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Thread: Internet Freedom/Filtering

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The Same Old Song


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Date: Sat, 10 Jul 2010 03:30:28 +1000

Amidst the euphoria of installing our first female prime minister, there was a rumour going around that Australia might have a female minister for communications and media. This proved to be just wishful thinking on the part of hopeful netizens who would like to see Senator Conroy vacate this important portfolio (and take his $#@!ing Internet Filter with him!). Sadly this will not happen. Furthermore our new female prime minister has demonstrated that her ignorance of the Internet is every bit as profound as that of her minister for communications and media.

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

On ABC Radio in Darwin, the prime minister said:

Images of child abuse, child pornography - they are not legal in our cinemas, Why should you be able to see them on the internet? I think that that's the kind of moral, ethical question at the heart of this ...

One of the few supporters for this pronouncement was FamilyVoice spokeswoman, Ros Phillips, who said she was "delighted" that the government's position was being maintained and asked:

The underlying principle, you can't dispute - why should you treat the internet differently from any form of communications like films and books and so on ...

Now dear reader, and your blogger realises that you are few and far between. And the prime minister is not one of your number ... But your blogger will humbly submit that Images of child pornography can not be found on the Internet any more easily than they can be found in the cinema.

In all humility, your blogger, a seasoned Internet user, spent almost an entire day searching the Internet for "child pornography", using Google, the mightiest search engine in the known Universe ... And found not even a single sample!

Of course there are gangs who exploit children. And they use the Internet to communicate with each other and to organise their criminal activities. But the Internet Filter won't stop them.

And paedophiles and people interested in viewing child pornography can and do use the Internet to purchase and share images of child abuse over private networks. The government's Internet will not impede them in the slightest.

And there are malicious vandals who can crack poorly secured web-sites and Social networking sites, and deface them, sometimes with images of child pornography that they have obtained from other criminal sources. And the Internet Filter will do nothing to prevent them from those activities. Although it does seem that the government filter will place a ban on sites and pages that have been attacked ... And judging by the recent trial, the ban lasts long after the pages have been fixed up and the offensive images removed ... And even though it does not enable the apprehension of the perpetrators, it further inconveniences and embarrasses the hapless victim as much as, if not more than, the original attack.

There are also criminals who have planted malicious software on millions of computers, all of them running a particular operating system made by one particular American software company. These workstations have been press-ganged into all manner of criminal activities ... The government's Internet Filter won't do anything about them either.

No dear reader, all the government's filter will do is cost a shirt-load of money and slow down the Internet considerably. It will impede and inconvenience quite a few people who are entirely legitimate and above-board, and it will in all probability overlook quite a few unsavoury sites that would otherwise be "refused classification" under the broadcasting authority's rather narrow, inconsistent and dim-witted, sixties-style censorship regime. And you can bet your bottom dollar that the filtering policy, if it ever is implemented, will be mismanaged, abused and deployed for political purposes by unaccountable bureaucrats ... And one other thing you can be absolutely certain of is ... It will not have even the tiniest effect on the activities of paedophiles or help apprehend any of them.

There are however, quite a few people today who use the Internet regularly. Some of them depend on the Internet for their livelihood. And they feel more than a little ropeable about this onerous, cumbersome and unworkable load of tripe that Senator Conroy is cooking up in his kitchen. Many of these "netizens" would change their vote to whichever major political party committed to abandoning the Internet Filter ... Senator Conroy is now declaring that he will defer the Filter for a year or so. Which may mean the government is preparing to back-flip on the Internet Filtering proposal...

But we thought that on several previous occasions ... Only to have the idea re-surface. It seems you can't keep a bad idea down! Many government officials must look back, with fond nostalgia, at the giant metal and concrete factories that used to impress so much of our information on paper and ship it around the country from a central location. They yearn for the return of the huge towers that used to broadcast a few discrete single threads of electronic information from hilltops overlooking our metropolitan centres. It was all so much easier in those good old days to control what people read, heard or viewed! But wishing for the good old days to return is quite futile. Politicians need to get over it! And just accept the fact that information is now becoming increasingly decentralised and that it is no longer possible to manage and control it by decree from the centre of political power, as they used to do so easily.

Governments today can't even manage their own information, let alone every one else's information.

To date, the Liberal party has not declared a position on the mandatory Internet filter ... We await a policy announcement with bated breath!

Finally in sincere humility, your blogger will endeavour to answer Ms Phillip's rhetorical question ... Why should the Internet be treated differently from other forms of communication like books and films? Well the reason why we should treat it differently is because it IS DIFFERENT from other forms communication like books and films!

And that's not an entirely new notion. We treat telephone communications different from newspaper communications. We treat communication by private written correspondence different from communication by radio ... etc. And your humble blogger supposes that if anyone still used carrier pigeons to actually communicate rather than for sport, than that form of communication would be treated quite different from morse code!

Vivez la difference!

There may even be an opportunity for the prime minister, and her advisors, to learn first-hand just how significantly the Internet differs from other forms of communication in the upcoming election campaign ...


Meanwhile on the legal front, someone else is singing for their supper ... However it seems that Australian judges have a little more common sense than their American brethren.

At last a decision has been handed down in an extra-ordinary court case in which Larrikin Music claim that Men At Work infringed copyright by using a few bars of a melody that was similar to Kookaburra sits in the Old Gum Tree ... An old Australian folk song ... Popular with children.

The Judge (Peter Jacobson) found that Colin Hay and Ron Strykert had breached copyright laws ... But that Larrikin were only entitled to 5% back-dated to 2002. Which seems rather generous ... Especially considering that Larrikin wouldn't have even been aware of the similarity if it had not been featured in the ABC show Spicks And Specks. But nowhere near as generous as the petitioners had hoped.

And your blogger might humbly opine ... That if Larrikin were ordered to pay 95% of the legal costs ... That would be cruel ... But fair!

Yes, it's the same old song ... But it's a different meaning ... Since ... Umm that's about as much as your humble blogger dares quote!


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