22 March 2009

Iran - what Australia can aspire to be

See this.

Update on the "leaked list"

Wikileaks, bless them, are now saying that they have a new copy of the blacklist, and that ACMA did a massive cleanup to drop the number of links from over 2000 to around 1200. It looks like the minister was, dare we say it, lying about this. Whirlpool have the story here. They also point out how stupid it is for the minister and ACMA to threaten a Swedish site with Australian prosecution, especially when the Swedish constitution protects such acts. I wish I lived in a civilised nation too.Do you think we could convince the Swedes to invade? I can't stand that much darkness, or I'd probably try to move there.

21 March 2009

Not "smacks of" Big Brother; *is* Big Brother

Helen Razor has a nice article in the Melbourne Age taking down Conroy's hubris, but the subeditor who put the title "Net filter smacks of Big Brother" missed the point. This is Big Brother. Helen's final line gets it just right:

Don't even try to argue with Conroy about his Clean Feed. When it comes to debate on internet safety, he appears every bit as flexible as an evangelical toothpick.

Later: The New Zealand minister is smarter than the Australian:

"We have been following the internet filtering debate in Australia but have no plans to introduce something similar here," says Communications and IT minister Steven Joyce.

"The technology for internet filtering causes delays for all internet users. And unfortunately those who are determined to get around any filter will find a way to do so. Our view is that educating kids and parents about being safe on the internet is the best way of tackling the problem."

Err, yes. Parents, if they are concerned about their kids, should educate them and monitor them until they are old enough. This is not rocket science, Conroy.

20 March 2009

That's not the real blacklist, but you can't see what is

Really minister? We are supposed to take your word that the leaked list on Wikileaks is not the real one because you tell us there's a different number of links on the "real" list? Why would we believe you? You have steadfastly refused to countenance any criticism and have declared opponents like me to be supporters of child pornography, just because you don't want to hear us. We should take your word for it? You are a dissembler and it seems none too bright, so forgive me if I don't think that even if you are telling the truth about what you have been told, that you have the wattage to spot when you are being misled by public servants who like the control this ill-fated legislative bastard gives them.

If you want credibility, then give an independent watchdog, with community support, access to the list and the protocols for getting sites on it and more importantly off it. Like the American balls-up, the "no fly list", the default view everyone should have is that this will also be a balls-up.

And while I'm on default opinions, why are people like me called "freedom of speech advocates" by the media? Surely that's the default view, that one has the right to state what one thinks no matter who happens to find it unpleasant? That's the ground on which democracy walks. It is people like yourself who deserve a special designation. I suggest we call you restriction of liberty advocates from now on.

19 March 2009

Censorship outright now

I have put my post up at Evolving Thoughts for reasons given there. Note, however, that Wikileaks is now blocked from Australia - with no legislation behind it! We are long past potential censorship and into the worst excesses of the 1950s. Funny; I thought Howard was the regressive PM.

18 March 2009

In defence of liberty

I urge you all to go read Russell Blackford submission to the Human Rights consultative committee. It covers well the issues brought about by the recent rolling back of civil liberties to combat "terrorism" and "religious vilification" and the like.

17 March 2009

A balanced view on internet safety

Here's an essay by Peter Chen at Online Opinion that gives a good summary of the issues, concerns and problems with internet filtering and safety. I recommend it.

But one thing Chen does not address that I think is crucial here is the legal principle of not punishing people for criminal acts before they are committed. By inhibiting people's rights to see what they want online, so long as it is not illegal, clean feeding is an unfortunate step towards government oversight on what we do in any respect. It sets a precedent, and such precedents are hard to eliminate once they enter the domain of legal decision making (called stari decisis under common law).

Yes, I object to the fact that clean feeds are impracticable, will degrade internet performance, and not do what they set out to do (which is protect children), but fundamentally the main reason for not adopting them is that it gives power to governments and their instruments to decide sub rosa what we can and cannot see. Suppose that the present government and all the members of the department of telecommunications are exemplary individuals who not only have our best interests at heart, but do so intelligently and effectively. Can we guarantee that the next government, or a much later bureaucracy, will consist of these people? Not at all, which is why checks and balances are a crucial aspect of democratic government.

And I do not trust this government. They have made way too many religiously-based noises about what is and is not permissible in public. This is to my mind only the thin edge of the constant presumption of religious organisations and culture that they may rightly interfere with other citizens' behaviours, whether they are of that religion or not. That the balance of power is held by a religious political candidate in the Senate is only the tip of that iceberg.

We are a secular nation! It's in our constitution. We do not arrange our public polity on the basis of what suits pastors and cardinals and imams. We do so on legal principles of liberal democracy. For this reason, people are calling for our representatives to oppose the movement coming out of Islam to protect religions against "defamation" speech. Religions have no rights to not be offended by the behaviours of those who are not in their community (and no rights to impose upon their members by legal or other force the views of the hierarchy). And the very idea of handing to potentially religiously motivated censors the power to control what we read, see and hear is just frightening.

I'm not impressed either by the constant refrain by the minister and his allies that to oppose the clean feed is to support child pornography and abuse. Of course I do not. This is exactly the argument that George Bush's administration used to take away civil rights of thousands - if you oppose us you support terrorism. One can be vehemently opposed to child abuse, and terrorism, without wanting to grant unsupervised people unfettered rights to control us. Child porn is illegal - so use the frigging laws to prosecute child pornographers. Give the police the resources they need. There are sufficient criminal investigative powers and laws under which such activities may be prosecuted - you don't need to treat us all as criminals to do so.I think the reason why Labor are so hot for the clean feed is that they really don't want to give the police the resources and to manage them. It's so much easier to simply make other people, the ISPs in this case, stop the porn. Make it their problem and it's no longer yours.

So by all means point out the practical difficulties, but even if you have the perfect means, I am not sure the ends are justified, and I certainly want judicial, community and user oversight on what gets censored and why. And I want a redress system for those incorrectly included (which must include damages - if the authorities don't have to pay for their mistakes, then they'll be a lot less careful). And I also want prosecutorial avenues for those who do abuse this system. Put all that in place, and you may convince me of the rightness of this approach. But leaving it in the hands of Labor or Conservative party hacks who have obligations to religious figures who may have helped them get into power? No way. That takes us back to the Bad Old Days of Mannix. Learn from some history...

10 March 2009

Queensland back to being stupid

I have just left Queensland, where the weather and landscape are wonderful but spoiled in virtue of being inhabited by, you know, Queenslanders*. So I expect this kind of stupidity:

Here's a guy who has no criminal history, has done no harm to, nor promoted harm to, children or anyone else so far as we can tell. He faces twenty years in jail: for embedding on his site a video, with caveats and warnings, of a Russian man swinging a child around. This video is widely available on the internet. But some stupid fuck in government has decided that he needs to be brought to charge for child abuse.

In fact the video is not abusive - clearly the man swinging the child is the father, who loves his kid, but is a bit rougher than we now think is healthy (but when I was a kid, that would have been perfectly acceptable behaviour). So of course, put this poor bastard, whose health has suffered, in prison.

And don't surf the internet, or comment on anything that might possibly be interpreted as doing anything a witch-hunter might find offensive. Or you, too, will end up in prison.

* I'm equal opportunity. NSW is ruined by New South Welshpersons, Victoria by Victorians, Tasmania... well you get the idea. Canberra is ruined by all of them.

And they will *still* shift Dexter

09 March 2009

Filtering elsewhere

In one of those wonderful headlines, like "Fog in Channel; Continent cut off", the NY Times has noted that Europe is helpfully "test run"ning net neutrality for US providers and lawmakers...

Maybe they will thank Australia for test running censorship in general?