Monday, December 31, 2007

Stephen Conroy storms into censorship teacup

If there was any question about whether the incoming Labor government in Australia - in the form of Stephen Conroy, the new minister for geeks - had any more clue about IT than the last lot, it has just been answered with the news of the latest Australian Internet censorship hoo-hah. Last time this issue was raised in .au several years ago there were demonstrations in the streets, much uproar, weeks of press coverage... and when we got a look at it in action once the bureaucrats had actually implemented it, we realised that it was pretty much like a DMCA takedown system but just for child porn, and everyone forgot about it as a bad joke.

The plan announced by Conroy goes further, according to the ABC, by involving Internet service providers in their plan to provide "clean" feeds at the ISP level. Notable by their absence from the announcement, however, was any appearances by representatives from the Australian ISP industry. To my mind, this makes this pretty much stillborn regardless of the substance of the proposals. If you haven't got the Internet Industry Association rep standing next to you when making such an announcement, you haven't got the support of the industry, and you're just pissing in the wind.

The IIA did release an interesting document just before Christmas, however, entitled New Rules for Restricting Access to 18+ Content and Commercial MA15+ Internet, Mobile or Fixed Phone. The ABC article is short on detail, but I wonder if today's falderol is just a public airing of this minor regulatory change. These changes were "developed following extensive consultation with carriage service providers, industry associations, content service providers from across a range of media, private individuals, privacy advocacy organisations, consumer organisations and regulatory bodies"... but by the previous Liberal government, not Conroy and the ALP, which would make it rather disingenuous of him!

If this is the content of the hot air being expelled today by Conroy, there are enough holes to suggest that this is going to be another damp squib, but there is also enough FUD for newspaper journalists who have dreams of transferring to the general news desk to big-note themselves by beating the story up into another maelstrom of uninformed, divisive rabble-rousing. I hope the Australian industry will be once bitten, twice shy.

4 Comments:

Anonymous Carsten Dan said...

It could be hot-air, I hope it is hot-air. But if the intent of the government is to censor, then it is a problem.

What the ISP can do is technicalities. They can be overcome, if not now then later. If the law says they have to censor, then they have to censor.

1:15 am, January 01, 2008  
Anonymous Mollyfud said...

Is this the policy that you are writing about: http://www.acma.gov.au/WEB/STANDARD/pc=PC_310905.

If it is, doesn't sound that bad. You signup online to say you are 15+ or 18+!

I don't see how they are going to decide that a site is MA15+ or RA18+. Surely the Classification board is going to be snowed under.

JMTC
Molly

5:41 pm, January 02, 2008  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Let's just hope this is won't get through. Remember, though, Australia's internet censorship laws are already some of the most restrictive in the western world- they're just completely unenforced. Let's hope that won't change.

In any case, you can opt out of this if you really want to. It's pretty slack though.

Oh, and Mr Conroy, just in case you ever come here, or any other pro-censorship fascists, I've got a really good idea on how to protect kids. If you really are worried about them, don't put a computer with internet access in their room!

12:09 pm, January 10, 2008  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

ERROR 404: Democracy not found

11:04 pm, January 31, 2008  

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