Internet CensorshipIt’s been a good week for the campaign against Senator Conroy’s disgraceful mandatory Internet filtering proposal – the so called ‘Clean Feed’.

The Australia Greens have formally announced that they oppose this type of Internet censorship. According to AAP:

“We’re very, very concerned that there’s going to be a unnecessary clamp down on the internet and it has to be watched,” Greens leader Bob Brown told ABC Television on Tuesday.

His colleague Scott Ludlam has been lobbying against the changes.

“He’s working very hard with community groups in Australia to oppose the current proposals by the Government,” Senator Brown said.

The Federal Coalition has done the same. Here’s the conclusion of a press release issued by Shadow Communications Minister, Senator Minchin:

“The Communications Minister Stephen Conroy has further fuelled concerns with his talk of filtering not only illegal content, but also unwanted and inappropriate content. This policy proposal is also causing Australia embarrassment internationally, with comparisons to the world’s most repressive regimes,” Senator Minchin said.

The Government is planning a ‘real world’ trial of mandatory filtering before the end of this year and needs the cooperation of sceptical ISPs and their customers.

“If adequate numbers of Internet users cannot be roped into this trial on a voluntary basis, Senator Conroy needs to clarify whether the trial itself will become mandatory, or will this policy be implemented regardless?” Senator Minchin asked.

The Opposition continues to consult widely with stakeholders and will monitor this trial very closely. In the mean-time, it also urges the Government to re-think its plan to stop providing Australians with free pc-based Internet content filters at the end of 2008.

Now, the Government may not need legislation to implement its scheme. If not,  its lack of a Senate majority may not matter. As of now, Conroy seems determined to continue pushing ahead with ‘trials’. It’s way to early to throw hats in the air.Internet Censorship

But deep cracks are appearing in the Government’s case. It’s indicative that Senator Conroy continues to avoid scrutiny and won’t risk critical interviews. Last week he ducked an opportunity to explain his policy on the ABC 7.30 Report.

The chief proponent of the ‘filtering’ scheme – Dr Clive Hamilton – soaks up every opportunity to preach the Gospel According to Clive. He DID appear on the 7.30 report. But Clive has started to come under sustained attack from critics with a variety of perspectives. I sought to expose his key analogy as a fallacy in my recent article Why the Web is NOT Like TV. Dr Hamilton has yet to respond.

With the probable exception of would be ‘filter vendors’, the entire IT industry is aghast, from Telstra to home-based web designers. The bush is in revolt. Demos are coming up in several major cities on December 13th. Even Glen Milne has joined the chorus of dissent (in fairness to News Corp, it has given coverage to the anti-censorship case)

Now for the punch line…

“Children’s welfare groups slam net filters”, according to a remarkable report by Asher Moses in the Fairfax Digital Brisbane Times:

Support for the Government’s plan to censor the internet has hit rock bottom, with even children’s welfare groups now saying that that the mandatory filters, aimed squarely at protecting kids, are ineffective and a waste of money.

Live trials of the filters, which will block “illegal” content for all Australian internet users and “inappropriate” adult content on an opt-in basis, are slated to begin by Christmas, despite harsh opposition from the Greens, Opposition, the internet industry, consumers and online rights groups.

Holly Doel-Mackaway, adviser with Save the Children, the largest independent children’s rights agency in the world, said educating kids and parents was the way to empower young people to be safe internet users.

She said the filter scheme was “fundamentally flawed” because it failed to tackle the problem at the source and would inadvertently block legitimate resources.

Furthermore there was no evidence to suggest that children were stumbling across child pornography when browsing the web. Doel-Mackaway believes the millions of dollars earmarked to implement the filters would be far better spent on teaching children how to use the internet safely and on law enforcement

In the circumstances, the amusing ‘Hitler’ video produced by opponents of the ‘Clean Feed’ proposal is misleading. Hitler in the bunker had more support than Rudd – on this issue.

In an earlier article I posed the question whether Kevin Rudd made a Faustian pact, before the last election, to deliver mandatory Internet censorship in Australia?

That scenario might help explain why the government’s proposal, by its own admission, would at best serve as a ‘leaky’ filter for extreme porn – yet it would work like a treat for political censorship.

WitchesIs that why the government is ordering a tractor to do the job of a car?

If so, Rudd had better undo the deal ASAP. It’s political suicide.

If there is no such deal and this whole issue is truly a case of the Australian Labor Party gripped by moral panic over child porn – like mass hysteria over witchcraft in times past – can the Government please come to its senses at once?

There’s real work to do.