Internet censorship dumbness

The Rudd government’s plan to force ISP’s to provide a “clean feed” of the Internet free of pornography and “inappropriate material” (whatever that might be) has already generated plenty of informed criticism. However what worries me more is Senator Stephen Conroy’s disgustingly disingenuous framing of the debate.

Labor makes no apologies to those who argue that any regulation of the Internet is like going down the Chinese road. If people equate freedom of speech with watching child pornography, then the Rudd Labor Government is going to disagree.

As usual, Democrat Senator Andrew Bartlett hits the nail on the head, and makes my point for me.

No free speech advocate that I know of advocates such absolute freedom as to defend the provision of child pornography… But the fact it is already illegal shows just how dishonest Conroy’s statement is.

The government’s proposal is not about child pornography at all, which is already seriously illegal online and offline. It is about legal pornography and other ‘inappropriate’ material.

The arguments against this clean-feed idea are simple: it won’t work, and it opens up an unacceptable risk of further government intrusion into our freedom to communicate.

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Coonan’s own goals in ICT debate

Photograph of Senator Helen Coonan at ACS Election Forum

Body language is revealing. At Friday’s breakfast forum, two Senators’ body language showed their confidence in their grasp of Information and Communications Technology issues. Alas, the minister, Senator Helen Coonan (pictured), wasn’t one of them.

Coonan’s opening speech was long on motherhood, short on detail. Her opponents, Labor’s Senator Stephen Conroy and Democrat leader Senator Lyn Allison attacked with confidence — and hard numbers. Coonan looked rattled.

When he wasn’t speaking, Conroy was alert. His eyes scanned the crowd, noting tables for heavyweights Microsoft, IBM, Lenovo, Accenture, Fujitsu, Symantec, Gartner … though Telstra were notably absent.

Allison was relaxed and comfortable, sitting back and waiting for her turn, ready to rattle on about quantum computing, laptops in school, IT literacy, and a global brand for Australian IT innovation — something like Woolmark for wool.

But Coonan frowned and ruffled through her papers as if cramming for an exam, nodding as she recognised something. I’ve been told since that she wouldn’t agree to the debate unless she had all the questions in advance — and her answers were apparently scripted.

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Published twice in one day

Scan of New Scientist piece

I’m happy. I’ve been published twice today, thrice this week.

As I mentioned before, Crikey was happy for me to cover today’s panel discussion with IT minister Senator Helen Coonan and her Labor opponent Senator Stephen Conroy. They were joined this morning by Democrats leader, Senator Lyn Allison.

My Crikey story points out that Coonan scored at least three own goals. I’m chuffed that it was selected as a “top story” for subscribers.

My other Crikey story was about Australia’s contribution to the Space Age, published on Wednesday and including my comments about the spaceport we never seem to get.

I’ll do a public version of both those stories tomorrow.

And the third piece was a little snippet for New Scientist, which I sent them on 24 June. There’s a picture (right), but here are the words for search engines to find.

The label on reader Stilgherrian’s Australian-made Starmaid ice-cube trays reassures him that they are “freezer safe” — which he says is “handy”.

But right now it’s Red Wine Time…

Coonan vs Conroy: preparing for battle

Photograph of Senator Stephen Conroy and Senator Helen Coonan

As mentioned last week, Friday morning I’m having breakfast with the ICT minister Senator Helen Coonan and her ALP counterpart Senator Stephen Conroy — along with some many members of the ACS.

That’s Senator Coonan on the right. In every sense of the word.

While the discussion will be chaired by some bloke from Channel 7, I’m assuming there’ll be a chance for questions. When I asked on Link last week, here’s what popped up. What would you add?

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IT/Internet election issues?

For my sins, next Friday 5 October I’m covering for Crikey a panel discussion between ICT minister Senator Helen Coonan and her Labor counterpart Senator Stephen Conroy, in front of members of the Australian Computer Society.

What do you reckon the key IT, Internet, media and communications issues will be for this federal election?

For me, I think it’ll be facing the Raccoonan’s hairstyle at 0730. But maybe it’s, what? Broadband rollout? Protecting the kiddies on the Internet? Suggestions please!