Child Wise’s Bernadette McMenamin on Internet filtering

Photograph of Bernadette McMenamin

I’ve just received a response to my post about Internet filtering and child pornography from Child Wise CEO Bernadette McMenamin. She raises some good questions — particularly why people in the Internet industry seem to react so angrily when there doesn’t seem to be any argument about child pornography and other exploitation being A Bad Thing.

Ms McMenamin has given permission for her response to be published. I’ve highlighted what I think are her most interesting questions. Answers appreciated. I’ll be drafting my own reply overnight.

Dear Stilgherrian,

I appreciate your comments and feedback. I also appreciate the respectful words that you say about me as yes I am trying to stamp out child sexual abuse and have dedicated my life to this cause for the last 25 years. I will do so until I die, which is hopefully not soon.

Clearly my ISP filtering article has stirred up much debate in the ISP world and I think that is good. Some emails to me from the ISP industry have been very educational for me but some have been downright rude. I just want to make my position clear. I only support ISP filtering of child pornography and other illegal content and not pornography and definitely not use this as a form of censorship of free speech.

I am a child protection specialist dealing with the aftermath of child sexual abuse on a daily basis. My motivation needs to be made clear. I am sure that the majority of people in the ISP industry are decent people and in retrospect my intention wasn’t to denigrate and insult people who care. There is no doubt that my opinion piece was emotive and if you could see what I see on a daily basis with people’s lives wrecked by the trauma of child sexual abuse I think that you and other members of the ISP industry may feel emotional about it as well. However in some ways I have stirred up healthy debate which will hopefully lead to a better outcome for children.

I am looking to you the ISP industry for the answers and to find and/or create the best use of filters to block child pornography. At least this will reduce some of the demand and some is better than none!

I am also a little perplexed about some of the feedback that I have been receiving about the uselessness of child pornography filtering. Now I am simply asking a question. If filtering of child pornography cannot work then why is there so much anger, fear and resentment to any attempt to block child pornography and other illegal sites? This is what I don’t understand.

Why not work on a filter that does only block out child pornography and if it doesn’t work then let’s stop any waste of money. All I am trying to do is to suggest an approach that may work.

It seems to be working (to an extent) in other countries i.e. Sweden, Denmark and UK. I am clearly not an IT expert so I will hand this over to you as the experts to find a way that is possible because I am sure you all agree that we should find ways to stop the sexual abuse of children in pornography which seems to be a growing and lucrative industry.

Kind regards,

Bernadette McMenamin AO
Child Wise

Comments please!

[Photo of Bernadette McMenamin from the National Australia Day Council. Ms McMenamin was a Victorian Australian of the Year finalist in 2004.]

34 Replies to “Child Wise’s Bernadette McMenamin on Internet filtering”

  1. @Stephen Needham: Thanks for the detailed rebuttal of Ms McMenamin’s position. I’d been intending to write about and link to Irene Graham’s excellent debunking of the “statistics” relating to child pornography, but you got there first!

    To judge by the searches which have brought people to my website recently, adding the material here is still very valuable.

    Many of the points you make were repeated at yesterday’s forum on Internet filtering and censorship, too. There was widespread agreement that a filter would not achieve the goal of protecting children. And yes, $45M more for the Australian Federal Police or whoever would massively multiply their effectiveness.

    What’s particularly disappointing about Ms McMenamin’s approach is that she refuses to acknowledge the arguments pointing out that the filter can’t work. It’s one thing to say once that you don’t understand the technology. But when people have subsequently made genuine efforts to explain, she simply says “I don’t understand why you won’t try,” as if “trying harder” will change the logic.

    Ms McMenamin’s passion and energy are undisputed. If she does not understand the technology, then she should not be specifying technological solutions. She should, by all means, lobby to have child protection given a greater priority — and for any resources to be spent on whatever will most effectively achieve the goal. That, as is repeated time and time again by everyone working in the field, is more investigation and policing, and more education and empowerment for children and their families.

  2. Quote “If filtering of child pornography cannot work then why is there so much anger, fear and resentment to any attempt to block child pornography and other illegal sites? This is what I don’t understand.”

    Ok, I think I will have to go quite slow for you, They are upset because it wont work.

    :. a waste of taxpayers money.

    How can you not understand that ?

    seriously did god give you a brain and the ability to reason ?

  3. @Paul Esson: Yes, Bernadette McMenamin’s question isn’t the most rational.

    McMenamin: Why won’t you try to filter out the bad stuff?

    The Entire World: Because it won’t work. It’s not where the money should be spent.

    McMenamin: But why won’t you try to filter out the bad stuff?

    [Repeat until the Sun expands and engulfs the Earth.]


  4. Maybe we can give her a real world example that she can relate to.

    For many years, we have been fighting the never ending flow of internet spam. Using filters and other means of trying to stop it at the isp and local levels. All have really failed.

    Recently a major contributor of internet spam (and child pornography mind you) was shut down when the companies that supplied the internet to that organisation pulled the plug. Effectively reducing the amount of spam in the world by a third!!!

    The proof is in the pudding, spending millions to try and stop it after it’s sent is a waste of time and money. Stopping it at it’s source is a much more effective and efficient method.

    We can live in hope that wisdom comes with age and in Bernadettes case, I hope that comes quickly.


  5. I am angry at Bernadette because she can not cite one fact in reference to her claims. She also has alienated people opposed to the filter by saying if they are not pro the filter they are pro child porn. That is truly an abhorrent comment as was her “Dubious” slur on SBS.

    Factually speaking her figures are wrong and she claims govt grants using false data. That is fraud simple.

    The money intended to be used on a filter would be better spent improving the AFP’s ability to fight the revolting crime called Child Porn, something as a parent I find most abhorrent.

    The fact the govt jumped to her and the ACL suggestion of a filter despite no real technical knowledge shows a complete ignorance of how the internet works. A filter can be bypassed ever so easily therefore it is not a valid proposition and is tantamount to a gross waste of tax payer funds. Some may suggest just as wasteful as giving one cent to Bernadette the insulter.

  6. Ms McMenamin was equally critical of the past weekend’s protests and the DLC’s plans for future action.

    “Let the 300 people march on Canberra because it looks pathetic,” she said. “It looks pathetic and shameful because most of these people are not fully aware of the facts and secondly, those who are aware are, in effect, advocating child pornography.”

    This has got to be the most uneducated statement from a person i have EVER read in my life. Not only that but basically accusing anyone who opposes censorship as advocating child porn..

    WHAT A CROCK!!! What is wrong with you Ms McMenamin.!! DONT you think for a second that the average joe is unable to make up their own minds when given the FACTS AS THEY STAND! If people like yourself and other politicians etc make altered statements and distort those facts, you feed people the wrong information only to serve YOURSELF and your own agenda.

    Its unfortunate Ms McMenamin that you tried to take on a subject that you clearly have no idea about

    She says that people aren’t fully aware of the facts, YOU madam are the one who is not aware, to assume that the general populous is unable to make a constructive argument of this based on VERY CLEAR facts is only making you the ass.


  7. @Jason and @Software Architect : McMenamin’s claim that anyone not supporting Internet censorship is supporting child pornography is as offensive as it is wrong.

    There are coherent arguments which point out that Internet censorship won’t help stop child abuse and that the funding should go to law enforcement agencies instead. By ignoring them, McMenamin herself is contributing to child abuse by reducing the “bang for buck” from our investment. This is disgusting. She should be ashamed. She should goddam well apologise.

    Jon Seymour argues the point well in Shame, McMenamin, Shame!.

    I’m intending to write about her and Clive Hamilton for Crikey tomorrow.

    1. I myself am sick to death of hearing moralist agenda being flogged at the general public consistently. Their views are distorted by the vast array of disinformation from select sources ‘claiming’ they know whats right about this whole thing…


      The simple fact is that this woman and others like her are trying their utmost to have appear to have a moral high ground by making such claims as McMenamin’s child pornography gaff. I too find her allegations not just offensive but down right libelist.

      Every time i hear on the radio or what ever of someones comments about the need for the filtering is so tainted with an agenda its absolutely sickening.

      (oh im a parent of two kids as well and im REALLY tired of hearing the “But what about the children” line too)

Comments are closed.