[LINK] SMH: 'Facebook leads attack on internet filter'

Roger Clarke Roger.Clarke at xamax.com.au
Tue Mar 22 08:33:12 AEDT 2011

[Comments at end.]

Facebook leads attack on internet filter
Dylan Welch
The Sydney Morning Herald
March 22, 2011

FACEBOOK and three of Australia's largest web companies have 
criticised Labor's planned mandatory internet filter, saying it is 
not the answer to protecting Australians from the web's worst 

The comments - by security experts who are employed by Yahoo, 
ninemsn, Microsoft and the social networking pioneer Facebook - were 
delivered during a hearing of the joint select committee on cyber 
safety, formed to inquire into how best to protect Australian 
children online.

[One identified himself as 'MS Security Adviser', but spoke like a 
salesman, not a security person.  The other three were Regulatory & 
Legal / Govt Relations / i.e. glorified P.R.  Not a security expert 
amongst them.]

'I would hate for the public to get the wrong impression that there 
is a quick technological solution for inappropriate content, because 
there isn't,'' Facebook's chief privacy adviser, Mozelle Thompson, 
told the committee.

The views are in stark contrast with those of the Communications 
Minister, Stephen Conroy, who has championed a mandatory filter since 
it was announced in 2007.

Online identity fraud and distribution of child abuse images has 
grown sharply in recent years. Mr Thompson said Facebook banned as 
many as 20,000 user accounts a day. Some are blocked due to 
inappropriate content.

Labor's proposed filter will prevent blacklisted websites from being 
allowed past Australian internet service providers. That would mean 
Australians would be unable to access those sites.

Opponents of the filter, which include Google and the US government, 
argue it would not only be unable to stop inappropriate material from 
slipping through, it sets a dangerous precedent for web censorship.

The companies' responses came after a question asked by the Liberal 
backbencher and filter opponent Alex Hawke.

''Our view is that that decision was made very quickly and that we 
believe that it would be good to see the possibility of a voluntary 
program explored,'' ninemsn's Jennifer Duxbury said.

She said voluntary filters had worked well overseas.

Yesterday a spokeswoman for Senator Conroy issued a media release 
responding to the companies' comments. ''There is no silver bullet 
when it comes to cyber safety,'' the statement said.

[When a journo has their heart set on a story, there's always a way 
to get that story out the door.

[The only two quotes the reporter uses to justify the story are 
accurate, but the tone of the three Australian organisations was 
actually highly conciliatory.  The quote from Duxbury was the closest 
to a 'no' that any of them gave.  I don't see how bending the facts 
like this helps the discussion.  If anything, it confirms to 
filtering proponents and Conroy that their opponents will do anything 
to beat them and *must* therefore be evil.

[And we have to be very careful about this 'voluntary' word used in 
the context of a filter.  At one extremity is 'personal choice' (both 
within the users' own device and by means of a '[pseudo-]clean feed' 
by ISPs, provided that clean-feed is merely an option).  At the other 
extremity is 'mandatory'.  The interpretation that moral panic 
extremists will make of 'voluntary' is that it's a mandatory scheme 
implemented voluntarily by ISPs.

[Use of the term 'voluntary filtering' by Internet policy thinkers 
has to be avoided, and use by other people attacked on the basis that 
it's a trojan horse for 'mandatory'.

Roger Clarke                                 http://www.rogerclarke.com/
Xamax Consultancy Pty Ltd      78 Sidaway St, Chapman ACT 2611 AUSTRALIA
                    Tel: +61 2 6288 1472, and 6288 6916
mailto:Roger.Clarke at xamax.com.au                http://www.xamax.com.au/

Visiting Professor in the Cyberspace Law & Policy Centre      Uni of NSW
Visiting Professor in Computer Science    Australian National University

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