The Internet Filter: Only Just Now Politically Toxic?

It was just on 2 years ago that the first stray details of an Internet filter started to make their way into the public arena. Back then it was a little guy, meekly hobbling in after its failed predecessor NetAlert and making the promise to protect children online. Sure, we all thought, we have no problems with parents having the option to have their Internet filtered at request. I mean there are already companies doing that in Australia and realistically I understood that whilst parents are becoming increasingly more tech savvy not all of them are at the point where they could implement and understand a personal filter of their own. It didn’t take long for that almost nothing policy to morph into what it is today and the tech community violently opposed it with every fibre of their being. I’ve dedicated a good deal of my time to raising awareness about how bad this policy is and finally it seems that Senator Conroy might finally be listening.

It’s no secret that Labor is in a bit of trouble when it comes to their approval ratings. This was after being nigh untouchable for the majority of their term thanks to an extremely weak opposition but after enduring constant attacks from the Liberal guard dog Abbott Labor is struggling to win support. Consequently something like the Internet filter which, although unpopular amongst the tech community, could be easily shrugged off. Now it seems that with their margins for winning getting slimmer by the day they’ve decided to label the Internet filter as toxic policy:

The internet censorship policy has joined the government’s list of “politically toxic subjects” and will almost certainly be shelved until after the federal election, Greens communications spokesman Scott Ludlam says.

Prime Minister Kevin Rudd – already facing a voter backlash over several perceived policy failures – is expected to call the election before the end of the year and the feeling of many in Canberra is that next week will be the last sitting week of Parliament.

Parliament is not due to sit again until August 24, leaving little time to introduce the legislation and have it debated and passed in time for the election.

This is in addition to what Conroy said about a month ago in that  he would be introducing the legislation in the later half of the year, fully knowing that an election would be called around the same time effectively shelving the legislation until they were in a better political position. It’s quite obvious that they’ve known for some time that the filter hasn’t been particularly popular, but unfortunately for them backing down on this legislation would probably do them as much harm as good. I say that mostly because there’s a couple lobbyists who seem to have a lot of sway with the Rudd government and pulling support for the filter would more than likely see them pull their support. That’s in addition to giving Abbot yet another bullet to fire at Rudd with his whole broken promises spin, something which I know Rudd would be keen to avoid.

I’ve said many times before that I would conditionally support an opt-out filter and fully support an opt-in filter. Mostly this is because I understand that some parents would much prefer the government to provide them a solution rather than trying to sort one out themselves, and that’s a valid view to hold. However I strongly object to being told that I’m no longer in control of deciding what I can and can’t see through the Internet when every other modern country in the world says the complete opposite. Had this policy been opt-in from the very beginning I believe that most major ISPs would already have the solutions in place as they know that most of their customers do not want it, and the implementations would be small scale. Still Conroy’s twisted vision of what needs to be done in order to make Australia a safe place for kids seems to mean that we’re all incapable of making such decisions for ourselves which, at its heart, is the core reason I reject the policy in its entirety.

Still for all the talk about how bad the filter is there are still those who are on our side fighting for some much more sensible policy options. Whilst I can appreciate that most concerns about policies like this are handled behind closed doors it’s comforting to know that there are members of the current incumbent government that are willing to come publicly against such idiotic legislation. Senator Lundy has, on several occasions, shown a complete understanding of the issues at hand and the concerns of the community at large. It still strikes me as odd that Conroy doesn’t seem to get it after all this time not even wanting to do public consultation on the matter nor even attempt to amend the policy in the hopes of getting it past parliament. Maybe I’m just a fool to believe that facts can overcome people’s biases.

I really can not wait for this policy to die the death it so rightly has coming to it. Whilst I appreciate the amount of blog fodder its has tossed my way I still don’t like hearing about it every couple months because that means it still has potential to come into law which would be one of the most devastating blows to freedom that Australia would ever see. Maybe we’ll see a turnaround at this election in Conroy’s electorate and the next one to replace him will be more level headed about the whole Internet filter.

A man can dream, can’t he?

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  1. I think the filter is as good as dead. There isn’t time before the election, the coalition is in no mood to do labor any favours, Fielding and Xenephone have objections (read want bribes for their support) and finally the Greens are strongly opposed and after the next election will hold the balance of power likely for the rest of the Rudd Government.
    In politics we look for ideological or personalities to shape events, but sometimes its just pure timing that prevents a governments wishes from becoming law.

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