Internet Censorship

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Oz Attorney General says NO to SOPA

The Australian Attorney General’s (AG) office has said that our government are not considering any similar legislation in relation to the current SOPA (Stop Online Piracy Act) and watered down counter act PIPA (Protect Intellectual Property Act) Bill which is to be voted on in the US next week.
 

In case you’re not up-to-date with this issue, I can tell you that the Bill fundamentally represents a form of legislation that could be introduced in the United States shortly to combat the infringement of copyrighted material (piracy).
 

Why would this Bill be a bad thing if its to counteract illegal Internet proceedings?
 

The force behind the push of this Bill are a handful of powerful multimedia companies (namely movie studios and record companies) who say they losing commercial revenue because of the lack of adequate online piracy laws. However many believe if a law that these companies wanted to see legislated was introduced, it could have monolithic consequences.
 

Those against the Bill are concerned that legislation of this nature would unleash widespread and unaccountable censorship involving non US websites that would block websites at the domain level and that it would greatly interfere with the domain name system (DNS) – the core of the Internet. More importantly, the believe this law could contain measures that would impede online freedom of speech, websites, and internet communities. There is also the argument that suggests a lack of inadequate safeguards mechanisms would not be effectuvely put in place to protect websites and user generated content.
 

The Attorney General stated that in Australia it should be up to content owners and ISP’s to work together to develop a suitable outcome to address online piracy and that discussions between ISPs and copyright owners were facilitated by the government. This was after ISP iiNet recently won a court battle against a copyright conglomerate of film studios called Australian Federation Against Copyright Theft (AFACT). At present, an appeal has been lodged by AFACT in the high court of Australia which has yet to be concluded.
 

Australian Greens Party communications spokesperson ‘Scott Ludlam’ recently asked the government to oppose the Bill as it could not only jeopardise the NBN project, however, along with the negatives as already described, Mr Ludlam also went on to suggest that there should be more representation be in place other than the ISPs and rights holders who both hold commercial interests only as there’s many other parties who will be greatly affected with a potential dumbed-down version of the law in 12 months time.
 

“Isn’t it interesting that the people that they’ve invited into that forum are the rights holders and carriers, and they appear to have left out the creative people who make the content and the audience …The people who actually matter in that debate aren’t in the room. They’ve invited the intermediaries and the people with commercial interests,”– Scott Ludlam
 

“We should be in that room, in the copyright debate; otherwise, we are going to get some kind of dumbed-down Australian-flavoured SOPA — 12 months after it resolves itself in the United States, it’ll pop up here; you can absolutely guarantee it.”– Scott Ludlam
 

“Do they recognise that there will be little purpose in investing tens of billions of dollars in the NBN if the US copyright industry cripples the medium itself?” – Scott Ludlam
 

Read more at zdnet.com.au – No SOPA for Australia: AG

USA concerned on Australian Internet Content Filter

Updated 12.04.2010 at 4:13:53 by Ronnie

United States Ambassador for Barack Obama to Australia ‘Jeff Bleich’ has openly stated that Australia should re-assess their policy on implementing mandatory Internet content filters in a bid to keep the World Wide Web ‘free’.

Mr Bleich, who recently appeared on the ABC’s Q&A program and was quizzed on the U.S.A.’s opinion of Australia’s proposed content filtering plans, said that although the two countries have opposing opinions on mandatory filtering he still thought they would be able to ‘find the path’ forward together.

The United States has told Australia that illegal activity such as child pornography and those responsible for it could be caught without the use of content filters.  Furthermore, they have also stated  that they are more than willing to share their resources with Australia that consists of a range of various choices as an alternative to filtering.

Stephen Conroy has openly stated in the media that neither he or his Department have been contacted by the US and mentioned that it was quite possible that the United States officials may have been discussing these initiatives with the Australian Department of Foreign Affairs.

Opposition Shadow Treasurer ‘Joe hockey’ has even weighed in on the subject by suggesting that their are too many unanswered questions on the mandatory filtering policy. He said that Families should be responsible rather than politicians by taking control of the Internet at home by using an ‘opt in’ filter.

With Legislation expected to be introduced into Parliament in the second half of this year, once again it appears that Mr Conroy will have a tough time getting it passed, especially with the escalation of disapproval from the like of the United States and the Opposition party.

————————————————————-

While the Australian Federal Government continues it’s plans on introducing an Internet Content Filter the United States Government has openly come out and said that it’s concerned with Australia’s intentions.

“We do not discuss the details of specific diplomatic exchanges, but can say that in the context of that ongoing relationship, we have raised our concerns on this matter with Australian officials.”

In fact the U.S. is basically headed in the opposite direction to Australia on this topic as their foreign policy is to encourage economic growth and global security via the Internet platform and especially in countries that practice Internet censorship. To strengthen the argument against filtering the Internet, US Secretary of State ‘Hillary Clinton’ declared in a speech earlier this year that ‘Internet Freedom’ is at the heart of America’s foreign policy in which the U.S. should challenge respective foreign Government’s on their Internet censorship laws.

Essentially, the chips are stacking up against the minister of broadband and communications and his idealistic plans to filter the web, especially now, when we ironically witness many of his allies such as Hillary Clinton oppose Internet Censorship. Australian Shadow Treasurer ‘Joe hockey’ also hit the nail on the head when he had this to say on World Wide Web Censorship –

“What we have in the government’s Internet filtering proposals is a scheme that is likely to be unworkable in practice. But more perniciously it is a scheme that will create the infrastructure for government censorship on a broader scale.”

Will the government take on an egotistical and insolent alter ego by proceeding with their Internet content filtering scheme, or will they see the light of common sense (for the commoner) and perhaps take on their rarely seen ‘human form’ by re-accessing their content filtering plans with a more practical and realistic approach? I sometimes wonder….
source: thepunch.com.au

ISP Content Filter Censorship Information and Protests

Senator Conroy has upset many Australian citizens with his plans to mandatory filter the Internet by forcing all Australian Internet Service Providers to install a Content Filtering System which will essentially fail by design.

Many concerned people (including those with a technology background) appear to be quite sceptical with the ability (or lack thereof) of an Internet Content Filter to catch all the correct information, especially without wiping out legitimate copy. Much of what the senator says they are aiming to eradicate cannot be accessed by general Internet browsing anyway. Child pornographic channels are believed to be that covert and sophisticated that they secretly operate through peer to peer (private networks) which can also get around the general Content Filtering.

On the flipside many believe that Content Filtering is essentially laying the foundation for total control and accountability purposes. An example of the additional control abilities that the powers that be will attain by the introduction of such a filter is the permissions the government will obtain to wipe anything they see fit from the Internet. I guess it’s about principle. Although the good Senator may say there is checks and balances in place for this to be prevented, it’s still laying the foundation for such abuse to potentially happen.

Others argue that ‘Big Brother’ is stepping in to do the jobs of Mothers and Fathers. In the ‘real world’ an individual has the right to do what they want right? ‘Freedom of will’? Sure we want to prevent much of the bad freedom of will occuring, however god (or whatever you would like to refer to as god), gave men and women the choice. Simply speaking, there is an arguement for an alternative whereby the government could provide ‘free content filtering software’ for Mothers and Fathers to install on their local machines, make all schools and institutions install respective software and employ agencies to stringently monitor the Internet for these obscenities….. Why? because many believe there is hidden agenda involved. Well that’s the picture that I see much of the opposing parties painting.

In any case, Internet Content Filtering is a very controversial topic. This may not be the case for you, however it’s something that warrants the need to be explored extensively and made known to everyone so that they can ‘make their own’ mind up. If you would like further information on Internet Content Filtering and upcoming Protest Rallies, check out the links below.

Block The Filter
Type: Causes – Protest
Network: Global
Date: Saturday, March 6, 2010
Time: 12:00pm – 3:00pm
Location: Your nearest capital city

Taken from Facebook
http://www.facebook.com/event.php?eid=200213317223&ref=nf

Block the Filter
http://www.block-the-filter.org/home.html

 Electronic Frontiers Australia – Senate Internet Censorship Petition
http://www.efa.org.au/epetition/

 Lights Out initiative
From Monday, January 25th to Friday, January 29th, Aussie websites will turn their lights out — “black out” — to inform Australians about the threat of imposed Internet censorship.

Join your website to the Blackout
We’ve created a very easy way to participate in the Great Australian Internet Blackout. Ahead of blackout week, please put the following HTML snippet just above the closing </body> tag on your website’s front page:

<script src=”http://www.internetblackout.com.au/ib/blackout.js”></script>

Taken from
http://www.internetblackout.com.au/websites/

Email the Senator
Email you’re dissatisfaction directly to Mr Stephen Conroy
senator.conroy@aph.gov.au.

More Info/Articles
http://www.nocleanfeed.com/
http://getup.org.au/campaign/SaveTheNet/442
http://greensmps.org.au/content/media-release/net-filter-report-signals-trouble-ahead
http://www.inquisitr.com/55109/australian-government-to-delay-internet-censorship-until-after-next-election/
http://www.abc.net.au/tv/qanda/txt/s2521164.htm

ACMA forces Electronic Frontiers to remove Politcal link

Common sense Aussies should be outraged by the Australian Communications and Media Authority’s (ACMA) heavy handed ultimatum that’s forcing Electronic Frontiers Australia (EFA) to remove a link to an abortion site from their blog.



A deletion notice was issued to the EFA stating that if they did not to remove the respective link by 6pm on the following business day they would face $11,000 in fines per day as a consequence. The ACMA ruled that the content on the website was R18+ prohibited content.



A representative of the EFA ‘Colin Jacobs’ said that Australians should be alarmed at this action considering the principles involved. He stated that the link is part of a political discussion about the merits of Internet censorship and that there was never any suggestion that the Australian Government would seek to block political content.



This action by the ACMA is sure to raise concern and argumentation over the legitimacy of what should be, and shouldn’t be classed as inappropriate content, especially if it has any political agenda.


Optus Internet Filtering Trial Retort – Customers Outraged

Initial indications from many Optus customers suggest that they’re far from happy with the Optus decision to rejoin the Federal Government’s controversial Internet Content Filtering trial.

Broadband Industry analyst Paul Budde has also expressed his concern with the Content Filtering retort by Optus and stated that he suspects many Optus customers will be angered by such a decision.

“I thought the credibility of the whole situation was now so low that very few companies would actually put their weight behind it. It is clear the customers of companies such as Optus will not be amused about this sort of activity. So in that respect I am a bit surprised that companies do stick their neck out in a situation like that.” – Paul Budde

Not only does Mr Budde suggest that many Optus customers will be irate by the decision, he also ridiculed the Government’s process as unacceptable for a democratic society, which is also a view that has been aired by a significant amount of the online informed.

The Federal Government push to have mandatory content filtering introduced has appeared very ‘strong handed’, and capitalising further on Mr budde’s views, I too, am concerned with what might become, if such a potential precedent is struck.


Wikileaks ACMA Internet Website Blacklist: Conroy Concerned

Why is Senator Conroy and the Federal Government so adamant on obtaining ‘control’ of the Internet within Australia?



Ever heard of the metaphor ‘opening a can of worms’? Well if there was ever a good example of this meaning, the whole Australian Internet content filtering censorship issue would be a great definition. The term ‘issue’ is argubaly being applied lightly here and possibly not the best adjective for describing this instance. Some may refer to it more indicatively as a ‘farce’, ‘debacle’ or ‘complete ballsup’, or stronger still, the capitulation of freedom. It’s like C’mon Mr Conroy! How dare the current Labor Government treat the Australian society with such contempt and think they can get away with it? Then again, haven’t they been doing this for years and years and getting away with it anyway? So what’s the real principle driving force behind the Internet censorship push in Australia? Is it through ‘Fear’ and ‘Total Control’ that the Government elect to proceed down this path, or is it through the sheer concern for the people and the willingness to protect the flock?



In case you’ve just crawled out from under a rock, to date we have a Communications Minister that’s been labeled ‘pathectic’, voted the country’s worst in decades and one that’s been basically accused of trying to undermine the Australian public by essentially wanting to control the Internet and hiding behind the excuse that he’s trying to protect our children from pedophile predators. Of course we all care for our kids safety, but C’mon Mr Conroy, what do you take us for?  In various online forums and blogs many progressive thinkers and informed contributors seem wary of the consequences that such a mandatory reform may bring. Having the ability to completely control all of our media portals and freedom of speech is perhaps the major concern expressed by many.



There are of obviously many shortcomings involved with the Internet, exposure to graphic, violent and inappropriate content along terrorism elements are just some of the ramifications we face. But what price will we have to pay in order to try and eradicate this sediment and furthermore, can we succeed? At the end of the day a mandatory filtering approach may be perceived as an action taken by fearful Government to which it will only succeed in obtaining a fearful re-action.  The longer this debate is waged, the greater the issue will esculate and depending on mainstream public perception, it may very well see the Government being kept or booted out come the next Australian Election. I suspect the latter of the two.



After reading many comments and concerns in relation to mandatory filtering, and if I can condense the feedback into one sentence, it would chiefly revolve around the concerns of the whole filtering process, it’s transparency and the ‘accountability’ of such. Simply speaking, what would stop the good hearted Senator from pulling any site off the Internet that he chose to, and regardless of what type content was displayed on it? I could name counteless types of hypothetical scenarios, and morever ‘who would watch the watchers’?



Delving below the surface of the the subject at hand, I think its vital that a major decision making process of this magnitude require careful consideration, significant debate, feasibilty, ultimately required and extensive research into all possible outcomes, both positive and negative. Senator Conroy appears to be moving swiftly on this issue while waving his flag of ‘protection’, but many are suggesting that it’s a veil of ‘deceit’ shielding alternative agendas as well. He was recently dealt another blow when he released a statement on the Department of Broadband, Communications and the Digital Economy (DBCDE) where Mr Conroy condemned a reported leak of prohibited Internet addresses while at the same time emphasising the online safety of our children. The Senator claimed that the black banned website list which appeared on the Wikileaks.org was fake and had the following to say on the matter –



“This is not the ACMA blacklist.”



“The leak and publication of prohibited URLs is grossly irresponsible. It undermines efforts to improve cyber–safety and create a safe online environment for children,”



“The published list purports to be current at 6 August 2008 and apparently contains approximately 2400 URLs whereas the ACMA blacklist for the same date contained 1061 URLs.”



“ACMA is investigating this matter and is considering a range of possible actions it may take including referral to the Australian Federal Police. Any Australian involved in making this content publicly available would be at serious risk of criminal prosecution.”



Wikileaks responded (as below) to the threats sentimented by the Communication’s Senator and ironically stood firm behind constitutional law themselves and in turn, basically threatened to have Senator Stephen Conroy extradited if he breached the law –

“Under the Swedish Constitution’s Press Freedom Act, the right of a confidential press source to anonymity is protected, and criminal penalties apply to anyone acting to breach that right,” the organisation said.



“Should the Senator or anyone else attempt to discover our source we will refer the matter to the Constitutional Police for prosecution, and, if necessary, ask that the Senator and anyone else involved be extradited to face justice for breaching fundamental rights.”


Hubris to see Internet Content Filtering introduced?

Will Kevin Rudd, Stephen Conroy and the Australian Federal Government go ahead with mandatory Internet content filtering after so much negative feedback from the ‘informed’ public arena?



Results from an Australian Broadband survey conducted recently that attracted approximately 20,000 respondents overwhelming voted against the new content filtering proposal. The survey  found that only 1.2% who voted for Labor at the last election actually supported the proposed policy of Internet filtering, while almost 90% say they would opt out of a filter if introduced.



Although many of the participants in the survey are highly informed and or technically sound, it still asks the question of just how many people in mainstream society would also agree with the survey finding’s. Furthermore, if this were to be the case, would the Federal Government proceed with an Internet content filtering policy just to ‘check’ so called election promises?



One irate content filtering opponent in a online news forum labeled the Government as ‘hubris’ and waved goodbye to democracy whilst saying hello to China/North Korea. A silly remark perhaps, or does this statement have a basis for concern? The general consensus of the survey results, and from many opinions found in corresponding online forums, suggests there’s a significant amount of conjecture behind the underlying principles of what a ‘mandatory filtering policy’ may bring to the table.



The impeachment of ‘Freedom of Speech’ and a ‘Big Brother’ type government are two such concerns, and although this may sound a little overboard, many believe that whilst the general public have good principles and morals that would welcome the eradication of pedophiles and explicit material, which the Government have based their whole policy around, they feel that mainstream Australia may overlook the bigger picture and what’s really at stake.



Does a 20,000 thousand strong survey that heavily weighs against the introduction of Internet Content Filtering warrant a reversal of policy? I suspect not, but then again it does give the Government something to think about.



Upsetting a minority is a ‘rational transaction’ that any Government obviously has to execute from time to time, however introducing a policy that evokes grave fears for ‘human rights’ that may, over time, grow louder and louder in the public sector, is certainly something that a Government cannot ignore.


Almost 80% Disagree with ISP Level Content Filtering!

In a recent survey conducted by Aussie ISP ‘Netspace’, inital results showed that 78.9% of participants disagree with the Federal Government on making Content Filtering compulsory at an ISP level. If this is anything to go by at a national level, it appears that the Government has it blatantly wrong.



Around 10,000 customers took part in the survey, in which Netspace said was an ‘overwhelming response’. Only a mere 13.6% supported a proposed content filtering mandate, with the remaining 7.1% undecided and 0.4% not responding. It really does send out a loud and clear message…. Australians do not want content filtering implemented at an ISP level!



Perhaps the average Aussie can see a bigger picture here than filtering child porn alone, and that it may refer to other fundamental principles such as the real motive for the introduction of filtering at an ISP level; Precedents that it will set; Effectiveness of an ISP filter to work appropriately; and the potential consequences that a decision like this may bring.



What are you concerns? Do they fit into any of the following categories:



A. Will an ISP filter stop illegal content completely? Industry experts are in agreeance and say ‘No’, as there are many different avenues to bypass or transmit content around an ISP filtering system.



B. What is the real motive behind an ISP content filter?  Is it to check election box promises? Control more than just illegal Internet content?



C. Once implemented, where does the filtering stop? Could the bodies in power that be impeach an individual’s freedom of speech by removing content at will, regardless of agenda?



D. How much content will be ‘wrongfully’ removed by accident or otherwise?



E. What kind of consequences are involved for the ISP and end user? Will it slow down the Internet dramatically and or cause other types of technical conflicts?



I, for one, believe that it comes down to ‘choice’ and more to the point, a parent’s responsibility, and that it should extend into respective Institutions (to a certain degree). However, just who should the primary responsibility of nurturing and protecting our children fall upon?



Are we now too busy to do this ourselves to the point that we need ‘Big Brother’ to intervene? Surely not. Could ‘FREE’ protection software act as an adequate alternative opposed to pre-emptive control, which in essence, may take away an individuals right to act ‘freely’.



Internet content filtering should be available, but to what extent and controlled by whom? If you have something to say on this topic, by all means feel ‘FREE” to post a reply.


Conroy’s Internet Censorship Plan labelled ‘Embarrasing’

Colin Jacobs, Vice Chair of Electronic Frontiers Australia, has published a very interesting article on the controversial topic of Internet Censorship that includes findings from a study by Brooklyn Law School (Filtering in Oz: Australia’s Foray Into Internet Censorship) which he has deemed a ‘serious embarrassment’.



Outside Eastern countries, if the Internet Censorship plan was to be passed through the legislative process successfully, then Australia would become the first Western democracy to have such communist like controlling laws.



Mr Jacobs has begged to differ with the Government’s censorship experiment by questioning it’s legitimacy. In a Crikey.com.au blog titled ‘The world smirks at Conroy’s censorship plan’ the study has shown, through a process based methodology, that there are serious doubts over the legitimacy of such an experiment.



The study’s author applies a process-based methodology to determining censorship’s legitimacy by asking four questions. Is the country open about its censorship plans and the reason behind them? Is it transparent about what is to be restricted? How narrow is the filtering? And finally, are the processes and decision makers behind the scheme accountable? While the Government earns praise for openness (Internet filtering was a central campaign promise), serious issues are highlighted in the other three areas.




The blog is certainly an interested read, so if you aren’t up to speed on the whole Internet Censorship uproar, I recommend you check it out.




Furthermore, the ‘Filtering in Oz: Australia’s Foray Into Internet Censorship’ study can be downloaded here.


 


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