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
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.