The Minister for Clean Feed Censorship has closed down the "opt-in" filtering scheme actually in place, which was established by the previous (Coalition) government. So now while we wait for the mandatory filter to fail its tests and get implemented anyway, parents relying on the prior scheme will find their kids are not "protected". Quelle surprise!
Derek Bambauer of the Brooklyn Law School lays out the conditions that one should assess filtering in a democracy:
First, is a country open about its Internet censorship, and why it restricts information? Second, is the state transparent about what material it filters and what it leaves untouched? Third, how narrow is filtering: how well does the content that is actually blocked - and not blocked - correspond to those criteria?
Finally, to what degree are citizens and Internet users able to participate in decisionmaking about these restrictions, such that censors are accountable? Legitimate censorship is open; transparent about what is banned; effective, yet narrowly targeted; and responsive to the preferences of each state's citizens.
By my reckoning, none of these conditions are being met by Conroy. There is a hidden agenda here that the ALP is not being open about. The public may not know what is being filtered and why. It is necessarily going to give false positives and false negatives. And we cannot participate in the setting of the conditions under which censorship is imposed - that, it seems, is something only the religious originators of this view, mostly Clive Hamilton, a Catholic apologist, can contribute to.
Meantime, the Australian Sex Party actually puts forward some very good arguments against the filter.
According to the Sex Party, there is a clear distinction between X-rated (18+) content, which can be legally traded on DVDs, and child pornography and sexual violence, and the government should not attempt to lump them together in one blacklist.
Hear, hear. Look who argues for filtering on the basis of "thinking of the children": Yemen. The only difference appears to be the religion on which it is based.
Moreover, it turns out that in fact the internet is not the vast dangerous place where children are exploited, or at least, no more than anywhere else. The New York Times reports a study [available here] that shows that people are demonising the internet because it's new and unfamiliar and that the evidence is not there to support it. They did the same thing for printing, if I recall my history.