[LINK] Jenny Macklin's response to my fax about Internet censorship

Robin Whittle rw at firstpr.com.au
Fri Aug 20 16:20:54 AEST 2010

On 11 August I faxed or emailed various senators, candidates and our
local (Jaga Jaga) MHR, Jenny Macklin (Labor Minister for Families,
Housing, Community Services and Indigenous Affairs).  I wrote
primarily about mandatory ISP filtering - stating that because of this
policy, I would be voting for the Greens, the Coalition and with Labor
third.  I also mentioning the unrealistic nature of NBN.  I
supportively mentioned Labor’s industrial relations policies and the
quarantining of welfare payments.

The only response has been a personally signed letter from Jenny
Macklin, which arrived today.  I know she has a staff of people to do
this, but she and her team went to considerable trouble to do this.  I
doubt it is a form letter.

The last part refers to ISPs in other countries which voluntarily
attempt to block URLs concerning child abuse material - but this is a
narrower definition than "RC", and quite different from a government
imposing mandatory filtering.  There's no reference for these claims.

It doesn't address my concern about a government department deciding,
in secret (subject to some kind of overview and appeals process) what
Australian adults are and are not allowed to communicate via their
ISPs - via protocols other than HTTP and ordinary webservers.

The list would be generally secret, and there's very little to stop
lawmakers outlawing any actions, statements, websites or software
which would facilitate someone bypassing the filters.  Search engines
would surely need to filter their results, especially the image
results, since the ISP filters couldn't block individual images, or
text snippets from search results.  The only alternative would be to
blocking access to such search engines.   It would be easy to put
incitement to crime or terrorism on a page so it is returned as the
text snippet in a Google search result.

Here is a transcript, complete with errant apostrophe.

  - Robin

Thank you for writing to me with your views on the ISP filter.

Federal Labor believes that while the internet offers fantastic
opportunities, governments have a responsibility to put in place
measures that ensure Australians, in particular children, have a safe
experience online.

I understand you have concerns about the ISP filter proposal.  There
is no silver bullet solution to cyber-safety.  That's why Federal
Labor's $125.8 million Cyber-Safety Plan consists of a comprehensive
range of measures encompassing education, law enforcement, research
and mandatory Internet Service Provider (ISP) filtering of Refused
Classification (RC) content.

Under the plan:

   *  Ongoing funding has been allocated to expand the Australian
      Federal Police Child Protection Unit by 91 police officers.

   *  Funding has been provided for education programs which have
      reached 144,000 parents, teachers and students through the
      delivery of the Outreach program. Cyber-safety education
      resources are being delivered by the Australian Communications
      and Media Authority through a new Cybersmart website
      including a 24 hour counselling service provided by Kids
      Helpline (1800 551 800).

   *  Membership of the Consultative Working Group - comprising
      industry, child protection advocates and government, was
      expanded to consider all aspects of cyber-safety faced by
      Australian children.

   *  A Youth Advisory Group of 500 children aged 8 to 17 has been
      established to provide valuable advice to Government on cyber-
      safety issues from a young person's perspective.

   *  Following completion of a live pilot of ISP level filtering
      the Government announced enhancements to its cyber-safety plan
      including: introduction of mandatory ISP level filtering of
      content that is rated Refused Classification (RC).  We will
      also introduce a grants program to encourage ISP's to offer
      additional level filtering services to households who want

Refused Classification (RC) content includes child sexual abuse
imagery, bestiality, sexual violence, detailed instruction in crime,
violence or drug use and/or material that advocates the doing of a
terrorist act.

Under Australia's existing classification regulations refused
classification (RC) material is not available in newsagencies, it is
not on library shelves, you cannot watch it on a DVD or at the cinema
and it is not show on television. Moreover, refused classification
(RC) material is not available on Australian hosted websites.

Federal Labor's proposal will bring the treatment of overseas hosted
content into line by requiring ISPs to block overseas content that has
been identified as being RC-rated.

In 15 Western democracies - including many countries in Europe (such
as the United Kingdom, Sweden, Norway) ISPs already use the same
technology to block URLs mostly of child sexual abuse material. They
do this on a voluntary basis.

The Labor Government understands that the public needs to have
confidence that the material blocked under Internet Service Provider
(ISP) level filtering, and the process by which it gets there, is
independent, rigorous, free from interference or influence and has
appropriate review mechanisms.

That is why after public consultation the Labor Government has
committed to a comprehensive suite of transparency and accountability
measures to accompany the introduction of the filter:

  *  An annual review of the Refused Classification (RC) Content list
     by an independent expert who will be appointed in consultation
     with industry.

  *  Clear avenues for appeal of classification decisions.

  *  That all content identified on the basis of a public complaint
     be classified by the Classification Board under the National
     Classification Scheme.

  *  That affected parties have the ability to have decisions
     reviewed by the Classification Review Board.

More information on the complete suite of transparency and
accountability measures can be found at
http://www.dbcde.gov.au/transparency_measures .

The Labor Government understands there is a community debate about
what material should be included in the Refused Classification (RC)

That is why the Labor Government is also seeking a review of the
Refused Classification (RC) category before any obligation on ISPs is
implemented for mandatory blocking of Refused Classification (RC)
content, to ensure that this classification reflects current community

In the meantime, the Labor Government welcomes the announcement that
three of Australia's largest ISPs - Telstra, Optus and Primus
representing around 70% of end users - have agreed to voluntarily
block at the ISP level, a list of child abuse URLs compiled and
maintained by the independent regulator, the Australian Communications
and Media Authority.

This approach is consistent with what is happening around the world:

  *  In the United Kingdom, ISPs representing 95 per cent of end users
     block URLs of child abuse material.

  *  In Canada, it is almost 90%.

  *  In Denmark it is 99 per cent and in Sweden its 85 per cent.

Thank you again for writing to me on this issue.

   Yours sincerely

   Jenny Macklin

19 August 2010

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