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Austrialia censors 90% of web censorship plan to avoid "unnecessary debate" (smh.com.au)
138 points by mcantelon on July 24, 2010 | hide | past | web | favorite | 44 comments

The meta-issues (how the plan is being negotiated and managed) are almost as bad as the actual issue (censorship, privacy invasion) here. There are a lot of people who can come to terms with the idea that there is at least some kind of content that might, in some circumstances, be worth blocking or monitoring on the internet (I'm not saying this is my position). But not this plan, not the way it is being done - zero transparency, zero accountability, zero consultation, zero acknowledgement of real criticisms by honest well intentioned people. If the government wants to do this then they need to be at their most open and transparent, their most considerate of well reasoned objections.

i love how they're openly stating it's confusing and controversial so they're going to keep it secret so no one can object before it's completely finished. this will become a barbara streisand pretty quick.

> they're

luv how "they" are a friken bureaucrat... like it's any of their business what is and is not debated and discussed in democracy.

have spent many years in commonwealth and state bureaucracies and have never heard anyone even entertain the idea that silencing debate (although in my view that is often the point) would be used as the publicly stated reason for censoring or denying an FOI.

I'm a European citizen, I've lived in China for a number of years behind the "Great Firewall" which is easily circumvented.

The last thing I expected when I moved to Australia was to be behind the "Great Barrier Firewall".

Not sure if many reading this realize that there is an election coming up in the coming weeks, the current government probably does not want to give ammunition to the opposition about this whole sordid affair.

Stephen Conroys office has spent an obscene amount on why he thinks the Australian filter is a good thing. Any kind of back-down or debate on the issue would just go against the current regime.

My only hope is that if the party goes back into power after August that this firewall business will die a slow death.

Sorry you're mistaken, the Great Firewall of China USED to be easily circumvented, now the only method is with a paid VPN connection (or a very kind person to share their bandwidth).

Even Tor's been taken down.

@DublinClontarf, yeah, I used to use TOR hosted on a private slice, but thats also insecure. I'd use a paid VPN to buy pass it these days.

Btw, I used to live in Clontarf for quite a while..

Was it East point business park that you worked?

Yeah, for about a year...then moved over here to Oz.

Catch me on twitter @beilabs

Yeah everyone who can is leaving, theres nothing happening there now(Ireland not Oz, stayed in Oz for a couple of months with my aunt, great place, love the poisonous animals). Will do.

VPN? That's still easy in my book. Probably easier than setting up Tor. When I Was in Shanghai in May, Tor still worked.

What is the Australian government's political rational behind implementing this plan? I highly doubt Australia has a contingent of voters who demand Internet censorship, and unlike China it's not like there's some sort of regime that needs to purge unfriendly ideas from circulating. This whole endeavor seems completely unnecessary. Any Australians know what the heck is behind this?

It's a combination of Stephen Conroy's good intentions (wanting to block child porn) mixed with bad advice he's receiving (mandatory filter).

Add to that a dash of stubbornness (he refuses to back down, even though he's been shown better solutions) and probably just a hint of corruption (the whole channel 7 broadcasting fee debacle) and you have yourself a recipe for disaster.

It's a hung parliament with the balance of power held by a small group of bible thumping right wingers. They wish to show to their voters that they are doing something to fight the waves of terrorism and filth that are warping the tiny minds of vunerable australian children.

And to distract anyone from finding out about their affairs, dodgy real estate deals and child abuse.

That is an entirely inaccurate description of Australian politics. Bible thumping rarely appears in Australian political life. The current Prime Minister is a declared aetheist, and they can get just about any laws through with the support of the left-wing Green party.

The communications minister in charge of the filtering is a follower of the famous Jewish zombie.

The confusing thing is the people implementing the decisions seem to know very little about the way the web works. The filter itself is being brought under the premise of filtering out child porn and 'undesirable and illegal content', however minutes from a meeting earlier this year detailed that only around 30% of the filtered list dealt with this sort of material. There has been no explanation as to what the other 70% deals with; that part is what concerns me.

There was an article earlier this year in which Conroy was quoted as saying that Google could have gained your banking details with the street view car and unsecured wireless. Seemed from the language used that he didn't get the idea of a SSL connection.


Stephen Conroy seems to repeatedly fail at understanding the basic concepts involved in information security and the Internet. A recent quote from him at the launch of the "Cyber Security Awareness" week [1]:

  "There’s a staggering number of Australians being in 
  having their computers infected at the moment, up to 
  20,000, uh, can regularly be getting infected by these 
  spams, or scams, that come through, the portal"
Watching the video on the Gizmodo site is like watching a slow motion car crash.

Another car crash video is of Senator Conroy trying to explain how the "Russian mob ... hacked" a dentist's website [2] as an explanation for it ending up on the leaked "Internet Blacklist" from the filtering trial [3].

I don't underestimate the complexity of concepts in the information technology space, especially for those outside the industry. And I particularly don't envy the people whose job it is to explain to the general public the issues and come out with (and sell) realistic public policies.

However, you'd hope the man who has ultimate responsibility for these policies would have a basic grasp and be able to communicate it more effectively. More importantly he sorely needs advisers that both understand the issues and are able to properly brief him.

[1] http://www.gizmodo.com.au/2010/06/theres-a-staggering-number...

[2] http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UwoKjDRaKHM

[3] I won't link to the leaked black list directly but you can find it by searching for australian government ACMA blacklist site:wikileaks.org in Google.

It's a tough question. But in my mind it is more related to the Australian political culture than it appears. And I note a lot of parallels between the formation of modern states and the advent of internet legislation. I'll try to explain my view - sorry if it is an essay :P.

Essentially, the nature of a modern state is the governing body has monopoly of force over a geographical area. By extension, this allows certain advantages, namely extraction (which from a one dimensional or conventional perspective can be viewed as taxation or army conscription) or coercion which again, from a one dimensional perspective means the ability to force a society to act in a certain way. For instance, one could view the inquisition to be coercing (by means of force) the population to a particular religious doctrine. Or from a modern perspective

Now, the space of the internet in it's current form can be interpreted as anarchic - a power vacuum of sorts. The nature of a politician is to expand into all power vacuums in a given area - it's what they do. The vehicle is legislation. As the internet grows and becomes more a part of our society than ever, the need to control this vacuum is more important than ever. China has been especially proactive in this regard, but more states are following suit (consider the US is also looking into a RealID programs).

But the thing that is so bad for us Australians is that our political culture is very ambitious. For decades our society has been screaming out to appear as a major player on the world stage. The politicians, understandably are more fundamental on this issue - as all people in a position of power will be.

This has changed our political policy to a form of 'any means necessary' legislative agenda to modernise and to expand Australia's power and thus influence AND importantly to appear to the world as an example of modern proactive state making. This is paramount - our leaders perception of ourselves on a world stage. They crave world recognition.

A more obvious example will be the former prime minister Kevin Rudd's ambition to increase Australia's population to 60 million - an almost threefold increase on a land whose space and water is already on the brink. A detriment to society is ignored in favor of this increase in power.

The current internet legislation is essentially a conglomeration of these factors. And due to a series of conservative rule (and by extension the right-leaning attitude of the two popular governing parties), this new approach to modern state making has often come in the form of very conservative legislation.

Again, I am sorry for this essay. However, I prefer to view this problem from a structural standpoint, instead of any ideological agenda. Though I think this still may be a factor, IMO the system is more to blame.

Note that this document and story are actually about a recent EU-style data retention proposal, not the internet filtering / web censorship policy (which has been bumbling along for quite a while now).

The citizens of Australia should obviously skip straight to the Molotov Cocktails to avoid more "unnecessary debate"!

I often wonder what is at the heart of massive snooping/censorship schemes like these. I'm still waiting on the data that supports a link between violent media and violent people, sexually explicit pictures and acts of sexual violence, and transparency sponsoring open debate leading to anarchy.

Exactly. I'm pretty sure Hitler had exposure to neither video games or the Internet and yet look what he went on to do.

Godwin's Law, never fails.

Actually I was going to suggest Genghis Khan to circumvent Godwin.

Well, as an Aussie myself, I'd certainly like to see this issue raised a little more, especially with the election coming round on 21st Aug.

Let's hope movements like Election Wire http://www.youtube.com/youthscape will change things.


Seems like a positive way make dent on the incumbent censor-happy morons.

Good luck Australia!

I'm curious as to how the elections are going to change this policy. As suggested in the thread, they are trying to keep things quiet until the elections.

However what happens if the Labor party loses. Is the opposition going to support this as well?

The filter can't be about anything other than shoring up political support. Hopefully the incumbents pick up a few seats in the election and they'll be able to drop the legislation.

We love to call politicians stupid, but they're not that dumb. It's been pointed out ad-nauseum that the filter wont achieve the stated purpose (eradication of online child porn). The rationale has moved to making sure kiddies don't 'stumble' upon the internet nasties.

More sensible legislation would be to mandate that ISPs offer filtered & unfiltered connections. Individual households could then make their own choices.

Who keeps making these rules?

the ALP.

the real question is who has their ear, for internet censorship i would say it's the christian lobby, for this logging crap would say both state and commonwealth law enforcement agencies (chiefly AFP???).

the latter certainly have form (e.g. http://www.theage.com.au/national/investigations/private-spi...)

The Prison Warden makes the rules... the prisoners live by them!

bye bye democracy, it was nice to have known you...

we get what we vote for. do something... anything... stand up for yourself.

We get to vote for either dictator 1, dictator 2 or dictator 3. There are no democratic flavors left.

Australia, is turning into an e-Tibet ... Get ready for millions of innocent websites dying at the hands of OberFuhrer Robert McClelland.

Yeah, that statement may sound over-hyped today, but come talk to me a year after that thing gets signed into law.

Aussies have gone soft, in the balls (they were already soft in the head -- which was the only good thing keeping democracy alive in Australia until now).

edit: an attempt at preventing godwin's law invocation and a visit from the anti-defamation league. ;-)

... or China! Google will have to create an offshore website in New Zealand for uncensored search results.

I think you will understand how offensive and unnecessary your first statement is after looking at this photo: http://www.hollow-hill.com/sabina/images/auschwitz-corpses.j...

Yes Australians had the decency to slowly wipe out the indigenous people out of sight over a century rather than being all teutonic and efficient about it.

Yes, Americans had the decency to slowly wipe out the indigenous people...

What a troll you are! Oh! Yes! You are!

I think you will understand how analogy works by watching this video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=c-fI3KEgy6c

edited to add: Beware, for history repeats itself. Just because heinous crimes were documented in the past is no guarantee that they will not be repeated by spineless authoritarians.

Ah, I seem to have given you more credit than you deserve. I watched the video but it's not related to any part of this discussion.

Just because an analogy has been made does not make it a good one.

The only relevant reply, unfortunately, was not even in reply to my OP !!!


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