Monday, November 03, 2008

Flirting with Absurdity

During the election campaign a bunch of aussie blogs sported a message to Kev:

Well, on the question of internet filtering (as Kev would say), they're fucking it up. They need to man-up and admit they're wrong.

The clean feed proposal won't stop the bad people and will inconvenience the good people. It's like putting half a dozen deadlocks on your doors and then leaving a ground floor window open. It's a really bad idea.

The fact that you're reading this means you're a bright, forward-thinking net user, so no doubt you'll already have come across stories about the government's clean feed proposal. Allow me to note down a quick synopsis:

March 06
- Kim Beazley promises clean feed

June 07
- ACMA kicks off filter test process as directed by then minister Helen Coonan

December 07
- Newly-elected ALP government announces cleanfeed to go ahead

Early 08
- Closed environment tests conducted in Tasmania

June 08
- ACMA report released

July 08
- Conroy welcomes test report

September 08
- Mark Newton posts that the only opt-out option seems to be switching from blacklist 1 to blacklist 2 ie no opt-out option

Early October 08
- Bloggers pick up the nugget and run with it. MSM catches up two weeks later.

Late October 08
- Creative responses abound
- The Great Firewall of Australia becomes the subject of discussion in the dying days of The Media Report on RN. Conroy talks intent, Mark Pesce talks practicalities.
- Mark Pesce's Clean Feeds piece on ABC's Unleashed observes Twitter as awareness-raiding/organising medium, comments credit blogs (namely and Facebook groups (No Clean Feed has 2805 members, No Australian Internet Censorship has 10103 members and People Against Mandatory Internet Filters in Australia has 771 members as at 02 Nov 08) as well as a cause page.

02 Nov 08
- Tech Wired Australia proposes "Stop It, Don't Block It" as counter-campaign slogan, register the domain after podcast recording.
There's a much more comprehensive timeline on the OCAU wiki.

On The Media Report, Conroy pulled out something akin to a party-line Nuremburg defense:
"This is a long-standing election commitment. We made this commitment back when Kim Beazley was leader of the Labor Party, so just to give you an indication, this is a long-standing position we've been advocating."
This is disingenuous on several fronts: Firstly Mr Conroy, you dumped Beazley, so you don't owe him anything as far as implementing his proposals goes. Secondly, when Big Kim announced the plan, he didn't say anything about it being mandatory for all. He said
[ISP] "will be required to offer a filtered "clean feed" internet service"
not that it would be forced upon us and he also said there'd be an opt-out option. Choice was still on the table. Thirdly, just because Coonan directed ACMA to test and report, it doesn't mean you have to implement. You're the Minister remember? Beazley and Coonan might have laid the tracks, but you're in control of the train now and you can still stop it (and all of the parasitic special interest groups) before it derails.

Or has it already? Excuse me while I jot down some incompletely formed scenarios (feel free to tear them apart, propose alternatives in comments):

Worst Case:

Proposal implemented as it stands. Special interest groups (Fielding, Xenophon) get their 'legal-but-immoral' content banned. Speed drops, people flock to TOR, P2P nets and VPNs to get to the content they want. No political fallout for Rudd or Conroy.

Best of the worst cases:

Proposal implemented as it stands. ALP sticks to filtering content based on existing crimes legislation only, tells special interest groups to go jump. Speed drops, people still flock to alternative means and circumvent filters. Rudd & Conroy lose tech sector support/votes.

Best case for Kevin:

Rudd sees that the filter stands in the way of a decent national broadband strategy. Announces that he has considered the kevidence of blocked tubes, speed drops, ease of circumvention etc and announces another study/review. This gets the comparisons with Iran and China off the front pages and gives everyone a chance to provide submissions (yay, more kevidence). Not so good for Conroy, being slapped down by the PM. Actually, maybe not so good for Rudd either, what with him exercising Howard-like control of cabinet.

Best case for Conroy:

Having trouble with this one; maybe it's all too far gone for Conroy to have any redemption at all. If he keeps going, he joins a club already populated by Harradine, Ruddock, Vanstone and Howard. If he backs down he risks being seen as hating Laura Norder.

Best case for everybody:

The whole idea is nixed. Rudd wakes up after another night at Scores, decides parenting should be left to parents. Reallocates filter funds to education, health. Sets up skunkworks to design wowser filters.
We shouldn't, nay mustn't, just hope for the best and prepare for the worst. You have to let your elected representatives know what you think of this proposal before it's implemented. No Clean Feed has several options for action, but I would recommend letters. Real printed letters, signed and sent in real envelopes with real stamps. Postcards run a close second. They're real, tangible. E-mails and online petitions might get the same content across, but there's something about a real tangible letter/postcard that I think gets the message across better, especially on issues of importance. One person I know has written to Conroy, the communications shadow minister (Nick Minchin) and his members (federal and territory) and I plan to match him. If you're not confident writing a letter, there are plenty of templates around: 1, 2, 3, 4.

If you've gotten through all that, and you've printed, signed & sent your letters, you deserve a video:

No Clean Feed - Stop Internet Censorship in Australia


Posted by Dean @ 11/03/2008 12:15:00 pm

Read or Post a Comment

Hear hear!

Posted by Anonymous Anonymous @ Monday, November 03, 2008 12:47:00 pm #

Mike Meloni just tweeted a link to a really good piece on Gizmodo Aus:

Posted by Blogger Dean @ Monday, November 03, 2008 1:03:00 pm #

You Have Every Right To Be Angry on Gizmodo Aus

Posted by Blogger Dean @ Monday, November 03, 2008 1:04:00 pm #

An update from Mark Newton, featuring the 8 key problems with the Clean Feed proposal:

1. No problem to solve,
2. no public demand to solve it,
3. Government's proposed solutions won't work,
4. even if they worked they're unreliable,
5. even if they were reliable they're too expensive,
6. even if they were affordable they'll be implemented by the same class of scope-creeping bureaucrats who decided Mr. Haneef was a terrorist,
7. even if they could be implemented perfectly the blacklist would leak, and
8. when a perfect blacklist leaks it'll enable child exploitation all over the planet, with the direct assistance of the Commonwealth of Australia and Senator Stephen Conroy.

Lots of ifs there that the gov need to sort out.

Posted by Blogger Dean @ Tuesday, November 04, 2008 11:09:00 am #
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