One of the reasons I supported Labor at the last Federal election was its apparent enthusiasm for the internet and commitment to transforming Australia in a positive way via a world-class broadband system.
Now it seems the government has an obsession to develop plans not dissimilar from censorship implemented a couple of years back in Turkey.
The Rudd Government Communications Minister – Stephen Conroy – is using similar reasons to those given at the time by the Turkish Government, notably the need to protect children.
The Index on Censorship has just issued a report card on Turkey’s internet. It’s not happy reading for censorship advocates. It concludes with comment from a prominent Turkish academic:
“Turkish politicians haven’t had any real vision on how to develop the Internet. There are more people working on censoring it than developing it”.
That’s like building a Highway system with half the budget spent on crash barriers.
Meanwhile, a reader in the USA who came across my previous article sent a link to Barak Obama’s policy document: Connecting and Empowering all Americans through Technology and Innovation.
Now that’s a policy! Here’s what Obama says about the child protection issue:
Protect Our Children While Preserving the First Amendment:
By making information freely available from untold numbers of sources, the Internet and more traditional media outlets have a huge influence on our children. Barack Obama believes that the openness of the new media world should be seen as an opportunity as much as some see it as a threat. We live in the most information-abundant age in history and the people who develop the skills to utilize its benefits are the people who will succeed in the 21st century. But Barack Obama also recognizes that lurking out there are the darker corners of the media world: from Internet predators to hateful messages to graphic violence and sex. Obama values our First Amendment freedoms and our right to artistic expression and does not view regulation as the answer to these concerns. Instead, an Obama administration will give parents the tools and information they need to control what their children see on television and the Internet in ways fully consistent with the First Amendment.
- An Obama administration will encourage the creation of Public Media 2.0., the next generation of public media that will create the Sesame Street of the Digital Age and other video and interactive programming that educates and informs. Obama will support the transition of existing public broadcasting entities and help renew their founding vision in the digital world.
- Obama will work to give parents the tools to prevent reception of programming that they find offensive on television and on digital media. Obama will encourage improvements to the existing voluntary rating system, exploiting new technologies like tagging and filtering, so that parents can better understand what content their children will see, and have the tools to respond. Private entities like Common Sense Media are pursuing a “sanity not censorship” approach, which can serve as a model for how to use technology to empower parents without offending the First Amendment.
- Obama will encourage industry not to show inappropriate adult-oriented commercial advertising during children’s programming.
- On the Internet, Obama will require that parents have the option of receiving parental controls software that not only blocks objectionable Internet content but also prevents children from revealing personal information through their home computer.
- To further protect children online, Obama supports tough penalties, increased enforcement resources and forensic tools for law enforcement, and collaboration between law enforcement and the private sector to identify and prosecute people who abuse the Internet to try to exploit children.
There it is. Sensible. Balanced. Caring. Respectful of freedom.
It’s a shame to emphasize that particular section of Obama’s policy, because it’s far from the most interesting part. Overall, he sketches a vision for rapid American economic and social progress by intelligent application of technology. It’s well written and inspiring. A policy of change and renewal.
By contrast, Australia’s current Government seems intent on proving itself even worse than Howard’s crew in this crucial policy area.
Ultimately, the threat to Australia’s economic competitiveness must defeat these crazy plans. Surely the Liberals under Macolm Turnbull will oppose such nonsense? If Barnby Joyce splits off the National Party to vote with the government, he’ll lose credibility too.
Conroy’s ‘Clean Feed’ proposal is politically toxic. Politicians who embrace it will suffer.
If implemented, it will undermine Australia’s international competitiveness.
Can anyone in Canberra spell MAD?