Tagged With clean feed
Free speech means accepting that stuff will be said that you disagree with, but there's plenty of people who spend their lives complaining about viewpoints or media they don't like. What will those people start doing when Internet content can be blocked via a mandatory censorship scheme?
It's difficult not to assume that the timing of last week's Internet censorship announcement was deliberate: who's going to notice in the run-up to Christmas? But that's no reason to ignore the issue.
It's clear Lifehacker readers think the plan to make Internet censorship mandatory in Australia in 2010 is a deeply stupid idea. While there may be ways of working around the filter, not having the filter would clearly be a better idea. How can you effectively make your views known?
We won't see mandatory Internet filtering until mid-2010, but even without the details still being worked out, it's clear that anyone with a modicum of technical know-how will be able to bypass it.
Now that Optus has joined the government's controversial mandatory Web filtering trial , a lot more people are potentially going to be included than with the original list of small ISPs. But with Optus offering an opt-out option, the question arises: should you say yes or no if you get asked to participate?
Many of us find the prospect of mandatory Internet censorship worrying, but we often ignore the fact that there's already a system in place that allows content to be effectively removed from Australian sites. Over at APC, I've written up an explanation of how ACMA uses "link deletion notices" to stop links to content it has deemed objectionable. The legislation isn't just a hollow threat, as it was recently used to remove a link on respected broadband site Whirlpool. Of course, with broader-based censorship (as favoured by the government) this process would become more widespread, and the list of content deemed "prohibited" much longer. Photo from Wikimedia Commons BLACKLIST: Government cracks down on Whirlpool.net.au
One of the key elements of controversial plans to filter Australian Internet access is the use of a "blacklist" maintained by the Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA) to identify banned sites. While the list is supposed to be secret (since the content of the sites it lists is purportedly illegal), ACMA doesn't seem to be going to particularly strong efforts to protect it, as Fran Foo points out in a report for AustralianIT. On the one hand, this is a kind of reassuring reminder that most attempts at censorship fail. On the other hand, the apparent willingness to embrace inconsistency isn't a very promising sign for how policies might be applied if a full-scale filter is introduced.
Row over web blacklist
The long-discussed testing of ISP-level Internet filtering, with six companies taking part: Primus Telecommunications, Tech 2U, Webshield, OMNIconnect, Netforce and Highway 1. Primus is the largest of those, and the absence of top-tier ISPs (like Telstra, Optus or iiNet) has attracted much comment. A test involving smaller ISPs might not be very conclusive, but look on the bright side: it could go so badly that the plan gets abandoned altogether. We can only hope. Meanwhile, If you are using one of the participating ISPs and have opted in for testing, share your experience in the comments.
There's already been some highly visible protests about proposals to try and filter Australia's Internet feed, but a new survey from Netspace clarifies that opposition to this poorly-thought-out scheme is widespread. Phil Sweeney at Whirlpool reports that almost 80% of customers surveyed by ISP Netspace were opposed to the scheme, and only around a quarter said they would sign up to a clean feed if it was available, whether compulsory or otherwise. While there's been some speculation that the government will cancel the plans after the trial (using the inevitable performance degradation as an excuse), that's far from a certainty.
Netspace customers rail against ISP filtering
A common theme at Saturday's protests against proposals to censor and filter Australian Internet access (you can check out my on the spot report from the Sydney protest at APC) was the need to continue arguing against the proposals. One important way of doing that is by writing to your local member of Federal parliament. The Electronic Freedom Project is maintaining an interesting Project Score Card, which shows what responses have been received from various politicians. Depressingly, the most common outcome seems to be no response at all, followed by a standard form letter. The wiki also has comprehensive links to other useful resources about the still-sketchy but potentially hugely limiting censorship plans. Electronic Freedom Project
A final reminder that there are protests against proposals to censor Australia's Internet feed in capital cities across Australia this weekend. Details at the Stop The Clean Feed site.
Amidst the continuing debate about plans to try and censor and filter Australian Internet access, the No Internet Censorship for Australia blog makes a useful point: if implemented as planned, the proposals would actually make it harder to track down people accessing questionable material. Drawing on the example of how Wikipedia editing recently got blocked in the UK because one article contained a questionable image, the blog points out that forcing people through proxy IP addresses makes them much harder to identify:
The process of dutiful law enforcement now has an extra-complicated step where the ISP needs to be contacted and instead of identifying an IP address, attempt to match up the user IP addresses access through the filter to the offensive site - likely matching time and date stamps on both systems and calculating time differences and the like. The law enforcement procedure is more drawn out, more prone to error (including "technicalities" that see actual offenders walk free) and ISPs are given another serving of the increasing public pressure for them to actively participate as enforcers of what is done with the service they provide.
If you find the planned implementation of a so-called "clean feed" questionable, don't forget there's a series of protest marches this Saturday.
Law Enforcement Disempowerment Not Just Rhetoric
As I've noted in a story for APC, a series of protests against the government's "clean feed" Internet proposals are planned for December 13. If you feel like speaking out against this plan, details of the six capital city events can be found on the Stop The Clean Feed site. If you're not in one of those locations, you can still sign the GetUp petition.
In the spirit of the infamous Fake Steve Jobs, Fake Stephen Conroy has arrived on Twitter, making a mockery of our Minister for Communications. As Dan Warne reports at APC, the faux feed is actually the work of Electronic Frontiers Australia, as part of their campaign against the government's clean feed proposal. If you're opposed to that proposal, it's a great addition to your Twitter friends.
Say G'day to Fake Steve Conroy
As plans for a government trial of content filtering with selected ISPs firm up, it's becoming increasingly apparent that we might all get stuck with a degraded Internet service with very little justification in public service terms. Over at APC, I've rounded up half-a-dozen arguments for If the thought of your Internet connection being censored at the source bothers you, then then the EFA's No Clean Feed site is a good place to get more information on campaigning against it.
Top 5 reasons to fight government ISP filtering