filter child-porn sites
as well as "other unwanted content". How untoward those "other" sites
might be is not a matter for public discussion. The authority's list is
Naturally, advocates for free speech are troubled and one might say
their concerns have been answered with dogged piety. "If people equate
freedom of speech with watching child pornography, then the Rudd Labor
Government is going to disagree," Conroy said in 2007.
According to some, this particular ministerial blogger has been nothing
short of bolshie. To those who fear their speech will be stifled, or
their net access slowed, he has offered a stubborn response: if you're
opposed to the department's cyber-safety plan, you are opposed to the
protection of children.
His evangelical logic seems lost on many, and not only civil liberties
groups who are unhappy with his Reverend Lovejoy decree. Much of the IT
community is adamant the clean feed will slow our connectivity. Normally
moderate thinkers are horrified that we're taking cultural cues from
China and North Korea. Even some child protection workers gently suggest
that federal attention and funds would be better disbursed elsewhere.
Nonetheless, it remains difficult to counter the
won't-someone-think-of-the-children reasoning without being branded a
perve. Upright people are trying, though. They've been loud and eloquent
in their censure.
It's time for the less seemly to have their say. It's time for fans of
Voltaire, and his civil biographer, Miss Hall, to defend to the death
the tastes of people like me. It's time to ask: "Won't someone think of
the porn fans?"
I enjoy pornography. Perhaps not quite so much as I enjoy living among
citizens who take an entitlement to free speech for granted. But I do
like it quite a lot. And it seems that my porn is endangered.
If Conroy's clean feed works, which some tech sceptics argue that it
cannot, it will prevent access to all pornography. According to the
interpretation of Electronic Frontiers Australia and other advocates,
the clean feed will mean that garden-variety X-rated material may not be
viewed online in Australian territory. Further, R18+ content will be
prohibited. And MA15+ sites hosted in Australia will probably go as
well. According to the communication authority's criteria, everything
saucy must go.
This will certainly save many Australian adults thousands of hours. This
will possibly save a handful of unsupervised minors from harm.
But not many. As a keen internet hobbyist, I can report that one doesn't
simply amble into X-rated or even R18+ material. One must actively seek
it. I have become adept at this; children, presumably, have not. And if
they have, clearly they are the issue of the world's most reprehensible
parents and should be sent to live with Hetty Johnston forthwith.
The usefulness of the World Wide Web is threatened by Conroy. I have
found the medium terribly instructive. When I am lacking culinary
inspiration, I will browse a recipe database. When my writing is
misfiring, I catch up with The New Yorker. And when my boudoir has
become as flavourless as my writing or my food, I go to a website that
propriety will not permit me to divulge.
I am very grateful for the DIY stylings of my internet teachers. And I
imagine many others are grateful for the inspiration that gushes from
these amateur couplings as well.
Despite the best efforts of some, there is no evidence that pornography
will negatively affect me or other consenting adults.
The only lasting effect of my access to porn is a reflex giggle when the
pizza delivery man knocks on my door.
Helen Razer is an author and broadcaster.
brd at iimetro.com.au
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