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Censorship = FAIL

11 January 200902:23AMrants

Hey! This post is really old. You should take it with a grain of salt.

Right. Kevin "OH-SEVEN" Rudd, in all his infinite wisdom, has decided that he's going to censor the internet. I'm not going to beat about the bush on this one.

I am not in favour of this at all.

First of all, it's complusory. So no opt outs, not even for adults (there's a two tiered filter system, don't even get me started on that hyporcisy). This represents a fundamental attack on Australian's right to free speech. Sure, it's being done "to protect the children" - essentially, to block child porn, but it's been speculated, well, how long until perfectly legal websites are blocked for being 'unsuitable'? How long until they decide to block a horror film here, a medical database there, a couple of sites about breast feeding on the side? What about blocking access to sites of extremist groups, y'know, Al- Qaeda, The Klu Klux Klan Australia, the Neo-Nazi Party site, The Liberal Par- wait a sec! Any government wanting this degree of control over what its citizens see and hear and think needs to be dissolved immediately. This is nothing less than a full-on assault on freedom of speech. Just to stop a few sickos looking at naked kids. For illustration I quote Neil Gaiman's defense of the CBLDF (Comic Book Legal Defense Fund) and their defense of a man who imported some anime containing vaguely suggestive images:

"If you accept -- and I do -- that freedom of speech is important, then you are going to have to defend the indefensible. That means you are going to be defending the right of people to read, or to write, or to say, what you don't say or like or want said. The Law is a huge blunt weapon that does not and will not make distinctions between what you find acceptable and what you don't. This is how the Law is made. [...] The Law is a blunt instrument. It's not a scalpel. It's a club. If there is something you consider indefensible, and there is something you consider defensible, and the same laws can take them both out, you are going to find yourself defending the indefensible." --Neil Gaiman, "Why defend freedom of icky speech?", 01/12/2008

Something like an internet filter has an enormous potential for abuse, for political means, for business means, for any ACMA member with a grudge. Although they say it's for the best interests of the country, "for the children", what they will really be gaining is the ability to control the most powerful information dissemination meduim that has ever been known to humankind. It is a well known fact that power corrupts, and if that doesn't give you power, if that won't corrupt you, I don't know what will.

From DailyTech, "2009: Year of the Thought-Criminal":

"The internet gives us, as a people, an almost unthinkably powerful weapon – a weapon of minds, of expression, and of intellectual freedom – that we are free to wield against ourselves, each other, and those who govern over us. In no other time have we had such a power, and yet under the guise of fear – excuses range everywhere from "protecting public morality" to "saving the children" – we allow lawmakers to siphon it away from us."

Having established the 'why', or rather 'why not', I now move on to the 'how'. This filter is technically infeasible. The Government is being very shady about the whole thing: the size of the blacklist, the content methods being used, but one thing is clear: this filter will only scan raw, unencrypted HTTP traffic. Not secured HTTP, not FTP, not BitTorrent, LimeWire or other Peer-to-peer technology. This would be fine except that in all probability, the child porn isn't going over HTTP: it's going over exactly those Peer-to-peer networks, unwatched, and because of their nature, unwatchable. So the filter is a huge failure, before it's even begun. Then we have the double whammy to the legitimate users: massive speed reductions and false positives. The speed reductions have been supposed at anywhere from 20% up to 80%, with most tending towards the latter. With Australia's already slow network infrastructure, this will put us amongst the slowest internet-enabled countries in the world. Far from boosting the Australian broadband network, the Rudd Government will cripple it. Then you have the false positives, since the fastest filter tech is also the stupidest, and has a huge false positive rate. If you consider that google has over a trillion pages in its index, even a 0.001% false positive rate means ten million false positives... Ten million legitimate websites blocked, losing visitors, sales, reputation (duh, it is a porn filter)...

So here is my argument summarised:

What you should do: Protest. Raise awareness. Write to Senator Conroy, Kevin Rudd, and/or your local MP. Visit these websites. xkcd forum discussion - Interesting discussions, draft letters, and righteous fury BanThisURL - News aggregator and blog on Australian Censorship No Clean Feed - Electronic Frontier Foundation protest site, lots of detail, protests. ABC news summary of the filter - Decent summary. A Brooklyn Law School paper on the filter - Australia is the laughing stock of the world...

As for the Government, well, let me say it like this. When this Government was elected, I was 14. Now, I am almost 16. When the next election rolls around (Kevin '11, anyone?) I will be 18. And the Australian Labor Party will not be recieving my vote.

Not in 2011. Not ever.

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