Australia & Censorship – Orwellian Disease on the March

The internet is probably one of the world’s most striking examples of how a stateless society can not only function, but also grow and advance much more rapidly, cheaply, and reliably than any sector that is subject to state regulations. As such, it is obviously a major blow in the face of our dear government bureaucrats.

Thus it is only predictable that our neurotic, sociopathic, and insecure state minions will sooner or later attempt to get their sleazy fingers involved to bring to a halt yet another shining beacon of free, peaceful, and voluntary enterprise.

The Australian Rudd government, under the pretense of keeping the people safe from “unsavory” content, is planning to setup a nationwide filter which would enable them to censor online content. Similar trends may soon emerge, if they haven’t already, in virtually all western countries.

The Australian Pirate Party seems to be one of the major opponents of this endeavor. A spokesperson recently posted and article which sheds some more light on what is going on in Down Under:

I used to believe that democracy was a process whereby the representatives we elect were there to represent the people. Stephen Conroy, the minister for Broadband and Communications, has taken this concept and trashed it in new and exciting ways.

While we, the citizens of Australia, have made it blatantly clear that we neither want nor require the nanny-state of Australia to impinge on our rights further by restricting our access to the internet in the name of “child protection”, Conroy continues to soldier on with his censorship plans regardless of what the majority thinks.

As the vast majority of Australian citizens can see, Conroy’s insane plan to censor the internet — or as he puts it, “filter” — is a blatant attempt to restrict our freedoms and enforce his brand of “morality” on us all.

Consider that Conroy’s proposed filter is a blindfold, metaphorically speaking. It simply hides the fact that bad things are out there. Instead of actively fighting the issues within society, he labels those who oppose blatant censorship as paedophiles and criminals, and attempts to enforce his fascist regime against us.

There are a large variety of ways that child pornography can be halted, such as actually tracking down and arresting those who facilitate the production and transfer of such materials, or sending a take-down request to the host of these illicit sites to have them removed. Conroy is a bright man, so he wouldn’t be so ignorant as to not know that, so it begs to question, why censor us in the name of “child protection”?

Protecting children is a very important aspect of a parent’s job. Simply the suggestion that Australia requires an internet filter when all Western societies deem this kind of social control inappropriate, is a joke and an insult to parents everywhere.

The Howard Government offered a perfectly viable home application for parents who believed they needed software assistance to protect their children. The Rudd Government’s regime differs significantly in that it is not optional whatsoever, and will be enforced across all ISPs.

The statistics of the uptake of the Howard Government’s application clearly show that Australian parents do not need such applications to protect their children from the internet, so why enforce a nanny state when the vast majority of Australians are opposed to it?

Most of Australia is opposed to this filter, as can be shown through various polls, news articles, blog posts, protests and Twitter tweets. If this is a representative democracy, then why is it that Conroy refuses to accept that Australia does not want the filter? 96 per cent of Australians (in polls from The Age and The Sydney Morning Herald with 20,000+ votes) have stated they believe the censorship regime “impinges on their freedom”, so why does Conroy insist on implementing such a draconian censorship scheme?

Conroy is a bright man, and this is the dangerous thing about him. He is representing himself and the ultra-conservative minorities. He knows how to play the political game. Releasing the trial report near Christmas knowing full well that people will likely miss it is a dirty tactic.

Even his horribly distorted view of “100 per cent accurate” when the trial report clearly shows that the accuracy “dropped to between 78.8 per cent and 84.6 per cent” when using a list of just over 2000 sites is just insane. If this is 100 per cent accuracy, then this man needs a new abacus.

If you believe that 3 per cent is not all that much, consider the size of the internet. Pretend for a moment that the internet consists of “merely” 100 million websites. If 3 per cent of these were accidentally blocked, that’s 3 million! That’s not a small number now is it? Now you understand how it feels to live behind the Great Firewall of China.

And while these trials were only conducted on speeds up to 8Mbps, articles have popped up stating their fear that this will ruin the government’s own National Broadband Network plans, as it will completely cripple the speeds of this service, which is planned to be capable of “delivering speeds of 100 megabits per second”, at least 10 times that of most residential connections. These speeds will no longer be feasible.

Just wait until Australia must implement the new version of the internet protocol, IPv6. This would become extremely unlikely, as IPv6 supports encryption from computer to computer as a required part of the protocol. How would this possibly be implemented when the government fears the “abuse of the internet” so much? Once again, Australia would be left in the dark as has happened many times in the past in regards to technology. In this global society, we cannot afford to be left behind.

Now that we’ve considered the technical points of this flawed plan, it is time to consider the cost to implement such a travesty. A government report from 2004 provides an estimate of the cost of running such a complex censorship regime:

“On the basis of Ovum’s estimates and factoring in the most recent ABS data of ISP numbers in Australia, the total cost of implementing ISP-level filtering would be over $45 million for initial set-up and over $33 million per annum.”

Why cite such an old report you may ask? Well, it’s because the Rudd Government didn’t even consider conducting a financial feasibility study, which is absolutely absurd. And who do you think gets hit with the cost of such a costly regime? The Australian taxpayer and consumer. First we’re slugged with a censorship regime that makes little sense, and then, to pour salt in the wound, they charge us for the privilege of being silenced! The audacity of this government is absolutely terrifying.

All fascist regimes have to start somewhere. This is just the beginning. While Conroy has stated that he only intends to block “unsavoury content”, he has not ruled out further blocking in the future, nor in the present. Note the constant use of “RC” in each of the articles related to the filter.

Note that these articles also state that Refused Classification content includes “child sex abuse content, bestiality, sexual violence and the detailed instruction of crime and drug use”. Nowhere does it is state that RC is limited to these things, which infers the fact that the censorship regime will broaden to encompass a wide range of websites that an extreme minority of people are opposed to, thus nobody should be allowed access to them.

This belief that they will expand the censorship is only hardened by the fact that the ACMA blacklist leaked to WikiLeaks contained a dentist’s website, legal pornography sites and other non-illegal websites, such as anti-abortion sites.

The correct definition of RC contains anything rejected by the OFLC (Office of Film and Literature Classification) as an “insult to morality”. In this country, due to the failure of representative democracy, the attorney-general of South Australia, Michael Atkinson, has the power to block the right of adults of Australia to determine for themselves whether or not they are allowed to play games that contain mature content.

This insanity continues to manifest, but when will we force it to stop? Why is the extreme minority of ultra-conservatives so much louder than the vast majority of Australian citizens?

Is it honestly that difficult to promote safe use of the internet, and educate parents and children on how they keep themselves safe on the internet, instead of treating Australian citizens like a bunch of uneducated morons who can’t think for themselves? Self-determination is what defines freedom, and this is the first step in taking that out of our hands.

In any case, censorship is by far the worst way to go about anything. Without a doubt, attempting to implement a censorship regime in a country that thrives and promotes their freedom is most definitely political suicide on an epic scale. The Labor Party is now much more likely to suffer a swift defeat in the elections if they don’t quickly realise how out of touch they are with the Australian public. Or have they suddenly forgotten about using this very argument against the Liberals in regards to their IR reforms?

The worst part about this is that the intended goals of the censorship regime are completely unachievable, yet the government continues to power on with its struggle to control and censor its own people. All it causes is freedom of speech issues, possible abuse mechanisms by politicians, and in the end, will not curb any of the unlawful behaviour on the internet as is apparently intended.

We are not alone in our fear of government censorship. Former High Court Judge Michael Kirby has actively spoken against the filter, saying it is “the thin end of the wedge of the government moving in to regulating the actual internet itself”. Even Google has spoken out against the filter, stating that the scope is “far too wide”. All the experts agree and so does the Australian public, and yet Conroy continues on his ill-guided crusade against freedom.

Great citizens of Australia, it is time to speak up and fight for your rights and your freedom. It is time to act. If we don’t act now, we might as well give up any notion of freedom or privacy that we have. Prepare for the dystopia. It can only get worse from here on.

For specific cited reasons for why the censorship regime cannot and will not work, see this page at Electronic Frontiers Australia.

… I encourage people who value one of our most precious civil rights, the freedom of speech, to show solidarity with the Australian Pirate Party on this matter. And in our own communities, too, we need to ensure that such Orwellian endeavors never succeed.

For if publishing opinions and news on the internet one day becomes as impossible for the common man as it already is in the mainstream media, many great ideas and correct concepts will remain unshared, and the truth will be all the more obfuscated and remote … a paradise for the enemies of truth: the governments, bureaucrats, privileged corporations, religious leaders, think tanks, and whoever else subsists on falsehoods, lies, and distortions.

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