Big Brother ALP seeks to censor internet

Issue 

On December 13 hundreds of people rallied in all Australian capital cities to protest against the federal Labor government's plan to censor the internet.

The Digital Liberty Coalition (DLC) organized rallies to protest Rudd's proposed implementation of an internet filter. The filter will "restrict adults to material only suitable for MA15+ audience, and introduce mandatory censorship of the internet", a press release from the group stated.

In a speech to parliament on November 13, Senator Stephen Conroy, Minister for Broadband, Communications and the Digital Economy, defended the government's plan on the grounds of censoring "unwanted content".

"While the ACMA's [Australian Communications and Media Authority] blacklist is currently around 1300 URLs, the pilot will test against this list - as well as filtering for a range of URLs to around 10,000 - so that the impacts on network performance of a larger blacklist can be examined," he said.

The proposed filter will be mandatory for all Australian household internet connections, with an optional "opt out" clause providing a "clean" internet feed.

Test results released in June 2008 by the ACMA found the proposed filter has major problems. The filter routinely allowed content that should be blocked, incorrectly blocked harmless content and slowed network speeds by up to 87 per cent.

An ALP policy document on internet censorship, Labor's Plan for Cyber-safety, argues the filter will help stop "cyber-bullying and child pornography".

But an article in the December 1 Sydney Morning Herald by Asher Moses refuted the idea that censorship will assist in the fight against child pornography.

Moses interviewed Holly Doel-Mackaway, an adviser with Save the Children. Doel-Mackaway told the SMH the filter scheme was "fundamentally flawed" because it failed to tackle the problem at the source and would inadvertently block legitimate resources. Doel-Mackaway said "children are exposed to the abusive behaviours of adults often and we need to be preventing the causes of violence against children in the community, rather than blocking it from people's view".

The proposed filter will cost taxpayers up to $44.2 million, with the possibility of implementation costs for Internet Service Providers being passed on to internet consumers through increases in connection charges.

At the Sydney rally against internet censorship, Fiona Patten from the Sex Party said "if the government was really concerned about child pornography this funding would be better spent on that problem alone".

Another speaker at the Sydney rally, Samuel Russell from the DLC, warned that the internet censorship could extend to suicide, adult sex problems, fetishes, anorexia, breast cancer and other health issues. Trials of the filtering system will begin in late December. If deemed successful by the government it is scheduled to proceed early in 2009.

DLC are planning another protest action called "March in March" where activists will convene in Canberra and march on Parliament.

[For more information about the campaign against internet censorship visit http://dlc.asn.au].