Crikey: Internet filters a success, if success = failure

Crikey logo

[This article was first published in Crikey yesterday. I’ve added some follow-up comments at the end.]

Let’s sing along with Senator Conroy! You’ve got to accentuate the positive / Eliminate the negative / Latch on to the affirmative…

[On Monday] our Minister for Broadband was “encouraged” that lab tests of ISP-level Internet filters showed “significant progress” since 2005, and The Australian had him declaring the trial a success. But if you actually dig into the full report [2.8MB PDF] things aren’t so rosy.

Yes, on average filters might be more accurate than three years ago and have less impact on Internet speeds — well, at least for the six filters actually tested of the 26 put forward. But it’s about them being not quite as crap as before.

Continue reading “Crikey: Internet filters a success, if success = failure”

How clean is Labor’s “clean feed” Internet?

Crikey logo

The ALP’s grand vision of a “clean feed” Internet safe for Aussie kids is meant to filter out — what, exactly? Labor’s pre-election policy [PDF file] seemed to give the proposed ISP-level filters wide scope indeed, blocking content “inappropriate” or “harmful” for children — however that’s defined. But evidence given to Senate estimates last night suggests it’s little more than what’s already in place.

As I’ve written in Crikey before [1, 2] debate is clouded because sometimes people talk about Internet filtering in terms of child pornography and other very-illegal “prohibited content”, and other times it’s about material as wide-ranging as websites promoting anorexia as a lifestyle choice.

Communications minister Stephen Conroy hasn’t helped by labelling free speech advocates watchers of kiddie porn.

Last night Senator Conroy confirmed that the trial of ISP-level filtering is on schedule. The contract has been issued; the report’s due back on 30 June. But what’s actually being filtered, beyond ACMA’s existing blacklist of about 800 URLs of “prohibited content”? No-one knows. A Ms O’Loughlin from ACMA told us they “haven’t completed discussions” with the Minister’s office about that.

Continue reading “How clean is Labor’s “clean feed” Internet?”

An open letter to Senator the Hon David Johnston

Watching the Senate Estimates today, I’ve been amused by the antics. Lining up all the Senators, the Minister, public servants and parliamentary staff must cost a bomb per hour, so you’d hope the time was spent wisely. Sadly, no.

My observations — in between other work, so this isn’t representative:

  • Senator Stephen Conroy’s little joke of re-reading the PM’s statement about pay restraint whenever anyone asked about executive salaries wore thin. Please, just have the spine to say, “No, I won’t be making a separate statement.”
  • Senator Simon Birmingham wasted time asking the head of SBS questions whose answers could have easily been found on their website or in their annual report. Maybe you should organise a coffee with him or a staff member to catch up on these basics.
  • Senator Eric Abetz had a detailed list of quite specific questions for Australia Post. It’s precisely this kind of forensic examination which gives Senate Estimates such importance to our democracy.
  • Senator David Johnstone was… no, he gets more than a bullet point!

Senator Johnstone was angry that when the Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA) awarded two new community radio licenses in Perth last month, one long-running “aspirant” (license applicant) called Western Sports Media wasn’t a winner.

Apparently some cricket fans were upset. However Senator Johnstone tackled the ACMA representatives with what I thought was inappropriate aggression — particularly as he obviously wasn’t across the details. I therefore fired off an email…

Continue reading “An open letter to Senator the Hon David Johnston”