Friday, October 31, 2008

australia's digital counter-revolution

From "digital revolution" to counter revolution in a mere ten months. Senator Stephen Conroy, Minister for Broadband, Communications and the Digital Economy is threatening to censor the internet of illegal material in Australia at ISP level

Here is Mark Newton's argument against, which leads to the conclusion that Conroy's proposal will lead to increased child abuse:
The online community's argument is a simple one:
  • there's no problem to solve because actual illegal material on the Internet is so rare that nobody ever finds it;
  • even if there was a problem to solve, there's no serious public demand to solve it;
  • even if there was a public demand to solve it, none of the solutions proposed by the ALP will be effective, and the Government has handily provided original research to decimate their own case;
  • even if they were effective, they'll slow down Internet access and reduce Internet reliability, as shown by the same original research released by the Minister on July 22;
  • even if the proposed solutions had perfect performance and reliability, none of them are affordable;
  • even if they were affordable, they'll be implemented terribly by the same underclass of bureaucrat that deemed Mohammad Haneef a terrorist, or Bill Henson a pornographer. The salivating of hangers-on like Family First and Nick Xenophon, lobbying to have the blacklist expanded before it's even in force, demonstrate perfectly how open the system will be to political manipulation and lobbying;
  • even if they were implemented perfectly by perfect administrators, the blacklists will inevitably leak, be published on the Internet, whereupon they'll fall into the hands of nefarious individuals and consequently enable child abuse all over the world, with the direct assistance of the Commonwealth of Australia; and
  • there's no possibility that the blacklists won't leak. Finland's list has already leaked, CyberPatrol's encrypted blacklist is cracked every six months or so. It's delusional to believe that Australia will be any better at securing its officially sanctioned list of Child Porn and Terrorism sites than anyone else. It might take a month, a year, five years, ten years, or two hours. But it will leak, secrets always do. Pressing it into service will be like setting a ticking time bomb, and when it explodes there'll be a thronging multitude of critics pointing at Senator Conroy and saying, "I told you so, you were warned, but you did it anyway".
This isn't a complicated argument. To justify the ALP's policy, cogent, successful arguments against each and every one of those independent points will need to be mounted.
- The perplexing internet debate by mark newton

Further links with brief commentary:

Filtering out the fury: how government tried to gag web censor critics
Documents how Conroy's office tried to silence Newton by directly contacting his employer, Internode

Closed Environment Testing of ISP-Level Internet Content Filtering: Report to the Minister for Broadband, Communications and the Digital Economy, June 2008 (pdf, 89pp)
I've only read the executive summary, which does claim that filtering technology has improved significantly since 2005 - less degradation, more filtering accuracy and more filtering options for ISP customers. I don't really believe this but it might explain why Conroy went ahead.

But amazingly this report goes onto say:
"ACMA (Australian Communications and Media Authority) was not asked, as part of the trial, to assess the capability of ISP-level filtering technologies that filter only illegal content. ACMA was also not asked to investigate the balance of costs and benefits associated with implementing ISP level filtering ..."
This is weird. Conroy is talking about filtering illegal material but did not even ask the ACMA to investigate this!

ISP-level content filtering won't work
"The leaders of three of Australia's largest internet service providers — Telstra Media's Justin Milne, iiNet's Michael Malone and Internode's Simon Hackett have, in video interviews with over the past few months detailed technical, legal and ethical reasons why ISP-level filtering won't work."
Dale Clapperton, Electronic Frontiers Australia (video interview, some dumb questions -"Do you have children Dale?" but Dale rises above it. There was another question about how children might circumvent the free government software available at the family level. Dale then turned that around to point out that yes, that will happen at the ISP level, too.

Stop Australian Internet Censorship Petition. Points out that smaller ISPs will be driven out of business by the extra cost

The high price of internet filtering by Michael Meloni
  • 10,000 out of every one million innocent sites will be blocked, figures based on the government report cited above. This will lead to loss of income to businesses. What will be the appeal process?
  • ISPs will need more call centre staff to deal with angry customers
  • There are other more serious threats to which resources could be directed - cyber bullying, identity theft, online predators

1 comment:

lucychili said...

For me my concern is that we are building a mechanism for censorship which can, and therefore will be, used to different ends over time. (eg Copyright take down which already is contentious and creates a chilling effect on participation.)

imho No democracy should have a single arbiter of information the mechanism is contradictory to democratic freedom to choose.