In Conroy’s muddy waters you'll never know what’s being filtered

Critics of Conroy's Internet filtering say Australians will not be able to find out what the government censors online, and ask: who watches the watchmen?

One gaping chink in Conroy’s filtering armour is its inability to block data transferred over peer-to-peer networks, which is estimated to account for upwards of 60 percent of all Internet traffic.

“A lot of material on the Net isn’t live as such, it’s being exchanged on peer-to-peer networks and the kind of stuff we’re talking about here isn’t going to touch that, so that’s a large volume of traffic that is just going to go under the radar, and the mandatory content blocking scheme is going to be drawing resources away from probably more useful law enforcement activities,” Ludlam said.

I’m less confident that our political leaders are really aware of what it is they are playing with

Greens Senator Scott Ludlam

Ludlam believes Conroy’s lack of clarity over what will and won’t be blocked can be attributed to the government still being at the early stage of trialling the filtering technology, which also explains why no path has yet been set for the mandatory filtering to make its way into legislation.

“My understanding is that the tests they have conducted to date weren’t all that promising; I don’t think they know for themselves exactly how this is going to work. My personal opinion is that it’s probably going to fail, and if it doesn’t fail it’s going to be dangerous. In the meantime we should really be spending the money that they are putting towards this on old fashioned law enforcement, and on the education programs that we already have,” he said.

“I’m all for opt-in blocking. If parents want to be able to choose the level of protection in their own homes or if people just basically don’t want to run the risk of being exposed to objectionable material they should be given world-class opt-in provisions.”

Despite the potential of the financial crisis to overshadow the ushering in of the mandatory filtering, Ludlam said he has received a lot of supportive feedback from various online communities and libertarian groups, and doesn’t expect the issue to fly under the radar.

“The online community has a strong and proud record going back as long as the Internet existed of having quite a strong civil libertarian streak and of sticking up for the rights of freedom of communication, so I’m pretty confident for that side of it. I’m less confident that our political leaders are really aware of what it is they are playing with.”

Computerworld has launched a petition to defend your rights to freedom of communication. Help us send a loud and clear message to the government that you don't want them deciding what information can and cannot be viewed over the internet. Sign our petition at http://www.computerworld.com.au/hands_off_the_internet.

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Andrew Hendry

Computerworld
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