>Won’t somebody think of the chiiiiildren?

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Revised Coat of Arms from siteblocker.org – go have a look if you want a taste of what the ‘clean feed’ internet experience in Australia could be like.

Oh yes, somebody will always think of the chiiiiiildren, at least for a given value of ‘think’. And in Australia one of the poeple doing that ‘thinking’ is Communications Minister Stephen Conroy, one of our Victorian Senators and one with some Victorian fucking attitudes. And what he thinks is a good thing for the chiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiildren is for Australia’s internet access to be filtered by the government at ISP level, the so called ‘clean feed’ I talked about a few months ago.

The clean feed is basically internet censorship, pure and simple. It’s the responsibility, if not bastard brainchild, of Authoritarian Lackwit Party Australian Labour Party Senator Stephen Conroy, and in my opinion he’s either a complete window licker who must have been born yesterday to believe that this loony scheme will work, a gold plated sucker who has been so completely taken in by some slick internet filtering salesmen that he can’t bear to go back on it and admit he’s been taken (along with the Australian taxpayers) for a ride, or a thoroughly nasty authoritarian nanny stater who doesn’t give a rip that the whole idea is hopelessly flaw ridden because we poor stupid citizens need our hands held out there in the howwible electwonic world of the internet…

The reasons I’m against this are simple. First, for various reasons broadband internet connection in Australia is a bit hit and miss, is often not as fast as customers would like, and is fairly pricey compared to the UK. … The sometimes less than speedy and generally pricy Australian internet connections will become slower and more expensive. This is not speculation… While you’re at it would you like to pop round my house tonight and charge me $1000 for jamming my car in 1st gear?

Secondly, it won’t fucking work. … We know that a large proportion (circa 10%) of dodgy sites will slip through the cracks while a smaller but still significant proportion (1-6%) of innocent sites will be blocked by accident. Let’s put that into the context of the war in the Middle East shall we? Imagine if Sen Conroy was involved in the Dept of Defense instead and proposed a new bomb for the RAAF that worked about 90% of the time and would generally inflict up to 6% civilian casualties wherever it was used. Your average ALP supporter would swear they were listening to a right wing abomination who should be taken out into the middle of the Simpson Desert and staked out to roast alive in the sun while going mad from the heat, thirst, pain and carrion feeding on his living flesh. But because it’s the internet and this is all “for the chiiild-ren” he’s a fucking saint.

… third, experts are pointing out that the technically savvy can and will find ways to defeat the filtering… As one blogger puts it:

Real-world experience in everything from spam filters to the record industry’s futile attempts to stop copyright violations always shows that filters only block casual users. Professionals, the desperate or the persistent will always get through.

However if a politician demands a filter, pretty soon a shiny-suited salesman will appear, ready to sell him a box with “filter” written on the front. It’ll work — well enough for the demo, anyway.

“Look, Minister! Nice Minister. Watch the screen. See? Filter off, bad website is visible. Filter on, bad website gone. Filter off. Child in danger. Filter on. Child happy and safe. Filter off. Voter afraid and angry. Filter on. Voter relaxed and comfortable. Cheque now please.”

Fourth is the phrase “illegal and inappropriate content” … Inappropriate? That sounds very much like it’s synonymous with “perfectly legal but we don’t want you to see it or think you can handle it if we let you”. Who the fuck is the government to decide what we can or can’t look at in our homes? Who the fuck are they to decide that something legal may not be appropriate? More worryingly … we won’t even know what and how much we are being prevented from seeing [or] what is being added to the lists (it’s a given that not very much will be taken off) and when…

Fifth this is a lowest common denominator approach. Personally I don’t use the web for porn but … because the internet is accessible to anyone old enough to switch a computer on the fucking government intends to treat everybody like fucking toddlers. Look, I’m in my 30s and I’ve been to German sex shows and watched some hard core Dutch porn, and if I choose to do so again it’s my decision and I should not be prevented from doing so by this brainless one-size-doesn’t-fit-anyone policy of yours. Fuck off, you patronizing bastards. Fuck. Off. And. Die.

Sixth is the anti-nanny state argument. Whose children are you protecting? They are not children of the Government of the Commonwealth of Australia you vile cunts… It is a parental responsibility to keep an eye on what websites children look at in the same way that it is to be aware of what games they play, what TV they watch and whose company they keep. Yes, the internet is technical and challenging for some parents, but Jesus Christ how technical do you need to be to look over their shoulders now and again? And if you’re concerned how technical must you be to pull the fucking plug out of the wall? …

As I said, a window licker, a sucker for a vaguely convincing sales pitch or a nasty authoritarian – probably all of them actually. And not long after I wrote that we had the whole Wikileaks website blacklist business followed in short order by an admission that the filter won’t even fucking stop child porn, which I understood was one of, if not the, main reason for having the fucking thing in the first place.

But of course it was never going to stop there, was it? Not when governments set themselves up as moral guardians and not when ministers of a deeply religious persuasion are inevitably influenced by their personal beliefs*. And sure enough it isn’t stopping there because now computer games are being added to the list of things Conroy wants to censor.

The Federal Government has now set its sights on gamers, promising to use its internet censorship regime to block websites hosting and selling video games that are not suitable for 15 year olds.

Separately, the Communications Minister, Stephen Conroy, has been nominated by the British ISP industry for its annual “internet villain” award, competing alongside the European Parliament and French President Nicolas Sarkozy.

True, he really is in line for a prize “for continuing to promote network-level blocking despite significant national and international opposition”. Is there anywhere we can vote for the clown? I’d love him to win.

Australia is the only developed country without an R18+ classification for games, meaning any titles that do not meet the MA15+ standard – such as those with excessive violence or sexual content – are simply banned from sale by the Classification Board, unless they are modified to remove the offending content.

So far, this has only applied to local bricks-and-mortar stores selling physical copies of games, but a spokesman for Senator Conroy confirmed that under the filtering plan, it will be extended to downloadable games, flash-based web games and sites which sell physical copies of games that do not meet the MA15+ standard.

This means that even Australians who are aged above 15 and want to obtain the adult-level games online will be unable to do so. It will undoubtedly raise the ire of gamers, the average age of which is 30 in Australia, according to research commissioned by the Interactive Entertainment Association of Australia.

Oh? Adults getting pissed off for being treated like children? D’you think? No shit, Sherlock, though if anyone wants to see for themselves you need only look at articles (and the comments) such as here, here, here and, demonstrating by means of electronic people having sex why Second Life is in the firing line, here. The joke about the last point is the famously liberal attitude to sex in Australia has resulted in legalized brothels across much of the country. If I I go to a sex shop and buy some porno DVDs, or even pay to slip one up some barely legal girl at the nearest knocking shop, it’s all fine, but watching some electronic person with no existence outside a computer doing the horizontal tango with another non-existent electronic person is a big no-no in case kids go to the same site or buy the same game. Similarly a DVD porno might be left lying around where kids can watch it, or even hidden but not quite well enough to prevent your kids finding it. And while this isn’t a problem for the government (actually it probably is but they haven’t come up with a way of policing what goes on inside millions of homes**) it’s enough of an issue online for them to want to block World of Warcraft and fuck up the innocent fun of a group who are mostly adults.

Again, I’m sure the hard core gamers will find ways around this, as will people who really want the smutty stuff (legal and otherwise), and the casual computer user who happens to like online gaming will be the one to suffer. But as I said before and as is made clear in the links, everyone in Australia will be affected by the more expensive and slower internet connections we’ll be forced to pay for. When the fuck is it going to stop? How long will governments insist on fucking up the freedoms of large groups of innocent people, sometimes even a majority of the population, because of the actions of a minutely small number of irresponsible people, or even when nothing’s actually happened and the move comes simply through irrational fear. But as poor as such excuses are that’s not even the worst aspect of this latest nannying move of Senator Conroy’s. The thing is that the government seeks to sideline parental responsibility with that of the state (by which I mean the Commonwealth government rather than at state level), to subvert individual morality with it’s own, and to force that morality on everyone in Australia. Not. Fucking. Acceptable. Aside from the semi-proselytising, even if my morality matched Conroy’s or the Rudd government’s exactly, which it most certainly doesn’t, there’s no guarantee that it would continue to do so in the future. How would Conroy feel if in a few years from now his current position was occupied by a scientologist, and who intended to impose on Australia a morality revolving around 10 million year old reptiles living in volcanoes (or whatever the fuck it is) by means of precedents and technology introduced today? I don’t know the guy but I know quite a few Catholics, and I very much doubt they’d be comfortable with that. But it’s exactly what is being done to everyone anyway, just with a different set of values and morals. Clearly they can’t please everyone so the only logical solution is to make no attempt to please anyone at all. We can still go to churches, temples, mosques and synagogues, and indeed our own life experiences and what our parents told us as children, but the imposition of morality of any kind absolutely must not be a government function.
Start telling them now. Sign the petition (also at the top of this blog) – the clean feed must be stopped. For those outside Australia all I can say is don’t let the bastards start.
UPDATE: An interesting comparison between the Clean Feed filter and the Iranian government’s actions with regard to the internet is made at Thoughts on Freedom.

… we learned that the Iranian government was using technology supplied by Nokia and Siemens to detect ’subversive activity’ on the internet, and the cell phone network. And they used it to censor data and shut down the protests. Naughty Nokia and Siemens.
Now Slashdot reports that two US senators (Schumer and Graham) want to punish Nokia and Siemens for providing that technology. Apparently supplying governments with the technology to restrict internet access is an evil thing to do.
Funny thing is, there are many governments with that this kind of technology. Including the US, and including Australia.
In fact Uncle Kevin is part way through an internet filtering trial which would stop us mere citizens from accessing ‘unwanted’ material (so ‘unwanted’, apparently that we wouldn’t want to access it anyway).
Are they willing to punish multinationals for selling that technology to Australia as well – or just to Axes of Evil?
Selling internet censorship technology must be only evil if it it is sold to bad governments, not to good governments. Because we all know that the likes of Uncle Kev would never abuse their power.

Not terribly flattering for Kev and Steve, but perfectly fair if you ask me.

UPDATE 2: China ahead of Australia on internet freedom? Hmm, could be. Fucking hell!
H/T Shibby.
*Yes, you could say that of everyone and I’ll happily admit that if I had Conroy’s job my beliefs would be a massive influence, but since my beliefs are about leaving people alone I’d force precisely fuck all on anyone else and let them decide these things for themselves instead. Conroy’s beliefs seem to be that government should be the nation’s morality policeman which means 20 million people have to conform to what he and his government colleagues feel is appropriate – I stress appropriate since we’re not necessarily talking illegal content.
**Yet.

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Posted on July 1, 2009, in Uncategorized and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Comments Off on >Won’t somebody think of the chiiiiildren?.

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