Letter to the Senator

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jethro's picture

The following is a slightly edited letter I sent to Senator Trood. I encourage you (if you are in Australia) to write to your liberal senator with something similar. To stop the clean feed filter nonsense we need to target the liberal senators.

no clean feed Understand the real issues at stake here, write your senators, get involved. (twitter tags #nocleanfeed #sicbne)

Dear Senator Trood

I would like to ask that you consider carefully the position that the government is taking and intending to introduce legislation on in relation to internet filtering. I believe that they are using the concept of child pornography (an abhorrent thing) as a red herring to pull a much greater invasion of privacy off. Similar to the hidden intent of the thankfully failed Copenhagen accord, this is a way for the government to introduce the potential for censorship in an unprecedented manner for any western nation, and will in fact place Australia in line with countries like Saudi Arabia, China and Iran (see this article) in terms of what it can enable government beaurocrats to do. Most of the content targeted by this so called blacklist filter is not illegal, and would in any other medium require a judge to issue a ruling on restriction of the publication of the content.

Senator there are two issues I would like you to consider and if you agree, to take to the public as the hidden costs to this proposed legislation that Senator Conroy is planning to introduce.

The first is the ideological practice of censorship. Senator Conroy is hiding this behind the mask of “stopping child pornography” However the proposed legislation has been slammed by every technical expert including the governments own technical feasibility report in its ability to halt or stop child pornography. By its very nature any content that could be classified as child pornography is already illegal, and the AFP and other state policing agencies actively pursue paedophiles and internet rings trafficking this sort of information, Creating a filter to stop it will neither assist this process or stop the people who want to access it via the internet. Most of the danger of internet paedophilia is the practice of grooming via chat channels and this traffic the government has stated will not be filtered. The real issue here is that Senator Conroy is labelling people who oppose his filter as being supportive of child pornography. This is an absurdity that a little logic should be able to disarm in the senate at question time. If you oppose the legislation does that make you supportive of child pornography? Of course not, and no technical expert here in Australia (for example Mark Newton and Simon Hackett of Internode) would ever support it. The opposite applies; technical people are all against it but understand the futility of trying to use a filter approach to doing anything about the problem. Experts have proposed greater AFP funding in the area, and better programs to educate and train children and parents about the online dangers. Senator, the problem here is the government plans to introduce a vague censorship program that can and will be used to censor anti government websites, extreme religious or freedom of speech type websites, and in fact anything that the censors deem to be RC (Refused Classification). Note while this may include websites that demonstrate and condone practices that morally you and I would consider abhorrent; deviant sexual practices, bomb making instructions, euthanasia and abortion supporters sites etc, none of these are actually illegal. Acting upon the information maybe, but the information itself is not.

The second issue I would like you to research and then use as material to defuse Senator Conroy’s planned legislation is the technical aspect. I understand that this area can be confusing for anybody who is not an expert in this area. However a little time taken to read the cogent and well reasoned articles by people like Mark Newton, the EFA and others who oppose the legislation on its technical basis should provide you with the high level technical understanding that the proposed filter will not even meet its stated aims let alone the underlying ones. To summarise the bulk of the arguments;

1. Most of the content planned to be filtered is not illegal anyway

2. The proposed filter will not stop P2P, IRC, Chat channel, VPN  or other non http traffic that can carry any material at all, legal or illegal. Over 60% of Australia’s bandwidth is in this space.. The filter will not even attempt to touch over 60% of the “problem”.

3. Heavy traffic sites such as YouTube will not be able to be filtered effectively, the trial show that attempting to do so will cause massive lag.

4. The internet reroutes constantly – even if sites were blocked, the owners can redistribute them in numerous ways a lot faster than the blacklist 9-5 Mon to Fri staff can operate. Individuals can repost articles into public forums on sites that won’t be filtered, information can be passed via the non filtered

5. It will slow down the internet for Australians. Even if this slowness is at the low levels considered acceptable by the commissioned report, it is still slower, and directly in opposition to the national broadband scheme of improving internet access for all Australians.

6. There will be false positive blocks. Even at the levels the report identified this will mean millions of websites will be blocked incorrectly.

7. The process is secret and not public. How is it to be governed? Who watches the watchers?

8. If the proposed filter actually works, then it will actually assist in the spread of child pornography. See this article.

Senator Trood, I believe this issue is primarily the Rudd governments sop to the Australian Christian Lobby, and that they are attempting to pull the wool over the eyes of all Australians, and in particular this powerful lobby group that they owe their election to, by hiding behind the statement of stopping child pornography. On the surface that sounds great, but as demonstrated by almost everybody in opposition to it, and even those who do support it (like Optus) that this stated aim will not be achieved by this, and worse, the proposed legislation is an invasive act of government control of free speech.

Please consider this issue and make it something that you can be informed on and ensure that you and your fellow senators do not blindly follow. Please outline the real issues to your constituent and ask them in turn to lobby against this legislation.

I appreciate your time to read this. I have where possible accurately linked to reference material – I apologise if these links are broken or not available when you read this.

Kind regards