Note: This was one of several posts related to Internet Filtering -- Click here to return to the Index page.
One of the main reasons for your humble blogger putting his thoughts on the Internet was the Rudd government's announcement of the plan to implement a mandatory universal Internet Filter. The announcement demonstrated a profound ignorance about the Internet. Furthermore the people who understand why this is so, are passionate about the issue. And they would (if they were given the opportunity) change their vote to whichever party demonstrated that they also understood that a centralised Internet filter is an extremely bad idea.
On the other hand, the people who have a vague wishy-washy feeling in their waters that perhaps it might be a good idea to scrub the Internet clean of all undesirable content, don't really have much idea of how computing technology works. In fact many of them proudly boast that they are "computer illiterate". They are concerned that their children spend so much time using a technology that they don't comprehend. The have only the foggiest notion about computer security and are much more likely to change their vote because of interest rates or the price of petrol.
If a major party (and sadly there are only two of them) was willing to offer the opportunity to say "no" to Internet Filtering, then that party would have a decisive advantage on a minority issue ... One that was guaranteed to drive a wedge through the opposing party's base.
Now that Australia has the first female prime minister ever, voters will begin to pay more attention to the leaders of the major parties. This has been a trend for the last fifty years. And the appointment of Julia Gillard will bring the leadership popularity contest into sharp focus. And it has to be said that in a popularity contest the leader of the LIBERAL party (no more small "l" liberals left in that once proudly liberal organisation) carries far too much lead in his saddlebags to appeal to the important (although shrinking) middle ground in Australian politics. In particular younger voters (especially younger female voters) will find it difficult to connect with the leader of a his now un-liberal party.
Possibly as the world descends into economic chaos, thanks largely to the public debt (transferred from the finance sector), the electorate will become more polarised. For the time being however, a smart, sassy young woman will easily outmanoeuvre her clumsy and accident-prone opponent in parliament ... And resurrect the Labor party for a second term ... Unless of course the Liberal party get out their steak knives and make a sacrifice of their own ... And perhaps try to present a more moderate image.
However there is another important development which might occur. One which is of great interest to your humble blogger. There is a rumour that Senator Conroy might lose his portfolio. Even more exciting is the rumoured replacement -- Senator Kate Lundy! Although this could just turn out to be wishful thinking on the part many of the online community -- But if it were true it would be a major first for Australian politics! -- We would have a minister in the important portfolio of communications and technology who actually had the vaguest notion of what communications and IT is!
Australia has suffered a parade of the most dismal ministers for communications and IT that could be imagined. Senator Conroy is the last but probably not the worst of a long line of appalling ministers in this vital portfolio.
The Internet Filter proposal is one obvious example of Senator Conroy's profound ignorance of computing and the Internet. But the problems are systemic. A recent report, chaired by Belinda Neal (MP) and delivered to the House of Representatives Standing Committee on Communications entitled "Hackers, Fraudsters and Botnets", clearly demonstrates this ignorance. The report pays lip service to the need for "education", but gives no details of what type of education they might recommend or support. It then goes on to canvas the possibility of legislative responses and industry initiatives to eliminate criminal activity.
On the face of it, some of these recommendations appear to have merit. For example the recommendation that ISPs monitor the health of the desktops used by their customers might seem to be worthwhile. But it is not practical. None of today's ISPs would have the resources to do it. And even if they did, it would be unnecessarily intrusive. Furthermoe there are quite a few customers who consider that their ISP is not trustworthy enough to take over such an important aspect of their computer operations.
In general the report takes the approach that a central and orderly network of computers, managed from the top down, will help defeat criminal activity.
They just don't get it!. That's right dear reader. They authors of this report don't understand that the Internet is a decentralised co-operative network built on open standards. A centralised legislative framework just won't work. It's like trying to swat bees with a sledge hammer. Proprietary systems will not work either. Corporations who are trying to lock down the Internet are part of the problem, and cannot be part of the solution.
Rather than proposing legislation that would mandate that ISPs and corporations do something about the problem ... The members of this committee could have cleaned up their own house. They could have seen to it that all the computers that they command and or control are secure! And that all the websites that their departments host endorse and use open standards! Rather than spend more time (and money) on manufacturing more laws, that nobody will pay much attention to, more effort could be put into enforcing the laws that already exist! If the government feels they really must spend our money on improving Internet security they could consider donating to organisations like the Mozilla Foundation, Spamhaus, Spamcop, SORBS, DSBL etc, all of which do much more in a single day's operations than the entire Canberra bureaucracy can achieve in a decade of imagining more wasteful ineffectual legislation that they hope will deal with online computer fraud and crime.