Wednesday, March 5, 2008

Internet Censorship

The Rudd government has announced plans to filter internet content at the ISP level. This is a ridiculous idea. This government gained a good deal of support with promises to promote an information revolution. Filtering content at ISP level will significantly slow down connection speeds. Australia is already way behind the rest of the world in this respect; in Japan the speeds are about 20 times faster. The administration and technology for filtering will cost ISPs money, which will then be passed on to the consumer; so we get slower internet for a higher price. Some revolution. While protecting children from inappropriate content is of course a very good idea, surely that responsibility lies with parents. Any parent who allows their child access to an unmonitored internet connection behind a closed bedroom door is asking for trouble. It is very easy to install a "net nanny" type program on a computer, and why not locate the computer where you might be easily able to watch (at least from time to time) what your child is doing. Apparently, users will be able to "opt out" of filtering and still receive what Rudd and his gurus consider to be "inappropriate". Who knows what their idea of "inappropriate" will be? Why not make parents who are too lazy or technophobic to take child safe precautions "opt in". This is supposed to be a free society after all. Anyone who has experienced internet use with filtering applied (e.g. the infamous DET portal) will know how painful this can be. Many useful and harmless sites are automatically blocked while others with quite questionable content still get through. This kind of attack on civil liberties seems more at home somewhere like China or hardline Islamic states. Australian internet connections might soon be like Ned Flander's cable TV: "100 channels, and all blocked except for the weather." Okely dokely? No! Doh!

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