Weekly Wrap 5

A weekly summary of what I’ve been doing elsewhere on the internets. I didn’t intend for this to be my only post this week, but that’s how it turns out sometimes.



Media Appearances

[Photo: Waiting for Conroy“, taken at Senator Stephen Conroy’s ministerial media conference at the offices of NBN Co Ltd, North Sydney, 8 July 2010.]

What now for Senator Conroy and the Magic Filter?

Photograph of Senator Stephen Conroy

After Senator Stephen Conroy’s disastrous week last week — the ACMA blacklist of banned Internet content leaked and shown to be rubbish, the Classification Board’s website hacked and his damagingly poor performance on Q&A — what next? And what’s Conroy’s exit strategy?

Last month, Greens Senator Scott Ludlam wondered how we can move beyond criticism of the highly-flawed Internet filtering plan:

We’re all in vociferous agreement about what won’t work. But what will? Can this enormously empowered campaign speak with one cogent voice about what we’re for?

How do we empower parents to make the best choices for their families, and law enforcement agencies to prosecute the creators and distributors of the worst material trafficked over the internet?

Is there a way to adequately prepare children to understand other threats such as cyber-bullying, without asphyxiating the greatest information sharing tool in history?

Can we directly challenge the epidemic of sexualised violence against women and children in this country and place the online tip of the iceberg into its proper context?

All very good questions. And as Warwick Rendell points out, this isn’t just an abstract debate.

Continue reading “What now for Senator Conroy and the Magic Filter?”

Interview with Senator Scott Ludlam

Photograph of Greens Senator Scott Ludlam

On Friday I recorded an interview with The Greens’ Senator Scott Ludlam about the leaking of a “secret” Internet censorship blacklist. A few quotes were used in my Crikey piece. Here’s the full audio, just under 5 minutes.

Ludlam reckons Conroy should dump the filter trials and ask the industry for advice. After all, there’s 20 years of Internet expertise out there.

“Ask the question of the online community and the child protection community more generally ‘What’s the best way to protect children online?’, whether it’s from being poached in chatrooms, coming across [adult] material, or falling victim to some of the syndicates that are out there — all of the areas which net filtering won’t even go close to touching,” he said.

Senator Stephen Conroy’s office has reminded me that there is a consultative committee. Still, it does seem backwards to be trialling a specific technical solution before it’s been determined that it’s an appropriate place to be spending the money.


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Crikey: ACMA’s blacklist just got read all over

Crikey logo

I’m in Crikey again today with an 800-word essay about the leaking of a secret Internet censorship blacklist — exactly what I’d predicted only on Wednesday.

The article is free to read, but here’s a flavour:

Dear Government, look, I hate to say we told you so, but… we told you so. On Wednesday. The more you try to hide your controversial Internet blacklist, the bigger you make it, the bigger the incentive for someone to leak it.

For money. For political advantage. For the sheer bloody fun of sticking it to The Man. And, yes, maybe someone might even leak it because they’re one of that tiny number of sick bastards who get off on child pornography…

American bank robber “Slick” Willie Sutton was (probably apocryphally) asked why he robbed banks. “Because that’s where the money is.” ACMA compiles a virtual bank vault of nasty websites and hands the keys to the makers of filter software and from there, it’s planned, every ISP in Australia — including many low-margin businesses which, let’s face it, don’t have the security procedures of an ASIO or an MI5. As yesterday’s leak to whisteblower website Wikileaks proves.

I go on to analyse the leaked list — I judge it “a pretty shit piece of work” — and drop in a few thoughts from Greens Senator Scott Ludlam. Enjoy.

I’ll post my 5-minute interview with Senator Ludlam tomorrow morning.

Crikey: Outclassed Conroy hides in his bedroom

Crikey logo

[This article was originally published in Crikey on Tuesday 17 February, but behind the paywall. I think enough time has passed for it to sneak out — particularly as one commenter called it “the most unworthy article Crikey has ever published”. Thanks.]

Cool newcomer. Rising talent. That’s Greens Senator Scott Ludlam as described by Crikey’s Canberra correspondent Bernard Keane last year. He’s right, too.

Yesterday [Monday] I explained how Senator Stephen Conroy popped out of his lair, announced (some of) the ISPs in the internet “filtering” trials, and scurried away — leaving everyone’s questions unanswered. Perhaps he hoped the story would be buried by discussions of bushfires and the stimulus package. But no.

In an op-ed piece for ABC News yesterday, Senator Ludlam nailed why. “The interwebs never sleep,” he reminds us.

Within minutes of Conroy’s 5.25pm media release, Twitter was, well, a’twitter with speculation and then analysis. Within hours, without any central control, a consensus emerged about what the choice of ISPs meant. With its focus on small business-oriented ISPs, the trials won’t reflect the realities of home internet usage, and the government can string out the process just a little bit longer.

“Senator Conroy is trapped by something akin to a virtual hydra,” writes Ludlam.

Continue reading “Crikey: Outclassed Conroy hides in his bedroom”

Links for 28 November 2008

Here are the web links I’ve found for 28 November 2008, posted automatically with the aid of badgers.

  • Conroy responds to Ludlum. Finally. | Public Polity: A blog post quoting Senator Stephen Conroy’s eventual response to Greens Senator Scott Ludlam’s questions about Internet censorship plans. I haven’t had time to analyse it or link back to the original Hansard.
  • Future of Journalism summit | Corporate Engagement: Trevor Cook’s live blog of the MEAA’s The Future of Journalism summit, held in Melbourne on Wednesday. Yes, there’s still some value in reading the commentary.
  • History of US Govt Bailouts | ProPublica: A nice chart comparing the size of financial bailouts of commercial operations by the US government since 1970.
  • Statistics Laundering: false and fantastic figures | Libertus.net: “This research paper contains information about various alarming and sensational, but out-of-date, false and/or misleading ‘statistics&’ concerning the prevalence of ‘child pornography’ material on Internet websites, etc., which appeared in Australian media reports and articles in 2008. While sometimes statistical exaggerations are not important, those referred to herein are being used to directly exaggerate the prevalence and hence risk level of certain threats, and to indirectly weaken the position of those attempting to critically assess the nature of the threats, and whether proposed public policy solutions are effective and proportionate.”
  • Save the Net | GetUp! Campaign Actions: “The Federal Government is planning to force all Australian servers to filter internet traffic and block any material the Government deems ‘inappropriate’. Under the plan, the Government can add any ‘unwanted’ site to a secret blacklist. Testing has already begun on systems that will slow our internet by up to 87%, make it more expensive, miss the vast majority of inappropriate content and accidentally block up to 1 in 12 legitimate sites. Our children deserve better protection – and that won’t be achieved by wasting millions on this deeply flawed system.”
  • Are web filters just a waste of everyone’s time and money? | The Guardian: The interesting thing about this article isn’t so much its clear explanation of the pointlessness of trying to automate an Internet “bad things” filter but the fact that it was written in August 2007. Nothing has changed since.
  • AFACT v iiNet: the case that could shut down the Internet | APC: A legal analysis of the law suit being brought by the movie industry body AFACT against ISP iiNet. This will be an important test of the “safe harbour” provisions of Australian copyright law.
  • Labor's arbitrary internet filter plan misguided and deeply unpopular | Liberal Party of Australia: The Liberal Party’s media release, which includes the full text of Senator Nick Minchin’s statement about Internet censorship.
  • Minchin slams Labor’s NBN backflip | ZDNet Australia: Opposition Senator Nick Minchin has ripped into the Australian government’s Internet censorship plans, calling them “misguided and deeply unpopular”. Without Liberal support, and without the support of The Greens, no new legislation can be passed. (The article’s headline related to the other story covered in this report, the question of whether the tendering process for the National Broadband Network is sufficiently transparent.)