tip off

Another nail in the coffin of Conroy’s Rabbit-Proof Firewall

Is there anyone who reckons trying to filter bad stuff out of the Internet is the right way to go? Or even possible? Apart, that is, from s-x-obsessed panic merchants and moral crusaders, politicians with Senate numbers to count on stubby little fingers, shiny-suited salesmen hawking boxes marked “Rooly-Trooly-Safe Internet Filter”, or cud-munching Luddites who just don’t understand anything about the Internet generally?

Those with a clue are getting sick of pointing out the same policy and technical flaws. But Minister for Denying the Bleeding Obvious Senator Stephen Conroy relentlessly continues his warped version of the trials program set up by Coalition predecessor Helen Coonan.

Filters won’t work because no shut up doesn’t matter let’s try again they don’t work no let’s try again they don’t work let’s try again don’t work try try try try … FFS!

The Rudd government says it’s all about evidence-based policy. Maybe this new report from the US Internet Safety Technical Task Force will help. This panel — a who’s who of Internet heavies —  was set up by 49 state Attorneys General to tackle the problem of children being solicited for s-x online. It discovered there’s actually no significant problem at all.

The problem of bullying among children, both online and offline, poses a far more serious challenge than the sexual solicitation of minors by adults,” reports The New York Times.

In the cases that do exist, the report said, teenagers are typically willing participants and are already at risk because of poor home environments, substance abuse or other problems.”

Colin Jacobs from Electronic Frontiers Australia has trawled through the report in more detail and agrees, filtering won’t deliver for Aussie kids.

Irene Graham is the full bottle on censorship in Australia. Want to debate these issues? Go scour her well-researched even-toned Libertus.net. It’s packed full o’ juicy titbits, like the fact that $2.8 million, which the Howard government allocated to expand the Australian Federal Police’s Online Child S-xual Exploitation Team (OCSET), was instead used by Rudd to help create the $44.5 million internet filter program.

That would’ve been a real help, because OCSET’s entire annual budget in 2007 was only $7.5 million. Instead, OCSET has to palm off cases to the states because they don’t have the staff.

Only half are likely to be investigated by child protection police,” reported the Daily Telegraph .

The rest will be farmed out to local commands or dropped”.

That is, to police without appropriate training.

What a great way to “protect the children”, eh? Take money from the police, where it’d do some good, and instead burn it on a poorly-defined IT project. Anyone who knows anything about IT will tell you the same thing: without clearly-defined goals up front, you will go over budget, over schedule and in all likelihood, your project will never be completed.

So why is it happening?

Maybe it’s what Barry Glassner, author of The Culture of Fear: Why Americans Are Afraid of the Wrong Things, calls the “fear industrial complex”.

The fear industrial complex is composed of politicians, activist groups and corporations that all sell us on the idea that they can provide safety from the very dangers they are scaring us about,” he told ABC News in the US.

Whenever somebody’s trying to scare us, the question to ask is ‘Are they benefiting from it, and in what way?’”

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  • 1
    Stilgherrian
    Posted Thursday, 15 January 2009 at 3:56 pm | Permalink

    @Verity Pravda: As I’ve previously answered on your own blog… No, I do not think there should be “no classification system on any media”. I’ll even answer the question again, since you seem to be having trouble with my answer: No, I do not think there should be “no classification system on any media”.

    It’s not “just one person saying ‘it doesn’t work’” but in fact the government’s own trials from the first half of 2008 (which we’ve linked to many times before), and the detailed commentary of experienced network engineers such as Mark Newton.

    As I’ve also pointed out in your blog, many of the assertions you keep making about current government policy have been thoroughly debunked at Libertus.net (and elsewhere). But you keep repeating your incorrect assertions. As you yourself say, “saying something more than once doesn’t make it true”. The opponents of ISP-level internet filters can back up their arguments with facts, references to official documentation and solid logic.

    You seem to keep avoiding addressing those argument and resorting to the straw-man “you want to flood the world with illegal material”, like Conroy does… why? Could it be because your own arguments are actually weak, and the factual basis non-existent?

    My own argument is that the limited money we have available should be spent precisely where it will do the most good to “protect the children”: policing and education.

    My experience with Crikey is that they publish a whole range of reportage, opinion and commentary. People who imagine there’s a “party line” can’t be reading very carefully.

  • 2
    Anon
    Posted Thursday, 15 January 2009 at 4:33 pm | Permalink

    Spot on Stilgherrian. Verity, the issue isn’t about whether we should heve a classification system. We have. The issue is whether the filtering tools will prevent classifications from getting to children. Our children are at risk not from the pictures/videos etc, but from the groomers of chat rooms and on-line games. How will those be filtered? They have to be detected. They are clever enough not to use the key words that filters will pick up. No the front line are the parents and guardians backed up by an effective well resourced policing service with the techology and know how to track down these people and prevent real harm before it occurs. There is plenty of software available that allow parents to monitor the on-line transactions of their children including, pix, web sites key strokes and chat. These don’t slow down the computers and they don’t stuff the internet. I know I run them and they work. The Federal Police OCSET team also works. I have had first hand experience. Unlike the ISP level censoring that Conroy want to implement at exhorbitant costs. Parents have the obligation to protect their children and shouldn’t be leaving it up to the Government.

  • 3
    Verity Pravda
    Posted Thursday, 15 January 2009 at 3:05 pm | Permalink

    Simple question. Does this raving lunatic think there should be no classification system on any media.? Or that there should not be a Refused Classification category at all? If so I look forward to his campaig on that change.

    I heartily agree that the policy is being handled atrociously. But Stil continually misrepresents what is proposed. Nothing about the filter is about the threat to children from being entrapped on line. The “protection of children” the Minister talks about is the protection of children from taking every action he can to stem trade in the images.

    It is the functional equivalent of protecting elephants from poaching by banning the trade in ivory. It doesn’t mean you don’t also have programs to catch poachers. But you sure as heck don’t put up a special entrance way at your ports saying “if you have potentially illegal items please enter here”.

    And at this point all the Minister is asking is that ISPs try blocking acess to the websites and tell him how it works - that looks like real evidence based policy rather than just one persn saying “it doesn’t work”. By the way, saying something more than once doesn’t make it true.

    And exactly why is Crikey providing his rants. Since when has Crikey been a paragon of a complete libertarian view on content. Goodness me only yesterday Stephen Mayne seemed to be promoting ASIC’s investigation of those Packer stories and - horror - quite calm about the idea of the journalist being forced to reveal their sources. Somehow I thought that was on the taboo list.

  • 4
    Gail
    Posted Thursday, 15 January 2009 at 10:11 pm | Permalink

    There is no part of this policy or proposal that is evidence based. If there was a substantial body of independent, peer reviewed academic work in support of a system that could render Australian’s access to information on a par with Iran, China, Saudi Arabia. I’m sure the people that think a little censorship is somehow OK would be trumpeting it from the ramparts (if we have any). It doesn’t exist. The system proposed is not trivial and does, indeed, open the door to any sort of censorship that the government of the day sees to be in their interest. Secret censorship is not what a liberal western democracy should be considering. I suggest, Verity, that you do some more research. Most people that oppose the filter seem to be far better informed than those supporting it. Moral outrage, witch hunts and hysteria aren’t a body of evidence. Senator Conroy has done little or nothing to obtain such a body of evidence and subject it to public and academic scrutiny.

    I am old enough to remember the last lot of heavy handed self-righteous, politically motivated censorship that Australia had. Surprisingly, the sky did not fall when this material was released for adults to make their own decisions. It hasn’t fallen in since either. If you don’t like adult material, then don’t look. You don’t come across it by accident and it isn’t hiding around corners waiting to jump on the unsuspecting or children.

    The internet is interactive and the user has a choice of material to access. This is not the case with broadcast media, although the option to simply turn it off is there. Classification, particularly of time of day, is of some value for the broadcast media. This classification system is open to scrutiny. The censorship system is not. It is entirely conducted in secret.

  • 5
    dermot
    Posted Friday, 16 January 2009 at 9:16 am | Permalink

    the use of pravda after the newspaper shows your attitiude to inconvenient truth. try reading before mouthing off.

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