No clean feed. Try education instead

25 Sep

Steven Conroy’s determination to press on with his plans for an internet filter early next year is ostensibly founded on his desire to “think of the children.” To what degree that emotive appeal is a cover for more sinister intent such as total government control of the internet in Australia is difficult to discern, but it doesn’t pay to assume that what you see is what you get with politicians. It’s in their nature to be duplicitous and power-hungry. I’m not a fan of the slippery slope fallacy but give governments an inch and they take a mile when it comes to curtailing personal freedoms and an internet filter “to protect the children” can only be the thin edge of the wedge.

Moving on, after getting the clichés out of my system:

The very fact that Conroy remains committed to his filter indicates a much broader intent than the protection of children. ISPs already voluntarily block child pornography sites for example, and there’s considerable debate as to whether or not a filter would add anything to those measures already in place. What it will do is block an unknown number of sites of an unknown type, because Conroy’s List of Undesirable  Websites is secret. As Leslie Cannold points out here, the list of to-be-banned sites is banned from public scrutiny, and this in itself should ring the alarm bells.

I have a great deal of sympathy for parents raising children in the digital age. The challenges they face are more numerous and complex than ever before in terms of the types of material  kids can access on the Internet, and the undesirability of much of that content.

However. Governments should not be attempting to control kids’ viewing habits by preventing site access to the entire population. Governments should be supporting parents by developing and supplying low-cost software parents can use to control what their kids see on the home computer. They should be educating parents and children, starting with some decent sex education in schools.

The bottom line is, as always, that parents are responsible for what their children get to see. Clever kids will find their way round parental controls, that’s a given. So keep the computer in a public area, monitor use, heck, it’s not rocket science and we all had to learn it for television.

Personally, I’m squeamish about the existence of violent sexual content on the net. It’s not something I can watch. The thought of young kids learning about sexuality from such images is distressing to me. I’d like it if that wasn’t a risk we had to take.

But the risks of government censorship are greater, IMO, particularly a government such as this one that refuses to disclose what it intends to censor in the first place. The government certainly has a role to play in the protection of children and support of their parents, and it isn’t censorship. If they can fund a very dodgy chaplaincy program in schools, why can’t they fund some serious sex education, and protective software?

As I’ve said many times before, as a society we need to be teaching our young to value themselves and others. Conroy’s filter won’t achieve any of that. Conroy’s filter is all about government control, not government contribution to the well-being of children. We need a paradigm shift on this issue to one in which children really are the central concern and are not cynically employed by those with vested interests to further their own controlling concerns, be they political power, religious tyranny, or moral dictatorship.

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5 Responses to “No clean feed. Try education instead”

  1. Matthew September 25, 2011 at 9:33 am #

    This debate has been essentially going on since 1999 in this country. Both Labor and the Liberals want to censor the web. I’ve posted this before, but everyone should really understand the current situation in Australia at the moment; http://libertus.net/censor/netcensor.html So to recap; if you have a website that is hosted on a server in Australia, you can only host material that would be rated “G” to “M”. Everything else is banned. You also have the absurd “Link-deletion notice” part of the legislation. In short if you have a website hosted in Australia that links to a site on ACMA’s blacklist, you could be issued with a $11,000 per day fine until you remove it. The kicker is that the blacklist is secret of course, so you would never know you were breaking the law until you got the notice. The insanity of the law also means the hosting company gets the fine, not the webmaster. However the laws are pretty ineffectual as they are based on citizen complaints, plus most people host their sites on overseas servers.

    The child porn blocking which happening now on at least two or three of the big ISPs, is a little dodgy; http://libertus.net/censor/isp-blocking/au-ispfiltering-voluntary.html There’s a lot of questions about what is on the Interpol list, ACMA’s been compiling a new list and apparently defeating the filter is as easy as changing your DNS settings. So the whole thing is useless really.

    Also to note, is that the forthcoming Conroy censorship scheme will only block “Refused Classification” material. That in itself is a massive can of worms; http://libertus.net/censor/isp-blocking/au-govplan-refusedclassif.html It’s anything from child porn to banned films like “A Serbian Film” or “Caligula”, videos of kids spray painting trains, a whole ton of porn that people in other parts of the world can buy legally, instructional euthanasia material etc. But the problem is that just about everywhere in Australia (WA and prescribed parts of NT excluded) is quite legal to own just about all of this material (child porn is the obvious exception). The further you dive into this subject, the more of a dogs breakfast it is.

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  2. Policeman MacCruiskeen September 25, 2011 at 9:02 pm #

    Hi Jennifer, I went through this debate at LP and eventually changed my position, which I am capable of doing after reasoned argument, to one in which I’m now opposed to Conroy’s filter for two reasons: i) the potential for ‘bracket creep’ in what gets censored; ii) wikileaks, which surely would be censored but which is essential for an open, democratic society. I still have concerns about the webz but only in so far as minors are exposed to adult material that acts in such a way as to educate their desire in ways well beyond their tender years. There doesn’t appear to be a technical solution and i remain unconvinced by the idea that it is the responsibility of parents to ‘police’ their children’s use of the net because class issues (ie, inadequate parental education) is not up to the job.

    Cheers,

    policeman

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    • Jennifer Wilson September 26, 2011 at 6:34 am #

      Hi Policeman,
      I think it is parents’ responsibility, bottom line, but I agree with you that there’s no way of ensuring parents fulfill that task. That’s the same for everything though, drinking, driving dangerously, whatever – there’s only a very small part of life in which parents can exert control, and I think it’s shrinking.
      On class issues, I’ve known middle class and wealthy parents who are not up to the job. They just don’t come in for as much surveillance as people who don’t have the financial ability to conceal their lives.

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  3. Marilyn September 26, 2011 at 3:44 pm #

    But the same man is happy to jail refugee kids, bomb them in their own countries and do nothing much while 9 million of them starve to death every year.

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  4. paul walter September 26, 2011 at 4:33 pm #

    Much the same as above, the giveaway is the lunatic propositon that the list remains secret; what insanity is this?
    It is easy to see the real use of the Filter is in that this advances their attempts to dumb down, to cut out legitimate discourse of other issues of the type that Marilyn raises, using porn as coathanger to get at the rest.
    What we might describe as the REAL pornographies of actually occurring reality, given the preconditions of our actuality. The image of some kid lying in a hollow in a dust bowl starving to death and probably affected by Malaria or Dysentery is pretty confronting, but why don’t our leaders want to discuss causes or ending this sort of thing rather than obsessing over whether or not some (probablyuninformed) ten yo has got hold of the twenty-first century equivalent of “Playboy”, for a few minutes?
    TheConroy laws are just Dr Haneef laws applied to a different aspect of life, but the end result is the same: the advancement of arbitrary power and secrecy.

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