For the second week in a row, the Stilgherrian Live audience voted Senator Stephen Conroy our “Cnut of the Week” for his persistence with and behaviour over the Australian government’s Internet censorship “plans”. The program is now online for your viewing pleasure.
OK, that’s a biased sample, sure. But as I wrote in Crikey yesterday, Conroy is thoroughly tangled in his own Rabbit-Proof Firewall. I’ll try to sneak that article out from behind the paywall later. However in summary Conroy is blustering, maligning his critics with the McCarthyist tactic of bullying and calling them child pornographers and generally ignoring the rational questions being put to him.
He’s also back-pedalling fast. On ABC Radio National’s The Media Report yesterday, he was even denying the policy was about censoring legal material at all, despite clear evidence for exactly the opposite.
Not good enough, Senator Conroy.
If the government wants to persist with comprehensive, centralised, secretive, unaccountable Internet censorship — let’s not use the spin-words “filtering” and “clean feed” because that just reinforces their moral-panic frame of the Internet being “dirty” — then they need to deploy this evidence-based policy-making they used to talk about and actually address the evidence.
I can’t argue with Newton’s logic. Can you, Senator Conroy?
The online community’s argument is a simple one:
- there’s no problem to solve because actual illegal material on the Internet is so rare that nobody ever finds it;
- even if there was a problem to solve, there’s no serious public demand to solve it;
- even if there was a public demand to solve it, none of the solutions proposed by the ALP will be effective, and the Government has handily provided original research to decimate their own case;
- even if they were effective, they’ll slow down Internet access and reduce Internet reliability, as shown by the same original research released by the Minister on July 22;
- even if the proposed solutions had perfect performance and reliability, none of them are affordable;
- even if they were affordable, they’ll be implemented terribly by the same underclass of bureaucrat that deemed Mohammad Haneef a terrorist, or Bill Henson a pornographer. The salivating of hangers-on like Family First and Nick Xenophon, lobbying to have the blacklist expanded before it’s even in force, demonstrate perfectly how open the system will be to political manipulation and lobbying;
- even if they were implemented perfectly by perfect administrators, the blacklists will inevitably leak, be published on the Internet, whereupon they’ll fall into the hands of nefarious individuals and consequently enable child abuse all over the world, with the direct assistance of the Commonwealth of Australia; and
- there’s no possibility that the blacklists won’t leak. Finland’s list has already leaked, CyberPatrol’s encrypted blacklist is cracked every six months or so. It’s delusional to believe that Australia will be any better at securing its officially sanctioned list of Child Porn and Terrorism sites than anyone else. It might take a month, a year, five years, ten years, or two hours. But it will leak, secrets always do. Pressing it into service will be like setting a ticking time bomb, and when it explodes there’ll be a thronging multitude of critics pointing at Senator Conroy and saying, “I told you so, you were warned, but you did it anyway”.
This isn’t a complicated argument. To justify the ALP’s policy, cogent, successful arguments against each and every one of those independent points will need to be mounted.
So, Senator Conroy, would you care to respond? Would anyone in government? Because if all you can do is slag off those wanting to debate the issue, your plans clearly don’t stand on their merits, do they?