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The Rudd Government will spend $160 million over four years to provide satellite-based digital television services to people in regional blackspot areas, Communications Minister Stephen Conroy said….

Under an agreement reached with television broadcasters, broadcasters would upgrade more than 100 existing regional analog ‘self-help’ transmission facilities to operate in digital, while the Government will fully fund and build a new digital satellite broadcasting service for regional viewers.

WTF Conroy? a new digital satellite service broadcasting primarily commercial channels?

Wait, isn’t there already a service that does that?

Wikipedia: Optus Aroura

Sure, it doesn’t offer all the digital channels, but according to Wikipedia, it’s a DIGITAL service.

Given the Optus satellites offer Foxtel digital channels, why exactly is a new satellite service needed? Why can’t you upgrade the existing one?

But better still: why is the Government subsidizing commercial TV in regional areas to begin with? After all, it’s not as though these areas can’t get pay TV to begin with. Wait, that’s the same satellites again…hmmm. Why not just subsidize a pay tv connection for those who want it (not that the idea is entirely fair), after all, it would probably be cheaper.

Stephen Conroy on SBS’s Insight: video here.

Lots of waffling.


Conroy: If an Australian website has material that is deemed to be refused classification – a number of other classifications also – they’re issued with what’s called a take-down notice – for the overseas websites at the moment all ACMA can do if they’re identified is write to the overseas server and ask them to not do it – which means nothing, in effect.

Actually, the same program had a site owner who’s site had been added to the blacklist who didn’t know his site was added to the blacklist. If they’d received a takedown notice, they would have know.

MARK NEWTON: Or it can be X-18-plus, which is legal for adults to buy and view everywhere in Australia. Or it can be R-18-plus and not behind a restricted access system. R-18-plus material is legal to view in public cinemas – any adult can walk into a cinema and see R-18-plus movies but they are prohibited content on the internet in Australia and then the most outrageous one which is also the most recent addition which came into force in January this year ?¢‚Ǩ‚Äú sorry – last year – prohibited content on the internet in Australia includes material which is MA-15-plus sold for profit and not behind restricted access systems. This is material which is legal to view on free-to-air television which is prohibited on the internet.

Conroy: This is one of the great furphies that people have wanted to engage in to try and create a scare campaign about what we’re actually proposal. I on have only ever identified refused classification in terms of child porn, bestiality, rape, incest sites – those sorts of things. For adults who want to be able to watch the other material we’re not proposing to do that – we’ve never proposed to do that.

Actually, prohibited content does include what Mark Newton details, even ACMA confirms it.

STEPHEN CONROY: Refused classification and there’s a legitimate debate – I think Mark wants to have a debate about what – there are different categories within refused classification. There are always marginal issues about some material, whether it falls in or falls out.

Actually, no there’s not. RC is still RC, even if there is different criteria in getting to the point, unless Conroy is proposing new RC sub-categories.

Here’s where it gets interesting: Conroy claims that the Blacklist won’t be used in the censorship regime

FIONA PATTEN: Currently, currently it says X-rated material, R-rated without age verification, anything that’s refused classification. So, I mean, I’m very pleased to hear that X-rated will no longer be on the black list. It’s currently on it. Certainly there are – I mean, I have members who have sites who are currently on the black list. Again, they didn’t know that they were on the black list until it was leaked. And it hasn’t ?¢‚Ǩ‚Äú

STEPHEN CONROY: This is the – people, again, keep confusing between what we’re proposing and what is on the existing black list. These were categories created by the former government and they are the current law.

or maybe not?

FIONA PATTEN: We’ve actually never heard that existing black list prohibited content and was going to change, that you were actually going to relax that. This is the first I’ve heard that this list is going to – the proposal is going to be very different from the existing black list that we have of ISPs.

JENNY BROCKIE: And is that right? Can you clarify that ?¢‚Ǩ‚Äú that your proposal would not be like that black list.

STEPHEN CONROY: Look, as I said, the existing black list was passed by the Parliament. Now the Senate has 39 votes. The Liberal Party introduced this and they’ve got 37 and Steve Fielding is elected Family First Senator and he’s got strong views in this area. That’s 38. You cannot repeal this. Even if the Labor Party decided it wanted to try and change this, it actually won’t pass the Senate.

So the blacklist, which is currently law, can’t be overturned. But wasn’t Conroy not using it???

Previously: “It is possible to support a blacklist and support free speech.”

Also the trail of filtering…uses the blacklist. See Optus here.

Deny deny deny

MARK NEWTON: We’re getting away just for a moment from the fact that you also voted in favour of those changes – it’s a bit rich to disclaim them now. The existing definition of refused classification doesn’t only contain all of this extreme pornography stuff that we have spent most of the night talking about so far – the existing ACMA list also includes – because it was refused classification and you know this because you testified in the Senate about it – it also includes an anti-abortion website and it also include the peaceful kill.

STEPHEN CONROY: That’s not correct, Mark.

But it did. We know it did. Conroy and ACMA have admitted that a page on the site was blocked.

Waffle waffle waffle

This is in response to Jim Wallace of the Australian Christian Lobby in the SMH (via Stilgherian)

Hon Kevin Rudd MP
Prime Minister of Australia
Parliament House

Re: proposal to filter Christian Churches

Dear Prime Minister

I write to you about the utmost urgency of protecting children from pedophilia and other deviant acts. As your Ministers (particularly Senator Conroy) have repeatedly told the media, somebody needs to think of the children.

I take this opportunity to ask you to consider a proposal to filter Christian Churches in Australia in line with the Government’s commitment to protecting children with Internet censorship, and indeed would urge you to give this proposal priority status given the shocking risk to children Christian churches present.

According to statistics published in the United States (ref), around 4% of clerics in the period from 1950-2002 were accused of abusing children. Worse still, this abuse, in over 60% of cases occurred for over one year. Notably, clerics who abused children usually did so at a rate higher than one child per cleric, at a rate of approx 2.3 children per cleric.

There are, according to some figures around 7,000 Christian Churches in Australia, possibly more, with 2 million people attending a church every week. If the American experience applied here (and there is no reason to believe that it does not, particularly given we have more Catholics as a proportion of our christians) around 280 clerics (possibly more) will be fiddling with children this year. That is an unacceptable risk in a modern society, and it is vital that the Government think of these children.

I propose the Government introduce a Christian Church filter on the same grounds as the proposed internet filter.

1. That access to suspect Christian Churches be blocked, with no recourse or means of appeal once they are added to the Christian church filter.

2. That “unwanted” churches have access blocked as well, such as those that don’t agree with the Government. Again, there will be no recourse should a church be blocked, and no means of appeal.

3. That the speed of access to all Christian Churches be reduced to up to 87%. A national speed bump scheme would be effective here. Given the cost to Government, private operators could install the speed bumps and charge a toll for the cost of installing them.

I’d note Prime Minister that the filter is not as effective with smaller speed reductions, and it would be ineffective without being properly implemented.

4. That access to 3-6% of Christian Churches be blocked at all times, for no reason other than it’s acceptable, and you can never be too sure, even if they’ve done nothing wrong. Who is blocked should change daily, just to keep the churches on their toes.

5. That access to Christian Bibles be limited to adults who choose to opt-in. The bible, as you’d be aware, includes multiple accounts of illegal activity, including beastiality, murder, and even drownings….and sometimes this violence involves children. Children should be spared from this filth.

Prime Minister, I urge your Government to truly protect the children of Australia from the Christian Church and implement this scheme at the first available opportunity. If the Government does not support this scheme, then truly it must be supporting pedophilia and child pornography, as Senator Conroy believes all opponents of protecting children are.

Prime Minister, won’t you please think of the children?

Yours sincerely

Duncan Riley

The results of the Australian Governments first test of internet censorship have been released today (pdf) and The Australian, as usual, runs the Government spin:

THE federal Government will embark on the next step of its internet filtering strategy after initial trials proved successful, Communications Minister Stephen Conroy said….

In the past, one of the main drawbacks of the technology has been web performance degradation but the government now says the trial showed that ISP-level filtering technology had significantly improved compared with technology used in a 2005 trial.

“It is very encouraging to see that the industry has made significant progress with ISP filtering products and we are heartened that many of the products tested are commercially available, with many of them already deployed overseas,” Senator Conroy said in a statement….

Senator Conroy said the tests proved that the web filtering technology could be expanded to a wider base.

A side note: I always love it how some mainstream journalists here preach that bloggers don’t research a story properly then run a Government press release without actually reading the paper or providing critical analysis on it. But I digress.

The ACMA paper looked only at the technology in use and did not consider the cost of any filtering technology, a critical consideration when implementing broadscale internet censorship in Australia.


The paper finds that filters in place, but not actually filtering content (bizarre test, I know, but the results are telling) resulted in the following degredation of service (by which you would presume meant reduction in data, hence speed):

below 30 per cent for all products; and
below 10 per cent for five of the six products.

In short form: even when not filtering content, the filters for all products saw a decrease in internet speeds of up to 30%. For 5 products, the speed reduction of up to 10%.

When actively filtering content, these figures change again

2% for one product;
in the range 22 to 30 per cent for three products; and
in excess of 75 per cent for two products.

Translated: one product only caused a 2% drop, 3 products caused speed reductions in the vacinity of 22-30%, two products a staggering greater than 75%. Notably the product that causes the least speed reduction is not named nor related to the success in filtering results (which we are about to get to), so it may have a lower impact on speed, but it may have higher rates of failure in actually censoring content.

Effectiveness of Blocking

ACMA found the following success rates in filtering nominated content:

above 0.88 for all products; and
0.94 or above for three products.

88% accuracy on all products, half with 94% or above.

How those figures relate to the next set I’m not sure, because this set indicates the failure to block nominated content

below 0.08 for all products; and
below 0.03 for four products.

Maybe it’s buried further into the paper, but if the base is 88% yes, and the fail rate worst figure is 8%, where’s the missing 4%?

Overblocking may be a new term to most, but it means censoring content that isn’t meant to be censored. The results

The previous trial reported a difference in the level of overblocking (that is, the proportion of content that was blocked that should not have been blocked) between the most and the least accurate filter products in the range six to 62 per cent. The corresponding levels measured in the current trial varied across a significantly smaller range?¢‚Ǩ‚Äùbetween one and eight per cent, with most falling under three
per cent. The median overblocking rate was significantly improved from the previous trial.

Yes, somewhere between 1-8% of perfectly legal sites were blocked in the trials. But that’s ok, because it use to be 6-62%.

Here in lies the problem with censorship: once it starts, it rarely stops, and in this case, innocent content providers and online retailers may find themselves blocked for no other reason that the technical failure of the Government’s plan.


Communications Minister Stephen Conroy is hell bent on selling a rabid, three legeed dog no matter what the cost to ordinary Australian’s.

22-30% reductions in internet access speeds are not acceptable at a time where Australia lags behind most of the world in Internet access connection speeds. Consider also that our distance from the rest of the world delivers us slower access times anyway, where as my 14mbps connection in Melbourne does not deliver the same results as the same connection in the United States, simply due to the time data takes to travel across the world (or lag time).

That censorship will no longer deliver 75% drop in speed doesn’t make 22-30% acceptable. Any cut in internet speeds places Australia at a further disadvantage in the information age.

Success rates of 90% in filtering trials are irrelevant on two fronts. First, the testing considered a list of sites to be blocked, but as anyone sitting behind a corporate firewall knows, or even in China for that matter, it’s extremely easy to bypass content filtering. Those that want the content the Government is so keen to censor will still get at it. Secondly, it is NOT acceptable that in a democratic, free country that the Government deems it acceptable to implement technologies that censors any amount of legal content, let alone up to 8% of it. Who are these future victims of accidental Australian Government censorship? will they be compensated? Would we accept the Government accidentally taxing millions of Australians, or denying them social services? Imagine being removed from Government databases, to be a non-entity in your own country. The outrage even in a handful of cases would be loud and long, and yet our Government is planning to accidentally block Australians doing their business online from being seen by other Australians.

Censorship is always flawed and always has unintended victims. The victims of Senator Conroy’s bloody mindedness will be every internet user in Australia, through increased costs, lower speeds, and for some of them, to be denied their legal rights in what is suppose to be a free country.