Australia To Filter Internet

Speaking of Australia I was interested to hear that despite a change of leadership down under the Labor government of Kevin Rudd (‘alright Kev?’) still intends to filter the Internet for all Australians which has seen statements around the internet such as this from Duncan Riley of technical blog Techncrunch:

“The Australian Government has announced that they will be joining China as one of the few countries globally that broadly censor the internet”

Government Control
Australia has a much more interventionist track record than here in the UK (no really) so we Kevin Ruddwait to see quite how they impose their list of good and bad websites on Australian ISP’s. Filtering adult material to prevent access by youngsters is of course to be commended though many would argue that some kind of balance between family friendly Internet packages from ISP’s themselves and parents taking personal responsibility is a more preferable way of filtering the Internet rather than governments deciding what we should and should not see (they don’t have a good track record on such matters-I mean would we let them decide what TV we can watch or not?).

Other Ideas
Another idea floated some years ago (but abandoned as impractical) was to force adult Internet sites to use a .xxx domain address or (to be technical for a moment) pushing adult content sites onto a non standard Internet ports* so as to allow an easy to implement filtering system that responsible adults or ISP’s can choose to control. Of course the downside of technical solutions is that many adults know less about computers than their children but you’d think that with the spread of broadband and routers that many of these devices would have spent time making an easy to understand adult supervised filtering system.

Responsible Adults?
The downside of that is assuming that enough adults would be responsible enough to put a system in place that would let them control what their children could and could not see however (inevitably) imperfect such a system would be. In the absence of individual action and personal responsibility governments may increasingly intervene and make those decisions for us.

*The Simple Firewall Analogy
Various Internet services are accessed through certain ports. Imagine that certain trades people would only come into your house via a certain coloured door. So the Internet works in a similar way.Web pages come in through the green door, email via the red door (for example) and video through a different door altogether. Lock that door and you stop the service coming in. If your Internet provider put adult content on a different port to port 80 (where most web pages are) then the user (or ISP) could choose a service that allowed them to control who got to see what (though this would be easier if each family member had their own desktop account rather than everyone sharing the same desktop).This is (in simple terms) how an Internet firewall works.

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6 thoughts on “Australia To Filter Internet

  1. I am appalled that the Australian government would even consider filtering or censoring the Internet. How can we criticize countries like China and Iran for curtailing the freedom of their citizens if “Western” nations are doing the same thing?

    Once a government does this sort of thing then the temptation to block that which is embarrassing to itself becomes irresistible.

    They will always come out with the cliche of protecting children from pornography because that gains easy unthinking acquiescence from brainless Daily Mail readers who can’t think beyond the next full stop. It should be seen as the red herring that it is.

    I suppose it was always too good to be true that there would be one free and uncensored channel of communication in the world, the Internet. What is so sad is that people simply sit there and take it muttering the shibboleth of “protecting children from pronography”.

    What price 1984?

  2. gosh yes, I’m with Silver Tiger. As you know, my understanding of things internet is a little rudimentary. And I am not the Perfect Parent. But even given both those shortcomings, I do not need the Government to intervene in this area or other similar ones. Such things make me very cross indeed. Freedom is everything.

    With regard to my own children (aged between 5 and 19) I exercise the ultimate deterrent. They are made aware of what I deem to be unacceptable sites and unacceptable online behaviour (to include never talking to anyone they do not know – not something I follow myself of course) and know that if they break my rules they will be banned from the internet for a very long time. And yes, I do check what they are up to periodically. But I trust that my children know I mean business because I have never threatened them with anything and not seen it through. Surely that is what parents should be doing? Applying rules fairly and consistantly.

    Whilst obviously we do all want to protect those children whose parents are not in a position to do this themselves, can this really be done? I suppose it should be possible. But no, Governments do not have a good track record at all. And censorship is never the way forward.

  3. Hi guys, I’m in Melbourne. Some questions remain: Will the govt bear the cost of this software? Or is it an internet tax the ISPs will pass on to us?
    Will I get compensated if my speed drops? If I contact my ISP to “opt out”, can they charge me for that? How will I know if/when they have complied with my request? Who else is notified about it? Who gets access to the banned list or decides whats “unsuitable” and adds stuff to the Great Wall of Australia? (“surfchoices” anyone?).
    What is a “clean feed”? Has the internet replaced TV as a feeding lot? I thought politicians and their cronies were the ones with their snouts in the trough. What’s next on the Orwellian/Blairesque/Family First(community last) agenda? No internet on Sunday?
    Just one more thing: When will the Australian Constitution add a Bill of Rights and free speech protection?

  4. Hello Melbourne-Thanks for taking the time to comment. As you say there are a lot of questions to yet be answered such as if the Australian Gov will force ISP’s through its own proxies or just issue blacklists to ISP’s. The performance hit issue I know is important having spent time in Australia where broadband pricing,available speed and restrictive bandwidth tariffs are less competitive than many other countries.The ease of filtering opt-out is also an issue. It’ll be interesting to see how this is all tackled and who wins and who loses.

  5. To answer one of you questions, Ruddyban, take a look at http://www.acma.gov.au – they’re already putting this shit though. Starting January 20th.

    I helped with the campaign last election and am bitterly disappointed. I’ll be leaving the Labour Party because of this.

  6. Thanks Kristy-An interesting precursor to the legislation is found in the document ‘ Australian families with children are ‘media-rich’, research finds’ dated Dec 17:

    ‘Ultimately it’s the government’s role to address all of these concerns and strike an appropriate balance.’

    ‘I believe this research gives the government a first-rate snapshot of Australian families with children aged 8 – 17, the group of households that is leading the charge into the new communications world and therefore the households most vulnerable to any potentially negative media influences.

    ‘As such, the study provides a sound empirical base for thinking about children and young people’s use of electronic media and communications and informing policy settings in regulating content across media platforms.’

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