There’s a lot of debate still raging about the proposed clean feed. We all thought it was dead when Nick Xenophon decided he didn’t like it. But no. It’s alive and kicking. And costing money for anyone who dares link to the leaked blacklist.
Obviously there’s a fair bit of support from the Christian side of the fence for anything limiting people’s access to pornography – particularly child exploitation material. But these objections are, in my opinion, misguided. There’s also a fair bit of reasonable Christian objection to the proposal. Examples here from Craig and Seamus.
Here’s some reasons I think the policy is a bad idea…
- It won’t actually address the problem it claims to address – I have not read about any court cases involving prosecution of people who took part in illegal pornography via an http website. The filter only addresses these sites. Illegal material is traded via complicated, secure sharing systems.
- It provides no deterrent for wrongdoers – a better way to tackle the problem would be to invest in better policing and increase the penalties for people involved.
- It gives the government an opportunity to act without accountability – The blacklist is a closely guarded secret – as is the process for sites to get on it. There are fines for people who reveal any of its content. The process is secretive and arbitrary – how long before “objectionable content” becomes “things we don’t agree with”… despite the constant cry from Christian supporters of the policy that “this isn’t censorship” and we should act to protect children and keep harmful material from adults the system we’re introducing is more like the system in China and Iran than the system in the US and New Zealand. It is censorship. In fact, it’s worse. By keeping what’s being censored secret and not addressing the criteria involved other than with motherhood statements it’s more akin to policing thought than to protecting the population from unwanted nasties.
Libertarians want the policy scrapped because they think people should have access to whatever material they believe is in their best interest. I don’t agree. And I don’t think you have to agree with that idea to oppose what is a stupid piece of policy that was only tabled in the first place to appease the Christian vote.
The debate at Craig’s blog continued into a second post – where I joined the fray.
From here on in I’m just reproducing what I said there.
Here’s what Conroy had to say about the issue from an ABC story on the matter of the blacklist and how it will be used… from the horse’s mouth so to speak.
“Senator Conroy: A whole range of people have said, ‘Hey let’s expand this’. That’s a debate that we will come to. What we’re trying to establish at the moment, we’re no further than establishing at the moment, whether it’s technically feasible. So in terms of what some of us senators want to claim should be included on the blacklist, I’m sure that when we get to the debates down the track, if it proves to be technically feasible, there’ll be a whole range of people with a whole range of demands about what should be on the blacklist. But what we’ve committed to do is practically implement what’s on the blacklist at the moment, if it is technically feasible.
Conroy is basically admitting that the technology will allow the Government to pretty much block whatever they see fit. It’s scary.
Hansard from this Senate estimates hearing (it’s a PDF) makes for interesting reading (at least when they’re talking about getting newsradio in Townsville and the Clean Feed).
Quotes like this one worry me:
“As I have said, whether we will consider other items will be determined by the live trial.”
It’s not simply restricted to illegal content – this trial is restricted to illegal content – the filter may be open to further suggestions once they know it works…
Having read the entire discussion in that Hansard report I’m still not convinced. I know they say that they’re only dealing with material in line with the current classifications system – but their statements are far too open ended when dealing with the future of the scheme and the way sites are added to the ACMA blacklist – which like it or not is a secret list controlled by the Government and will play a vital role in identifying blocked content.
Nobody is arguing that there aren’t good intentions behind the scheme – just that in its current form it is far too open for abuse in the future for my liking. It also won’t do anything to stop or deter those who use the internet for nasty means – because as has been argued time and time again – they don’t use standard http websites.