[LINK] Christians upset at Conroy's net policy 'backtrack'

Bernard Robertson-Dunn brd at iimetro.com.au
Wed May 27 16:45:23 EST 2009


Christians upset at Conroy's net policy 'backtrack'
SMH
Asher Moses
May 27, 2009 - 3:16PM
http://www.smh.com.au/articles/2009/05/27/1243103585180.html

The Australian Christian Lobby has accused the Federal Government of 
breaking its election promise to censor the internet after the policy 
was softened in the face of relentless criticism.

The lobby's managing director, Jim Wallace, wants the Government to 
introduce legislation forcing internet providers to block adult and 
pornography material on a mandatory basis, in addition to illegal 
content. Australians would then have to opt in to receive legal adult 
material.

Communications Minister Stephen Conroy has long said his policy would 
introduce compulsory ISP-level filters of the Australian Communications 
and Media Authority's blacklist of prohibited websites.

But he has since backtracked, saying the mandatory filters would only 
block content that has been "refused classification" (RC) - a subset of 
the ACMA blacklist - amid widespread concerns that ACMA's list contains 
a slew of R18+ and X18+ sites, such as regular gay and straight 
pornography and other legal content.

"That doesn't meet the election promise as far as we're concerned at 
all," Wallace said in a phone interview.

"The promise was clearly about providing a safer internet environment 
for children and to do that you need to mandatorily block in the first 
instance pornography and R18+, and then provide an opt-in system for 
those adults who want to access it."

The debate around internet filtering is now distinctly polarised, with 
technical experts and online users' lobby groups arguing that trying to 
censor the internet on a mandatory basis is authoritarian, hinders free 
speech and is doomed to fail, and religious conservatives arguing the 
policy does not go far enough.

Although the new Government plan to block just RC content will not 
prevent adults from surfing for porn, it is still fraught with 
difficulty as the RC category includes not just child pornography but 
anti-abortion sites, fetish sites and sites containing pro-euthanasia 
material such as The Peaceful Pill Handbook by Dr Philip Nitschke.

Sites added to the blacklist in error were also classified as RC, such 
as one containing PG-rated photographs by Bill Henson.

And the websites of several Australian businesses - such as those of a 
Queensland dentist - were classified RC and blacklisted after they were 
hacked by, as Conroy described, "the Russian mob".

They were on the blacklist even though they changed hosting providers 
and cleaned up their sites several years ago.

It is a criminal offence to publish the ACMA blacklist. Details about 
legal material contained on the list and sites that were added to it in 
error were revealed only after the list was leaked and published on the 
online whistleblower site Wikileaks.

To prevent such errors occurring in future and improve transparency, 
Conroy told a Senate Estimates hearing yesterday that the Government was 
considering having the secret blacklist reviewed by a panel of eminent 
Australians or a parliamentary committee.

"It's clear the Government's confused filtering policy will please 
nobody," said Colin Jacobs, spokesman for the online users' lobby group 
Electronic Frontiers Australia.

"By overreaching and making policy on the run they now have an expensive 
plan that ... has alienated internet users, the internet industry and 
even filtering advocates like the Christian lobby."

Eight small internet service providers and Optus are conducting live 
trials of internet filters and are expected to release their results in 
July.

Wallace acknowledged that parents were ultimately responsible for 
protecting their children online but he argued that most parents can't 
keep up with their kids when it comes to technology, so a mandatory 
filter was the only solution.

"It's not the children of responsible parents only that you're concerned 
about here, it's the children of parents who are either bewildered by 
the thing or are not responsible and don't protect their children from 
this unsolicited pornography," he said.

Asked to respond to Wallace's claims that the Government was breaking 
its election promise, a spokesman for Conroy said: "The Government 
understands the position taken by the Australian Christian Lobby and has 
made it clear that the pilot trial will inform the development of our 
filtering policy, including the potential for ISPs to offer optional ISP 
content filtering products to provide families a further level of 
filtering for content such as X and R rated material."

It is a criminal offence to publish the ACMA blacklist. Details about 
legal material contained on the list and sites that were added to it in 
error were revealed only after the list was leaked and published on the 
online whistleblower site Wikileaks.

To prevent such errors occurring in future and improve transparency, 
Conroy told a Senate Estimates hearing yesterday that the Government was 
considering having the secret blacklist reviewed by a panel of eminent 
Australians or a parliamentary committee.

"It's clear the Government's confused filtering policy will please 
nobody," said Colin Jacobs, spokesman for the online users' lobby group 
Electronic Frontiers Australia.

"By overreaching and making policy on the run they now have an expensive 
plan that ... has alienated internet users, the internet industry and 
even filtering advocates like the Christian lobby."

Eight small internet service providers and Optus are conducting live 
trials of internet filters and are expected to release their results in 
July.

Wallace acknowledged that parents were ultimately responsible for 
protecting their children online but he argued that most parents can't 
keep up with their kids when it comes to technology, so a mandatory 
filter was the only solution.

"It's not the children of responsible parents only that you're concerned 
about here, it's the children of parents who are either bewildered by 
the thing or are not responsible and don't protect their children from 
this unsolicited pornography," he said.

Asked to respond to Wallace's claims that the Government was breaking 
its election promise, a spokesman for Conroy said: "The Government 
understands the position taken by the Australian Christian Lobby and has 
made it clear that the pilot trial will inform the development of our 
filtering policy, including the potential for ISPs to offer optional ISP 
content filtering products to provide families a further level of 
filtering for content such as X and R rated material."

-- 
 
Regards
brd

Bernard Robertson-Dunn
Canberra Australia
brd at iimetro.com.au



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