RIP the internet filter, which passed away after a long -- more than two-year -- illness today.
It will not be missed. Not even, we suspect, by Stephen Conroy, one of Labor's most effective ministers who had been saddled with one of its most hated policies. Conroy always rejected the claim he was merely doing the bidding of Kevin Rudd in implementing the policy, that he genuinely believed in the importance of forcing everyone (or at least everyone who couldn't change their proxy settings or use basic encryption) to use the internet via a filter intended to dictate what sites we could and couldn't see.
And polling suggested he wasn't alone. Many Australians, regularly told about the evils of the internet, usually by politicians and the mainstream media, seemed ready to believe a mandatory filter was necessary to keep the evils of the world at bay.
But many of us knew better. Many of us understood the filter wouldn't work, that bypassing it would be simple, that it would afford an unjustified confidence among parents that web browsing was safe, that a filter would slow down internet usage, that the genuinely evil people out there who do use the internet for child abuse, terrorism or crime wouldn't be deterred or inconvenienced in the slightest.
But if the filter is now dead, there's no reason for those who wish to protect our rights online to relax. If anything, there are far worse threats to our privacy and basic freedoms contained in the government proposals for the reform of national security laws, reforms that would significantly extend the power of law enforcement and intelligence agencies to monitor huge areas of our lives in ways that have never been permitted before.
If anything, the battle to stop the internet filter was just a prelude to a significantly more important battle on data retention.