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Thread: Internet Freedom/Filtering

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Gerry Patterson, The man who almost invented humble sarcasm tags(Invisible to non-sarcastic browsers)

ACMA Blacklist Fiasco


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Date: Sun, 22 Mar 2009 10:57:35 +1100

The "Clean Feed" debacle has entered a surreal new phase. The well known whistle-blower site Wikileaks has published the infamous ACMA list.

Of course, with all the song and dance about the deadly list, it had to happen eventually.

Note: This was one of several posts about The Great Internet Rabbit-proof Fence -- Click here to return to the Index page.

Without even the slightest trace of embarrassment, the official rejoinder has been two-fold; Firstly to deny that the list is the real list; And secondly, to attempt to remove Wikileaks from the Australian DNS lookup, supposedly for revealing the list and thus breaking the law. This should pose the obvious question ... Umm, excuse me, sir! But which one of those two contradictory responses is correct? Because obviously they both can't be true!

Quite apart from the illogical nature of their (few) public utterances, ACMA have now demonstrated, that they can be as dull-witted and unimaginative as similar bureaucracies in non-democratic states. And that should they be granted the power to block IP addresses, they would use such power in an arbitrary and totalitarian manner to stifle any hint of criticism. If our government have their way (with the Internet Filter proposal) ACMA would be able to permanently block the Wikileaks site for many Australians. And as this incident demonstrates, Wikileaks would be at the top of the official list.

One supposes then, that in order to view Wikileaks, Australians would then have to resort to proxies as do the Chinese.

For the present however, since the Wikileaks site has only been removed from DNS, the site can still be found (hint: use the unix commands "dig" or "nslookup" to find the address). Of course (as a result of the ACMA action), it is hardly surprising that the IP address of Wikileaks is now number three in a Google search for "Wikileaks". So for you non-command line folks (who now seem to read my humble blog), finding Wikileaks is as easy as entering "Wikileaks" into a Google search and clicking on the match that is third from the top.

Ohh! Does this mean ACMA would also like to filter Google? (Or deal with Google - as does the Chinese bureaucracy?).

It is remarkable that so many of the predictions made by the critics of "Internet Filtering" seem to be unfolding in a fashion that would hold soap-opera audiences spell-bound. Except of course that if a script-writer came up with something like this, the plot would be criticised for being unrealistic! Because most discerning viewers would consider it unlikely that government bureaucracies (in a non-totalitarian state) could really be this thick headed!

The ACMA list contains about 1000 entries. Even of we make the generous assumption that these are all child pornography (they're not -- but let's give them the benefit of the doubt for the statistical example). That's about 0.00001 per cent of the pages indexed by Google. That might be serious if these pages had a high page rank. Well, actually they don't -- But let's be generous again and assume that they do have a high page rank ...

Well, continuing with our hypothetical exercise, the brains trust at ACMA have come up with the idea of forcing mandatory Internet filtering on all Australian ISPs in order to remove 0.00001 per cent of the content, rather than the far simpler (and responsible) approach of having the sites taken down. The cost of having them taken down would be minuscule compared to the cost of the Internet Filter. Sites which display child pornography are breaking the law. There are several international conventions about this. And pressure can be brought to bear on overseas ISPs.

The real case is much worse. The Internet Filter won't work! There is already ample expert advice to that effect. And it will slow down the Internet and impede digital e-commerce. And ACMA doesn't deserve the benefit of the doubt. A random sample of the pages on the list show that many of them are adult pornography, which may be illegal in Australia, but is not illegal in many countries, and there may not be an international convention banning it.

And the final nail in the credibility coffin has to be the recent attempt to block the whistle-blower site, Wikileaks. There is now little doubt about the fact that filtering technology would be abused and mis-used for political censorship and the purposes of avoiding scrutiny and stifling dissent. ACMA is already attempting to commit political censorship and they haven't even got the power to ban IP addresses (yet).

Oh! And by the way - have Wikileaks published the real list or was their removal from DNS unjustified? Is this Kafkaesque drivel about "not being the true list" and at the same time "breaking the law" a portent of how the official list will be administered, if filtering technology should ever be mandated by parliament?

And in this regard, it is interesting to contrast the summary and rather arbitrary nature of the action against Wikileaks with the excruciatingly slow and over-cautious deliberations of the administrative arm of ACMA which deals with mainstream media sites. A recent finding against Channel Seven was appraised for three years before being handed down. According to ACMA this was in order to go through all the necessary due process. And whenever an adverse finding comes down against a major broadcaster, there doesn't seem to be any danger of them being "taken down". The penalties, by comparison, are about as severe as a good strong talking to, and perhaps a strike across the wrist with limp cabbage leaf. It seems there is one rule for media conglomerates and another rule for the Internet. Plus ca change, plus c'est le meme chose.


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