It takes a very big issue to get me to use caps in a blog entry title, and by gosh, for geeks and all internet users THIS IS A BIG ISSUE! Okay, too much caps. *Insert mandatory rant warning*
As many would have heard on the news in the past few weeks, the new Federal Government in Australia is planning on introducing legislation that would make it mandatory for Australian ISPs (Internet Service Providers) to 'filter' the internet that gets accessed by their customers in order to block out any "unsuitable sites" or "inappropriate material". The aim is to make the internet more friendly for Australian families, and in particular children.
That is the 'aim'; what they fail to mention is HOW the heck they plan to do this 'filtering' without dramatically affecting internet network speed, and WHAT exactly will get classified as "unsuitable" or "inappropriate" and how that gets applied to online sites and services.
At best this is a brave attempt at achieving the impossible, and at worst this is an attempt at China-style censorship of the internet.
I would be extremely surprised if any person that has even a remote clue how the internet actually works would support this plan: ask any person educated in IT and they will tell you that this is a colossal waste of time, effort, and most importantly our tax-payers money.
What I find most offensive is the new Communications Minister Stephen Conroy using George W. Bush style "you're either with us or against us" language in labelling anyone opposed to this mandatory ISP filtering as supporting child pornography. To quote the minister: "If people equate freedom of speech with watching child pornography, then the Rudd Labor government is going to disagree."
Can I ask a blunt question (feel free to answer in the comments). Of all the internet users out there, how many times have you stumbled upon child pornography? Even more specifically, people who frequently watch pornography on the internet (comment anonymously if you wish), how many times have you unwittingly stumbled upon child pornography?
Of all my years on the internet, I have never once unwittingly 'stumbled upon' child pornography, and i'm willing to bet most of you haven't either. Yes, i've accidentally stumbled upon plenty of porn (which is not illegal btw), but never child pornography, and i'm willing to bet it would be the same for the vast majority of you out there too.
Filtering the internet at the ISP level by means of government intervention is not the way to go if you don't want your kids viewing porn and alike on the internet. Slow and censored internet is not the answer, and nor is what they're planning can possibly be effective anyway.
The answer is:
Parents monitor YOUR children. Parents, YOU are responsible for your children. I know for some this is hard to take in, but it's true. Stop trying to place responsibility for your kids in the Governments hands. This means:
1. Put the computer in the living room where you can see it. Pay attention to what your kids do online.
2. Install good monitoring or web-protection software on the computer, AND READ THE MANUAL on how to do it properly so the kids won't be able to get around it!. I recommend the really good free BlueCoat K9 Web Protection software.
As you can tell, i feel very passionately about this issue. I'm against child pornography as much as anyone, but this plan will not decrease even in the slightest the demand for child porn out there, nor the number of people accessing child porn. People are kidding yourselves if you think that this kind of thing will somehow protect more kids out there from becoming a victim of these hideous crimes.
The kind of money we're talking about in trying to implement this system (and we're talking about many millions of dollars here), is better spent funding organisations like the Australian Federal Police and Interpol that actively track down and prosecute the sick bastards involved in things like child porn, rather than trying some vain attempt to stop a small nation of 20 million people from not seeing the stuff that they produce (which will still exist anyway).
Please write to your local representative as well as Senator Conroy expressing your disapproval of this. Join one of the various Facebook Groups on this issue, and sign the petitions.
Also, there is this very good parody site: NetAlarmed with associated links.
People lets fight for our free and open internet. Censorship is not the answer.