Mandatory Internet censorship

 I wanted to post something about this issue on the weekend but I found that I could post nothing but quick  posts. I think that the very bad weather effected my internet connections, as some friends also had problems using internet resources. There are still no pictures or videos for the moment. So here is a post, a little late but nevertheless I wanted to say something.

I found it really interesting that the Australia-wide protest against the government’s mandatory internet censorship plan was not mentioned by the major news networks. Most of the protests in the state capital cities were to begin between 11 am and 12 noon. The weather was terrible in Melbourne on Saturday but there were hardy people who turned up.

I was at a local bookshop, discussing the problems that the Government’s proposed filter may cause, with a young man who works there. He spoke very eloquently against the proposal but had to work rather than be at the protest. I was buying books and finishing up tasks that I had to do. I felt guily that I didn’t go in to the city, as the issue has concerned me for quite a while.  

The Commonwealth government’s plan proposes to introduce filters that would not, for instance, have blocked any of the 15,000 child porn videos and half a million child abuse images uncovered by police in a major operation early last week. The filter can only filter websites, not the traffic on peer-to-peer networks, which seems to me, to be where most of the pornographic material would be found.

The Australian government released a report detailing the results of a trial of six potential filters on the 28th of July this year.

The report included the following statistics:

  • Internet speeds dropped between 21% and 86%. The most accurate filter was also the one with the greatest drop in speed.
  • Content that the filters failed to block ranged from 2% to 13%
  • Content blocked by mistake ranged from 1.3% to 7.8%

This means that there will be many websites blocked by accident, caught up by the indiscriminate filters. These could include those on issues such as sexual health or breast cancer.  Legitimate websites that may be attacked by hackers or spammed with porn will again be blocked, and to unblock them will be near to impossible. Websites that are considered to be supporting criminal activities will be blocked. Good, you may say but this will also block sites that, for example, discuss euthanasia, especially if they are deemed to be supporting it.

Then there is the issue about how short-sighted this policy is when we are preparing our young people to be responsible internet users, good digital citizens, rather than passive sponges, unprepared for, and uncritical of, the global world.

Lauren O’Grady on her All teachers are learners….blog has written several really good postsabout the filters. I replied to her latest blog with this: 

An interesting note is that none of the major media services have said/reported very much on the proposed Government filter/censorship plans. The protest on Saturday did not seem to rate a mention at all? Do they think that this will not have an adverse effect on their own sites? Why are basic civil rights issues not a major issue? Why aren’t there more investigative pieces on what this will actually do? Many of the parents who do not spend much time in the digital world see only the quote “protect the children” but, as we know, there are so many holes in this argument. Filtering in schools is a major “pain in the neck” when you are trying to teach students about responsible and safe use of the resources that could be made available otherwise. So many good/useful sites are sweep up by the filters. How can we get the message out that straight banning/filtering is not the answer but learning about responsible digital citizenship comes from (or should) learning and teaching in a the safe environment of the home and at school. Teaching our young people to be critical and responsive users not passive victims of the vagaries of the internet, is the best way to protect them.

Tania Sheko also wrote a very pertinent comment:

Two things:
If parents (anyone) fall for the sensationalist headlines ‘protect our children’, etc. then education may have failed them in terms of critical reading.

Also,
when I was growing up I attended a Russian language Saturday school within a community of old immigrant Russians whose experiences back in the old country were negative (eg. my great-grandfather shot by communists), and consequently the teachers and parents were paranoid about communism anywhere. I remember a woman spent much of her time censoring our textbooks which inevitably came from Russia, painstakingly gluing pages together or ruling thick black texta lines over words we should never lay our eyes on, eg. ‘soviet’ and ‘pioneers’. We were fascinated and went to great lengths to unglue or look through the light to see the tantalisingly forbidden words.

If, like me you are concerned about what is being proposed, you can go to NoCleanFeed and learn more about the plans and register your concerns.

There is an  official petition is available at http://www.wakinggiant.org/au_censorship.htm. The petition is open to all Australian citizens. Anyone who signs it must add their address, failing to do so may render a signature void. There as also a very good on this site, YouTube video you can watch and link to.

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3 Responses

  1. This seems to me a case of Australia censoring people’s rights to access what they need- the governments role is not to judge what ‘they think we need’ but rather act on the voice of it’s people regarding any issue that arises.
    If we are not even aware of these issues, and they continue with their plans to ‘modify’ things without our knowledge, this puts a spanner in their way of ‘democratic thinking’.. kind of ironic isn’t it?
    I’m disgusted that I was not aware, and I’m not at all impressed with their proposal.

    • You are right, it is not the role of any government to decide what we need. A lot of people are not happy, but it seems that there are some (who, it seems, do not often use the internet resources) who are very vocal and can be scared by what they are not familiar with. The rest of us must make sure that the government minister knows that we want to regulate our own use.

  2. […] before and why it is limiting to the learning going on in schools, as well as having a good rant about our own government trialling a filter to protect us […]

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