Friday, March 28, 2008

The Deviant List

I don't like to discuss either politics or religion. They tend to blinker people's views on others for no good reason. People cease being "Jill", they become "Jill, the treehugger". Like someone's views on a topic becomes their identity.

The government of Australia is planning an internet filter that they hope will protect the children of Australia from the apparent evils of the internet.

These sort of arguments pop up around the world now and then and I like to follow them when I can. I understand the implications from both a technical and control aspect. One is failure and one is a bad road.

Politicians generally do not understand the technical limitations and focus on the vote-buying ability of their shitty legislation. Let me give some problems about filtering on a large scale:

  • It is unbelievably slow
  • It creates a point of failure
  • Legitimate sites will be blocked
  • Illegitimate sites will be let through
  • It will cost the Earth
Not a particularly good picture. Look at the abject failure of China's firewall to see just how ineffective it can be. Something that is both expensive, slow and ineffective is not a way forward.

Here is where the plan takes an awkward transmogrification over a few months.

Firstly a client side filter was developed by a government department. Where they found out that when combining knowledgeable teenagers with too much time on their hands: your best efforts fail. Even after that, the thing was a failure. Australians want to see cocks and pussies!

The new plan was proposed as a filter for illegal porn. Some degree of filtering for this is already in place. However, it then changed to blocking things deemed unsuitable for children. Porn, yes. Gambling, probably. Anarchist's Cookbook, likely. All three are legal to use/do/read in Australia, but deemed inappropriate for kids. And apparently, adults too. Some cite the so called harmful effects of porn, but actual research is inconclusive as to its effect. I would argue it has no significant effect either way.

Now, the plan in Australia is opt-out. This does not reduce the cost for the person and will still slow things down. It also has the potential to create a list of people who want to look at breasts. In itself, this is useless. However, those people could be seen in an entirely different light as data mining can never provide a picture of someone's intentions.

Which gets to the title of this post. Is this whole scheme an effective way of gathering a list of deviants? Since these people obviously don't care about children, who knows what else they don't care about? Will those who refuse to tow the line be considered a security threat over time? If they don't want to have their internet connection filtered, what else don't they want known?

It's a simple thing to argue out of, but when "if you have nothing to hide, you have nothing to fear" is sprouted like some sort of argument ender it's impossible to convince people otherwise. The federal minister for communications has already laid the seeds with his false dichotomy:

"If people equate freedom of speech with watching child pornography, then the Rudd-Labor Government is going to disagree."
Which as I've shown is only part of the proposed plan, a part that already exists in Australia and one which no person can opt-out of.

Ultimately, the issue is politics. One where every person, business and organisation in Australia will suffer. Since the change of government last year, the new government needs the support of the Australian version of the religious right (Family First Party) to get enough votes in the Senate. Australia has a long history with censorship. For a country that paints itself as easy going and laidback, this is rather surprising.


Anastasia said...

I agree. At the moment the Internet speed issue is an issue. It has been an issue for quite some time, and together with this, the Rudd government used the Internet speed issue as an election promise (to increase speed, networks, improve broadband, etc).

I've worked in telecommunications to know that things take an incredibly long time, but what the Rudd government is proposing is going to cost an incredible amount of money, and quite frankly, I wouldn't be surprised if there is - at some point - a recession due to the Rudd government, which has no idea on governing, let alone economics. This Internet filtering issue is invasive. I sometimes ask myself why can't parents monitor their children, and why they hand over basic power to governments. Are parents lazy? To some degree I think many modern parents are lazy and expect the government to do just about everything - including monitoring Internet usage. Then again there are many parents who like their own adult content as well, so it will present a dilemma.

The thing that makes me worry is the possibility, as you've mentioned, of people being classified according to the content they are viewing.

Overall though, because I live in Australia, and have worked for a major telco here, I don't see it coming to fruition very quickly.

wanklogger said...

Anastasia: I would like to see specific details on the new government's plan to increase speeds and uniformly across Australia. Unfortunately politicians are very much technology salesman: they offer a lot but can rarely deliver. Like I said, I like the technical aspects (and can understand them) but these sort of details are vague and spoken in hyperbole (and bullshit).

I didn't want to say parents should look after their own damn kids (although I 100% agree) purely because I am not a parent. It is easy for me to say, but I am sure it is a lot harder in practice. That said, my parents seemed to manage just fine without resorting to demanding the government to raise me. I'm not sure if it is just modern parents or just modern expectations. People seem a lot less willing to accept even a little inconvenience or responsibility. Instead they try and farm the responsibility to the government and then get them to ban whatever it is that pissing them off. All the while screeching that they respect freedom and liberty (just theirs though :P).

I agree with your prediction on it actually being implemented. I can see it *eventually* happening, but it will be a complete clusterfuck that it will be changed (or dropped) very quickly.

Thanks for reading!

Anonymous said...

Hi Wanklogger, i've never posted here before and i'm only really posting here now 'cos i need some advice. Ye see, i know this kid in my year and i'm pretty sure he's gay, i myself am not gay, but i would still like to "experiment".
I want to confront him about "experimenting", but i don't know how to go about it.

wanklogger said...

I am a big fan of being upfront, talking *and listening*. Good luck.

Anonymous said...
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