ALP’s Internet Policy: A Great Firewall of Australia

November 21, 2007 — 18 Comments

A couple of days out from the election and neither party has announced a comprehensive ICT policy…because neither party has one. Kevin Rudd today talked about taking Australia up a gear and the need to fulfil our great potential, but apparently IT isn’t part of that future. The real banger: the reiteration of a policy originally announced by Kim Beazley in 2006 which I’m now officially calling “The Great Firewall of Australia” policy. Yep: no policies to encourage Internet startups in Australia or promote what Keating once referred to as the clever country, but they’re going to censor our Internet instead and I’m more than pissed. So pissed in fact that I may not preference the ALP in front of the Libs when I vote on Saturday, despite the fact that I cant stand the local Liberal candidate.

Here’s some highlights from Mao ZeRudd’s cyber-safety policy:

 a mandatory ?clean feed? internet service for all homes, schools and public computers that are used by Australian children.  Internet Service Providers (ISPs) will filter out content that is identified as prohibited by the Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA).  The ACMA ?blacklist? will be made more comprehensive to ensure that children are protected from harmful and inappropriate online material.

Note the word mandatory. But wait, there’s more

A Rudd Labor Government will require ISPs to offer a ?clean feed? internet service to all homes, schools and public internet points accessible by children, such as public libraries.

What’s the alternative, a dirty feed, if indeed there is an alternative? And lets not forget the cost of providing this filtering, a cost that will no doubt be passed along by ISP’s who already (mostly thanks to Telstra) charge us at rates 2-3x higher (even more, given we don’t have uncapped plans) than rates the United States.

How do they determine if a computer is used by a child? My son uses 1 computer, but not my laptop + desktop, so is there going to be multiple feeds? Unlikely, because any of these computers are accessible by a child I’m going to get a mandatory censored internet…presuming that they’ll know that I have a child…which they’ll check up on via Medicare, so big brother will be imposing his will on me and I wont have a say on it as well.

This is a typical response from a traditionally socialist party that believes that the Government can interfere in everything.

Like all censorship the question is: once it starts when will it stop? Remember that Australia doesn’t have an electronic R rating (at least for computer games)…so there goes violent sites. Dissent on global warming is probably hate speech to the ALP, so that should get censored….once it starts it will never end. Do-gooder groups will petition the Government to block more and more sites, and the Government, always wanting to find support will block these sites.

The stupidest thing of all: Mao ZeRudd justifies the policy on the basis that computer level filtering is too easy to bypass. He’s obviously never heard of proxy sites, TOR or even OpenDNS to bypass server level firewalls…unless of course he’s planning on banning them as well!

If Rudd is elected on Saturday (and that’s a 95% chance) we need to start speaking up against this policy immediately. It is our duty as supporters of free speech in a democratic country to stand opposed to Government attempts to stifle free speech online. They may claim now it’s all about porn, but remember (with apologies to the original author),

first they blocked the porn sites, and no one said a thing,

next it was the dissenters, and still no one said a thing.

Next it was bloggers, and although I was one of them I said nothing.

Then they blocked me.