22 September 2009

Conroy's memory lapse

Usually, when someone forgets on the stand some crucial bit of information, we call it evasion. A convenient lapse of memory has now been had by Stephen Conroy, who now says (in the Senate, no less) that he never intended to filter peer-to-peer internet traffic. Since this is how the child pornographers he is using as a convenient justification for government control over the internet in Australia will share their illegal pornography, what's the frigging point?

I don't usually quote entire articles, but this one is too good not to, from Zeropaid News:

Aussie Minister: “I Never Wanted to Filter P2P”

Written by soulxtc

Broadband Minister Stephen Conroy responds to criticisms that the proposed “mandatory voluntary” Internet filter would try to block BitTorrent and other P2P programs, though is a complete reversal from earlier statements.

Opposition to Australian Broadband Minister Stephen Conroy’s plan for a “mandatory voluntary” scheme of filtering the Internet to “protect the children” is taking another beating these days with criticism from the Green Party over his refusal to release data on what proportion of illegal net traffic the government’s filter would actually block.

In Senate Question Time last week, Greens Communications Spokesperson Senator Scott Ludlam asked Minister Conroy to what degree his plan would filter BitTorrent and P2P traffic. For after all, it was he who said last December that “technology that filters P2P and BitTorrent traffic does exist and it is anticipated that the effectiveness of this will be tested in the live pilot trial.”

Minister Conroy, apparently suffering from a case of amnesia, denied any pans to filter file-sharing traffic.

“As Senator Ludlam well knows, there has never been a suggestion by this government that peer-to-peer traffic would or could be blocked by our filter. It has never been suggested. So for you to continue to make the suggestion that we are attempting to do that just misleads the chamber and the Australian public, Senator Ludlam, and you know better than that. We are not attempting to suggest that the filter can capture peer-to-peer traffic,” he said.

Senator Ludlam said the Minister was either trying to hide some quiet goalpost-shifting or was simply unaware he had contradicted himself.

“Maybe the minister doesn’t read his own blog,” Senator Ludlam suggested.

He also said that if that’s the case then the whole “mandatory voluntary” scheme is more pointless than ever.

“We received another vivid demonstration yesterday of why people are right to be suspicious of this pointless waste of $44 million,” Senator Ludlam said.

“The Greens support measures that will achieve better protection for children from objectionable online material, but Minister Conroy reminded us again that the mandatory internet filtering scheme started out as ill-conceived and has just gone downhill from there.”

Stay tuned.

17 September 2009

Shock jocks on radio and decency

"At long last, sir, have you no decency?" That was the question that finally brought down that weasel Joseph McCarthy in his vile campaign to make anyone who was not right wing and equally vile isolated and marginalised in the US. His success can be seen in the present American vile right wing.

So Kyle the Vile Sandilands has been suspended for four weeks. Whooptifuckingdoo. Why hasn't he been banned from being on the media? For that matter, why wasn't John Laws, and why isn't Alan Jones and why aren't all the little Lawsies and Jonesies throughout the land?

Where's ACMA? Is it too busy telling adults what they can and can't play on their computers even if it's lawful? Why haven't they censored Jones, who initiated the race riots on air? Why? Well let's not forget that these guys get politicians into power and out, and the politicians know this. It's all about lobbying for influence. It's all about money.

ACMA ought to immediately revoke the license of any broadcaster or on air personality or producer that breaches the rules of democratic decency. When laws are broken, they should be charged and if at all possible jailed. But we'll never see that in this brave new lobbocracy. They have no decency. Just money.

Scientologists want to gag anonymous criticism

This is not news, of course, because they have always tried to harrass and gag critics using legal and other means, but now they want the Australian legal system to do it for them. From here, which has some links you ought to read if you don't already know the back story.

10 September 2009

Anonymous threaten dDoS against the federal government

It looks like the hacking group that attacked the Scientologists are going to do the same thing to Labor's government websites. I don't approve of this, because it means that Labor on the one hand will retreat into their shell and blame the hacking community for the ills of the internet. The best way to win this is for people to vote and protest. And on the other hand it is, after all, illegal, and the technology to do this will be used for both good and bad purposes; it ought not to be encouraged.

Meanwhile, the Christian lobby that is fronting this censorship proposal fails to respond to criticisms, as expected.

02 September 2009

On preventive censorship versus punishment

In the last few years, there has been an increasing tendency of so-called democratic governments to increase the amount of control they have over their population, under the guise of various "emergencies": terrorism, child pornography and of course a slightly more honest concern over property rights. Just today, the Australian attempt to mandatorily censor all internet feeds to eliminate child pornography has been attacked as ineffectual.

It is, of course, due to the technical nature of the internet, but that is, I fear, the wrong objection.

Cast your mind back to the end of the nineteenth century. The new communications technology then was the post and the telegram. Now, telegrams were sent, as it were, "in the clear" and so senders tended to be circumspect, but the mail then, as now, was private.

Suppose, in the light of terrorism from the anarchists and revolutionaries active at the time, the government said that it would open all mail and read it to ensure that no untoward things were being communicated, and what is more, the censors were not accountable to anyone but the presently elected minister, and in practice not even then.

Suppose that no rules as to what were prohibited were published, so as to not excite the population about forbidden fruit. Suppose that someone's mail could be intercepted and prevented from being received by agents of the government, and the sender would not even be told of this.

Would this be acceptable? I suggest it wouldn't, then or now, and the Kafkaesque nature of such draconian censorship would not be ameliorated by the claim that it was in order to protect the innocent. One can envisage an Edwardian Labor minister of the day holding his coat like a barrister as he accused opponents of the censoring of mail of not wanting to protect the children.

The fact is, even if mandatory filtering were possible technically, this is a kind of Stalinist statism, or a fascism. It suggests that the population is not able to make choices properly, and that it is up to the politicians and administrative arms of government to do it for us. It also suggests that one should punish before the act that is sanctioned is committed, like a Minority Report style interdiction.

If an act is rightly condemned – such as murder – it is the government's duty only to punish those who transgress. When the crime is committed, then the law comes into effect. If there is no crime, the law has no role to play in the lives of citizens going about their lives. What mandatory censorship does it invert this: before there is a crime, you will be held accountable.

Worse, powers held by governments must be balanced and checked to prevent abuse. But this is completely unchecked. We are expected to think that not only this minister (who I personally wouldn't trust to run a chook raffle), but all subsequent ministers and prime ministers and lobbyists and police and bureaucrats and indeed anyone who might prejudice the process is honest and competent.

Did we not learn anything from the past three centuries? Star Chambers? Monarchical absolutism? Special Branch? Intelligence agency failures? Does none of this ring any bells? No? Then get the hell out of power, because you have no right to be doing this, Conroy.

I would once have expected those who are on the conservative side to protect individual freedoms from such statism, but these days they are as much at fault, in Australia as anywhere else, of abuses of power and control as the other sides of the political paddocks. I applaud that Senator Minchin (no relation to this guy, I think) is on the ball about the technical stupidity of filtering, but I really want to see him follow the Greens and attack it for being wrong in principle.

And non-Australians? Watch out. This is coming your way. The UK is already highly controlled, and other countries are going to try it if it works anywhere. The Chinese have dropped the mandatory aspect of their Green Bank filtering, but Malaysia is trialling it now, and it's not a long leap to European and New World countries doing it. All it takes is a little bit of paternalism.

Won't somebody think of the children when they grow up?