Last night’s The 7.30 Report had a pretty solid story on Internet filtering. The major views were accurately presented – the bosses of iiNet and Internet got a fair say, Conroy was shown in Senate hearings after refusing to be interviewed for the show, and child protection advocates got to state their case. Of course, once the arguments for and against are stacked up against each other, I think the folly of this filtering approach stands out.
Arguments against the Conroy Filter:
MICHAEL MALONE: The basic problem with mandatory filtering of the internet in Australia is that it just plain won’t work.
DAVID QUILTY, MGR DIRECTOR PUBLIC POLICY, TELSTRA: Filtering everything that goes over the internet – that is simply impractical. It would be horrendously expensive. It’s likely to significantly reduce the speeds that people get on the internet.
MICHAEL MALONE: They all suffer from the same problems as any other solution in that they sometimes block content they shouldn’t and sometimes, of course, they let through things that they shouldn’t.
SIMON HACKETT, CHIEF EXECUTIVE, INTERNODE: Because of the presence of encryption and other sorts of techniques on the internet that make filtering really quite impossible to stop the bad guys, at the end of the day the only way you actually get them is good old-fashioned conventional policing mechanisms.
Arguments for the Conroy Filter:
CLIVE HAMILTON, PUBLIC ETHICS, CHARLES STURT UNIVERSITY: The idea that somehow the internet as another form of communication should be exempted from all of these social and moral controls, I find bizarre and repugnant.
STEPHEN CONROY, COMMUNICATIONS & BROADBAND MINISTER: Illegal material is illegal material. Child pornography’s child pornography and I trust you’re not suggesting that people should have access to child pornography.
BERNADETTE MCMENAMIN: It will block out some child pornography, but not all, and surely, anybody sitting out there in their lounge rooms would think that some is better than none at all.
So, on the one hand we have technically knowledgeable people discussing their area of expertise, pointing out that mandatory ISP filtering is not feasible. On the other hand, we have ethicists, politicians and advocates implying that if you are opposed to this plan, you want an Internet where anything, including child pornography, is freely available.
I know what I find bizarre and repugnant about this debate.