Internet Filter Opt Out: Logical and Deliciously Dramatic.

Way back when, long before I got involved in blogging as a means of chronicling my various exploits in relation to Australia’s Internet filter the policy itself was really nothing to get excited about. Taking a step back into the distance past we can find its roots in the NetAlert program that sought to provide free private Internet filters to all families that wanted them. To say that the program was a failure and complete waste of time is harsh but accurate, as the usage statistics showed a severely disproportional amount of money spent vs actual usage of the program. It was a fairly quiet failure to and if you’d pulled anyone off the streets you could easily have forgiven them for not knowing anything about it. Overall NetAlert was just another government boondoggle and it died the quick quiet death it deserved.

Conroy decided to up the ante a little bit and put forth the beginnings of the Internet filter proposal not too long after that. Having survived the NetAlert program without any noticeable damage to the freedom of the Internet and the IT profession as a whole the netizens community shrugged it off as well. At this time the filter proposal wasn’t as malicious as it is today with the option of being able to opt out being one of its defining characteristics. Sure we were annoyed that we’d have to tell our ISPs that we’d prefer them not to filter our Internet (which in the public eye puts you in the same category as paedophiles, criminals and sexual deviants) but it wouldn’t be too much hassle and the government could sing their success from the rooftops, even if we didn’t really agree with them.

It didn’t take too long however for a bombshell to drop, you couldn’t opt out.

And so spawned the No Clean Feed movement, along with this blog and many others. I’ve analyzed it from all angles and there’s not been one use case that’s had the Internet filter coming out smelling like roses. This coupled with the fact that the policy just doesn’t seem to die despite massive delays and public backlash makes it all the more scary that such an abomination make actually make its way into reality. There is however a small glimmer of hope:

Labor Senator Kate Lundy plans to propose a filter “opt out” when the legislation goes before caucus.

“I think there’s a lot of interest in my proposal,” she told The Australian.

“The feedback I’m getting back from colleagues is that there are concerns around freedom of speech and lack of parental empowerment.”

Senator Lundy said the Conroy filter took control away from parents.

To date that has been the only sensible idea that I could ever support with an Internet filter for Australia. Why it has taken over a year and a half to come full circle and propose that we let people opt out (or better yet, opt in) is beyond me, but it signals that there’s enough pressure from the wider public to make at least a few backbenchers uneasy about putting their vote behind legislation that won’t buy them any favours.

The interesting, but not unexpected, result of Lundy seeking to amend the legislation is the rest of the Labor government becoming rather uneasy about the whole subject. There’s tangible opposition mounting on both sides of parliament but many of the more conservative members are sticking to their guns and not renouncing support for the filter. The reasons for this are twofold. The first is that many members can’t quite bring themselves to oppose the filter save for associated themselves with child pornographers and other miscreants. I’d bet my dollar on this being a lack of education on their part as they don’t really understand how ineffectual and detrimental such a filter would be. Thus they tow the popularist line of protecting the children and the wider public from the deprived hedonism of that dark place we call the Internet.

The second is just pure politics, they don’t want to be seen as changing opinions lest they be seen as playing to the popularist movement. That I can understand, but will never condone.

I still hold out the belief that this will die a slow and agonizing death but every news story that crops up about the Internet filter is just more salt in an old wound. With people like Lundy causing a stir in parliament and making the appropriate headlines I’m sure we’ll soon reach a critical mass of public opinion that will help sway some of the more stalwart members across to our side but we’re still far from being in clear on this one and I urge you to support the No Clean Feed movement in any way you can.

As much as I love all things Chinese, I’d prefer my Internet to stay Australian.

3 Comments

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  1. Which “Conservative members” are you talking about ? Those in the Liberal Party, such as Nick Minchin are against the filter and sticking firm (largely because its a good stick to whack labor.They’d have probably introduced it themselves if they’d won in 07), as for Labors conservative members, they arn’t speaking out because of the principle of cabinet solidarity. It’s one thing to propose a change to policy as Lundy has done (and she’ll cop it for doing so this publicly), but their views are argued out in private, not through the media.

    (I wish parties felt more comfortable airing their disagreements on such issues, but the media turns every disagreement into dissent and conversation into a crisis or challenge to the leadership (and then the next week complains about party discipline)

  2. I’ll admit that I’m reading a bit far into their (public) silence on the matter but it seems an appropriate conclusion to draw. Maybe my use of the term “conservative” was off base, as there’s not a whole lot of talk about this issue apart from Lundy, Conroy et al.

    Of course they do that, it’s what sells newspapers and drives hits to the website right?

  3. Well, ALP members are generally silent on this as they are on all issues whilst being debated privately within the party. When the govt gets to its legislation and we have a debate we can see their reasoning.
    Plus even if you dissented, you’d only come out publicly if you thought it would swing the debate, often however it backfires. And then in 2-3 months time you’d still have to turn up to vote for something you damned.

    Thats the nature of the ALP’s caucus system. Even Lundy will vote for it if that’s what the party room chooses. Until then, debate is surely ongoing behind closed doors, about which we don’t have any useful information. I’d guess a lot of ALP members don’t like the filter for either civil liberties or political reasons, but their silence is much more likely due process rather than cowardice or ignorant support of the bill.

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