Protesters are planning to pucker up in a mass 'kiss-off' at Melbourne's Federation Square tonight to rally against Channel Seven's decision to censor a lesbian kiss on teen soap Home and Away .
Hundreds of people are expected to gather as the soap airs at 7pm to demonstrate against the move by the station to reportedly cut scenes from a lesbian storyline.
Policewoman Charlie Buckton, played by actor Esther Anderson, and deckhand Joey Collins, played by Katie Bell, were due to kiss on tonight's episode.
But according to News Limited reports, some intimate close-up shots were cut following complaints from nutter groups and viewers.
A Melbourne lawyer said word of tonight's gathering for straight and gay people was spreading through text messages and emails. She said she believed a minority of conservative voices were being given an undue level of influence over what was
being screened: In this case the conservative minority has been able to sway public opinion to the detriment of the majorit y.
Art Monthly Australia , the magazine criticised by Prime Minister Kevin Rudd last year for carrying a photo of a nude schoolgirl on its cover, has published more naked images to test the Government's guidelines aimed at protecting
But editor Maurice O'Riordan said the three pictures of nude girls had been found to comply with the Australia Council's children in art protocols, even though they were starker than last year's image.
The protocols demand that naked images of children be considered by the Classification Board to ensure they are not obscene. Anyone who photographs children needs parental permission before the pictures can be exhibited and must declare the
photographs did not involve exploitation of the subject.
The full-frontal photographs - taken from an American book and exhibition, The Century Project , by Frank Cordelle - are used to illustrate a review of David Marr's book,
The Henson Case , about last year's controversy over a Sydney exhibition by photographer Bill Henson that included images of pubescent girls.
Both the Henson photographs and the image used by Art Monthly Australia last year - a photograph by Polixeni Papapetrou of her six-year-old daughter, Olympia - were given an unrestricted rating by the classification board.
O'Riordan described Papapetrou's photograph as more demure because of the lighting than Cordelle's images in the latest edition, which he said were more suited to a documentary: It was important for us to test the protocols because we
are funded by the Australia Council. He had not considered putting Cordelle's photographs on the cover because he said even the arts community appeared divided over the use of Papapetrou's image.
The Communications Minister, Stephen Conroy, has admitted that Bill Henson images were added to the communications regulator's list of prohibited websites in error, while blaming the addition of a dentist's site to the blacklist on hacking by the
The admission by Senator Conroy on ABC television's Q&A program last night casts significant doubt on the Government's ability to filter the internet without inadvertently blocking legitimate websites.
Q&A was inundated with 2000 questions from the public about the Government's hugely unpopular policy, and the audience last night ridiculed Senator Conroy by laughing at a number of his responses.
Senator Conroy, under siege after this website's report yesterday afternoon that an innocuous link containing Henson's artistic photographs of young boys had been added to the blacklist, said the classification board looked at this website and
actually said it's PG.
A technical error inside ACMA I'm advised included it ... but it was actually cleared by the Classification Board so it shouldn't be on the list, Senator Conroy said: I've asked ACMA in the last few hours to go through their entire list
again to see if there are any other examples of this.
But the presence of innocuous sites on the blacklist, such as that of a Queensland dentist, a school canteen consultancy and an animal carer, and euthanasia sites, abortion sites, fetish sites, gambling sites, regular porn sites and a site
containing harmless Henson photographs, were only revealed after the list was leaked by the Wikileaks website this month.
The Opposition's communications spokesman, Nick Minchin, said: This error only came to light because content from the secret blacklist had been publicly leaked. Under Senator Conroy's regime how many similar errors will result in the wrongful
filtering of legal sites and content?
Greens Senator Scott Ludlam said: If the whole net censorship debate has done one good thing, it's shown us just how flawed the existing system is, let alone the Minister's proposed radical expansion of it.
The Minister continued to claim last night that his proposed censorship regime was sound because it targeted only "refused classification" content, however, the RC classification includes sites that are perfectly legal to view, such as
regular porn sites and fetish sites.
The website of the Australian Film Classification Board has been hacked.
The front page was defaced to reads
Welcome to the Classification Website
This site contains information about the boards that have the right to CONTROL YOUR FREEDOMZ. The Classification Board has the right to not just classify content (the name is an ELABORATE TRICK), but also the right to DECIDE WHAT IS AND ISNT
APPROPRIATE and BAN CONTENT FROM THE PUBLIC. We are part of an ELABORATE DECEPTION from CHINA to CONTROL AND SHEEPIFY the NATION, to PROTECT THE CHILDREN. All opposers must HATE CHILDREN, and therefore must be KILLED WITH A LARGE MELONS during
the PROSECUTION PARTIES IN SEPTEMBER. Come join our ALIEN SPACE PARTY.
Not only is the list published by whistleblower website Wikileaks over the weekend definitely the ACMA blacklist of banned internet content, it's also rubbish , according to an industry source.
Senator Stephen Conroy finally admitted that the Wikileaked material seemed to be close to ACMA's current blacklist of banned internet content.
ACMA's blacklist is compiled from complaints received from the public. Manufacturers of internet filters pay $15,000 for the list, which must be included in their products to be eligible to participate in the government's current field tests of
ISP-level internet filtering.
Our contact in the internet filtering industry is highly critical of the ACMA blacklist's quality. I've had a look at the list and it's rubbish, they told Crikey this morning: I wouldn't pay $100 for it, let alone $15,000. That list
would make my filtering look really bad.
The leaked ACMA blacklist dated 18 March 2009 contains 1168 URLs, of which roughly half relate to child-abuse material. The rest is material Refused Classification (RC) for other reasons, or adult hardcore rayed X18+ or is rated MA15+ or higher
without an age-verification mechanism in place. Or potentially so on the secret say-so of an unaccountable ACMA staffer.
Our source says around two-thirds of the URLs in the ACMA blacklist don't go anywhere or are otherwise out of date. By comparison, their own company's list contains around quarter of a million URLs covering child-related activity alone, checked
every three months to remove out of date or inactive entries.
Australian block list posting earns wikileaks raid by German police
Based on article from wikileaks.org
On the 24th of March 2009, seven police officers in Dresden and four in Jena searched the homes of Theodor Reppe, who holds the domain registration for "wikileaks.de", the German name for wikileaks.org. According to police
documentation, the reason for the search was distribution of pornographic material and discovery of evidence. Police claim the raid was initiated due to Reppe's position as the Wikileaks.de domain owner.
Police did not want to give any further information to Reppe and no contact was made with Wikileaks before or after the search. It is therefore not totally clear why the search was made, however Wikileaks, in its role as a defender of press
freedoms, has published censorship lists for Australia, Thailand, Denmark and other countries. Included on the lists are references to sites containing pornography and no other material has been released by Wikileaks relating to the subject.
iiNet has pulled out of the federal Government's internet filtering trials.
iiNet only agreed to participate in the trial to demonstrate that the filter was flawed and a waste of taxpayers' money, iiNet managing director Michael Malone said.
Malone cited drawn-out negotiations with the Department of Broadband, Communications and the Digital Economy, constant changes in policy, and last week's leak of a secret internet blacklist as reasons for pulling out.
It became increasingly clear that the trial was not simply about restricting child pornography or other such illegal material, but a much wider range of issues including what the Government simply describes as ‘unwanted material' without an
explanation of what that includes, Malone said.
iiNet's withdrawal from the ISP filter trials is another blow for the controversial project. Last week the federal Government's plans for the nationwide internet filter were put in jeopardy when its top-secret blacklist of banned web pages was
Activist group GetUp is set to launch a television advertising campaign against the government's proposed internet censorship regime after a blacklist of banned websites was leaked online.
GetUp has invited members to submit their creative ideas for an ad to be screened nationally next month.
GetUp said the ACMA blacklist included a Queensland dentist, a tuckshop management consultant, animal carers and a tour operator.
This time it was a dentist from Queensland. The next time it might be a website that criticises internet censorship, or a rival political party, GetUp national director Simon Sheikh said in a statement: The government is asking us to
trust them that a flawed system won't be abused. Australians know and demand better.
Sheikh said Australians would not stand by and let potentially innocent people get caught up in the federal government's internet censorship.
He said that was why GetUp had decided to step up the campaign against the government's ludicrous internet censorship plans.
People have been invited to submit script ideas, music, images and personal anecdotes to collaborate in creating a national TV ad to be screened next month.
Sheikh said GetUp's Save The Net campaign had already attracted the support of more than 98,000 Australians and has included an online petition and an online advertising blitz viewed more than 3.5 million times.
The campaign has been funded by thousands of small donations from members.
WikiLeaks has released a copy of what is alleged to be the current ACMA blacklist. This list is dated March 18 and includes 1170 URLs, including the now high-profile AbortionTV page and the Wikileaks page containing the Danish blacklist.
URLs belonging to Betfair, The Peaceful Pill Handbook, Redtube, AbbyWinters, IShotMyself, TheHun and xTube are present on the list.
The publication of a leaked list of prohibited URLs which are allegedly part of the Australian Media and Communications Authority's secret list of 2,395 banned websites, has been slammed by Communications minister Senator Stephen Conroy as grossly irresponsible.
The list which was leaked this week by global whistle-blower site Wikileaks claims to be derived from ACMA's censorship list. The Australian government plans to use this list as a basis for its mandatory ISP filtering scheme and under the ACMA
guidelines linking sites contained to the list can attract fines of up to $11,000 a day.
The list leak, which includes Telstra's Yellow Pages and YouTube as offending sites, is a further blow to the Minister for Broadband, Communications and the Digital Economy, Senator Stephen Conroy's plans to block ISP content. Conroy denied the
authenticity of the list .
The leak and publication of prohibited URLs is grossly irresponsible. It undermines efforts to improve cyber-safety and create a safe online environment for children. No-one interested in cyber-safety would condone the leaking of these
addresses. I am aware of reports that a list of URLs has been placed on a web site. This is not the ACMA blacklist, Conroy said.
He admitted however that there are some common URLs to those on the ACMA blacklist. ACMA is currently investigating the incident and considering a range of possible actions it may take including referral to the Australian Federal Police. Conroy
warned in a statement that any Australian involved in making this content publicly available would be at serious risk of criminal prosecution.
Wikileaks has upped the ante in its skirmish with the Australia Government, warning that any attempts to find the source of the leaked censorship list would cause an international incident, and could see Australian Minister for censorship
Stephen Conroy indicted on criminal charges in Sweden.
Wikileaks issued a press release:
The Stockholm based publisher of Wikileaks today issued a warning to the Australian Minister for Broadband, Communications and the Digital Economy, Senator Steven Conroy, who is responsible for Australian internet
Senator Conroy issued an official media release yesterday in response to Wikileaks' release of last year's confidential Australian internet censorship blacklist. The Senator said that his department, is investigating this matter and is
considering a range of possible actions it may take including referral to the Australian Federal Police. Any Australian involved in making this content publicly available would be at serious risk of criminal prosecution.
The Senator is perhaps unaware of the legal and diplomatic risks associated with the statement.
Sunshine Press Legal Adviser Jay Lim stated: Under the Swedish Constitution's Press Freedom Act, the right of a confidential press source to anonymity is protected, and criminal penalties apply to anyone acting to breach
Wikileaks source documents are received in Sweden and published from Sweden so as to derive maximum benefit from this legal protection. Should the Senator or anyone else attempt to discover our source we will refer the matter to the
Constitutional Police for prosecution, and, if necessary, ask that the Senator and anyone else involved be extradited to face justice for breaching fundamental rights.
They explained that they have the remit to irresponsibly add adult hardcore and betting sites etc to the censorship list.
The Australian Communications and Media Authority is aware that a list purporting to be the ‘ACMA blacklist' has been posted on an overseas website. ACMA does not consider that the release and promotion of URLs relating to illegal and highly
offensive material is responsible.
The regulatory scheme for online content that has been administered by ACMA since 2000. ACMA's role is to investigate complaints and take such actions as prescribed by the legislation on materials assessed to be prohibited or potentially
The ACMA blacklist has at no stage been 2300 URLs in length and at August 2008 consisted of 1061 URLs. It is therefore completely inaccurate to say that the list of 2300 URLs constitutes an ACMA blacklist.
ACMA considers that any publication of the ACMA blacklist would have a substantial adverse effect on the effective administration of the regulatory scheme which aims to prevent access to harmful and offensive online material. Such publication
would undermine the public interest outcomes which the current legislation aims to achieve.
The following categories of online content are the categories that are prohibited:
Online content that is classified RC or X 18+. This includes real depictions of actual sexual activity, child pornography, depictions of bestiality, material containing excessive violence or sexual violence, detailed instruction in crime,
violence or drug use, and/or material that advocates the doing of a terrorist act.
Content which is classified R 18+ and not subject to a restricted access system. This includes depictions of simulated sexual activity, material containing strong, realistic violence and other material dealing with intense adult themes.
Content which is classified MA 15+, provided by a mobile premium service or a service that provides audio or video content upon payment of a fee, and not subject to a restricted access system. This includes material containing strong depictions
of nudity, implied sexual activity, drug use or violence, very frequent or very strong coarse language, and other material that is strong in impact.
ACMA's current list of approximately 1100 URLs relating to prohibited content and potential prohibited content hosted outside Australia includes material in the following categories:
depictions of child sexual abuse
depictions of bestiality
material containing excessive violence or sexual violence
material containing detailed instruction in crime, violence or drug use
real depictions of actual sexual activity
depictions of simulated sexual activity which are not subject to a restricted access system.
Schedule 7 to the BSA also requires ACMA to investigate complaints about ‘links services' which are hosted in Australia and which lead to prohibited content. If as a result of investigating such a complaint ACMA determines that a link relates to
potential prohibited content, ACMA is required to direct the provider of the links service to remove the link, pending classification of the content concerned by the Classification Board.
The Interactive Gambling Act 2001 makes it an offence to provide, or advertise, certain interactive gambling services.
Prohibited internet gambling content is content that can be accessed, or is available for access, by customers of a prohibited internet gambling service.
A prohibited internet gambling service is a gambling service provided in the course of carrying on a business to customers using an internet carriage service, and an individual physically present in Australia is capable of becoming a customer of
If ACMA receives a complaint about prohibited internet gambling content that is hosted in Australia, ACMA will refer the matter to the Australian Federal Police.
If prohibited internet gambling content is hosted outside Australia, ACMA will notify the content to makers of the approved Family Friendly Filters listed in Schedule 1 to the Interactive Gambling Act Industry code.
Recent action by the Australian Government may see Google and many other popular websites banned in Australia under existing censorship laws.
Under the Communications Legislation Amendment (Content Services) Act 2007 sites that link to content that is Refused Classification (RC) are considered themselves to be RC, and if hosted in Australia, site owners can be ordered to remove the
link(s), or fined AU$11,000 a day.
If I was linking to XYZ blog, and XYZ blog was linking to ABC blog who had linked to the leaked ACMA list, all the pages in the chain are illegal, because each one links to prohibited content. Any site linking to me then becomes illegal, and so
The Australian government secret ACMA internet censorship blacklist from 6 Aug 2008 has been leaked to
This list contains 2395 webpages or site variations derived from the those secretly banned by the Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA) and used by a government approved censorship software maker in its "ACMA only"
censorship mode. The last update to the ACMA list is August 6, 2008.
While Wikileaks is used to exposing secret government censorship in developing countries, we now find Australia acting like a democratic backwater. Apparently without irony, ACMA threatens fines of up to $11,000 a day for linking to sites on its
secret, unreviewable, censorship blacklist -- a list the government hopes to expand into a giant national censorship machine.
This week saw Australia joining China and the United Arab Emirates as the only countries censoring Wikileaks. We were not notified by ACMA.
Most of the sites on the Australian list have no obvious connection to child pornography. Some have changed owners while others were clearly always about other subjects.
One of Australia's largest owned and operated adult websites, AbbyWinters.com, is included on the ACMA blacklist of prohibited websites. Also banned is the TheHun.com, one of the web's longest running and most visited free adult link directories.
AbbyWinters, which is owned by Victorian company GMBill, complies with 18 U.S.C. 2257 Record-Keeping Requirements, meaning all models are over 18 years of age. Most of the material on the site would be rated no higher than X18+, which is legal to
purchase and view in Australia.
Gambling sites such as PartyPoker.com are also included in the block list.
The accountability of the Australian federal government's Internet content filter has been called into question following revelations that the decision to ban Web sites lacks consultation and can be made by a single staffer.
Privacy advocacy groups have expressed concerns that the looming Internet content filter could become authoritarian unless adequate accountability and review is included into how the communications watchdog bans Web sites.
The Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA) was left red-faced after it was attacked in a recent Senate Estimates hearing by Senator Scott Ludlam for banning an anti-abortionist Web site without consulting the classification board.
The embarrassment follows a heavy-handed redress by the watchdog in which online hosting company BulletProof Networks was threatened with an $11,000 a day fine for allowing the publication of a Web address to a banned anti-abortion Web site.
The infringing Web address — contained in a response from the ACMA's own public relations department — was published in online forum Whirlpool, after a user requested the watchdog in January to ban the Web site.
Users are goading the internet censor to ban its own Wikipedia page by including the link to the blacklisted Web site. User edits have removed the details of the site at the time of publication and further edits have been locked by the site.
It has been revealed that Australia's internet censor, ACMA, has blacklisted a page on the whistle-blower website WikiLeaks.org that contains a leaked copy of the Danish blacklist of banned websites.
Like the anti-abortion page recently blacklisted by ACMA, this page was also submitted to the media authority for investigation by a Whirlpool user. The complainant, ‘Tardis42', believes there may be possible repercussions for publishing the link
to the now-blacklisted page on Whirlpool.
Have faith in us to
ban all pleasures
known to man
Communications Minister Stephen Conroy has urged detractors of the Government's proposed Internet filtering plot to have faith in elected politicians after a row blew up over threats to an ISP whose client unknowingly published a banned
political URL campaigning against abortion.
Immediately the blogosphere flooded with quips on whether Conroy means political or religious faith. Most said they had none of either.
Speaking at the annual Australian Telecommunications User Group conference, Conroy described some of this opposition as "conspiracy theories. He ridiculed suggestions the filtering trial is the thin edge of the wedge the
beginnings of a government cracking down on political dissent.
Conroy also reiterated that the Government is clear on which content is to be filtered and how. It will attack RC (Refused Classification) content, he said, using the same rationale under which the Australia Communications and Media Authority
(ACMA) already classifies content under the Broadcasting Services Act. But he continually avoids admitting that standard adult consensual hardcore is to be banned.
But despite this public stance, the mechanism of Internet filtering of Australian ISPs looked like a loose cannon of censorship, more likely to damage the Government than protect children.
South Australian Attorney-General and R18+ opponent Michael Atkinson wrote to the Adelaide Advertiser about his favourite topic, banning R18+ games:
A Queensland letter writer (The Advertiser, 7/3/09) claims that democracy is at an end because I, as Attorney-General, will not agree to an R18+ category for interactive computer games; that "every other state AG is
against him"; and the only way to bring back democracy is to vote me out at the next election. It is true that I am opposed to an R18+ category for interactive games, but I am one of at least four Attorneys so opposed.
I welcome a challenge in my electorate of Croydon at the next general election on this issue.
Among my constituents are hundreds of refugees who are trying to find lodgings for the family, gain employment and sponsor relatives from the old country.
Their vote is hardly likely to hinge on the "right" to score gamer points on the computer screen by running down and killing pedestrians on the pavement, raping a mother and her two daughters, blowing oneself up in a market, cutting
people in half with large calibre shells, injecting drugs to win an athletics event or killing a prostitute to recover the fee one just paid her (Welcome to the world of R18+ computer games).
Those of my constituents who are refugees have been subjected to the practical instead of the virtual suffering that R18+ nerds seek to inflict for their gratification on the computer screen.
Response from Terry O'Shanassy
And here's a response from Kotaku reader - and 57-year-old grandparent - Terry O'Shanassy:
This debate has heated up because gamers want me to agree to the release of a discussion paper about an R18+ classification for games. I agreed to the discussion paper last year. I want the discussion paper to include
depictions of actual games, including the types of games that are currently above the MA15+ rating. I intend to take my version of the paper to other ministers at the next Standing Committee of Attorneys-General (SCAG) in Canberra in April so
they can decide whether it will be released. I hope Victorian Attorney-General Rob Hulls doesn't stop the discussion paper's being released in April.
Everyone who has a view on this issue can write to any of the censorship ministers or their local member of parliament. That might be more useful than bagging me anonymously on blogs and by anonymous emails, but use up your time this way if it
makes you feel better. This debate continues whether the discussion paper is released or not.
Steve Irons is a Not so Liberal MP who lost two sisters through the consequences of excessive alcohol consumption. He mentioned them as reasons why he's seeking a ban on a board game that he says encourages dangerous drinking.
Sabra Lane interviewed Steve Irons on ABC local radio
Sabra Lane: Parliamentary rookie MP says he's no wowser, that he enjoys a beer ...BUT... says it's time to end Australia's binge drinking culture.
Late yesterday Mr Irons told Parliament he couldn't understand why a board game called Pass-Out is sold here without any classification.
Steve Irons: I will argue today that the advertising of the game Pass-Out should be stopped and that we must consider whether this is a game that is appropriate for sale in Australia.
Sabra Lane: A Perth man who received a flyer in his local newspaper advertising two drinking games alongside children's board games wrote to the MP suggesting it was inappropriate. Mr Irons agrees.
Steve Irons: It says on the website that it's not about alcohol and it's not recommended for people under 18. So if it's not alcohol it wouldn't matter if it was for people under 18. But I can't think of any
other liquids or fluids that we can drink safely other than alcohol that would make us pass out.
So if that's the achievement of the game I just think that, you know, in a society now that's trying to reduce binge drinking, here we have companies still selling games that encourage drinking to the extent that we pass out, which is just crazy.
Sabra Lane: Mr Irons has asked the Classification Board to ban the game and he's challenged the Government to restrict it from advertising.
At risk of their host being hit with $11,000 fines per day, Whirlpool has complied.
This comes as Senator Stephen Conroy urged those opposed to the Government's mandatory ISP filtering plan to have faith the right legislation will be passed, saying There is no political content banned in the existing Broadcasting Services
On March 10, ACMA issued Sydney web hosting company Bulletproof Networks with an interim link-deletion notice for allowing its customer, the Whirlpool internet community website, to post the link to an anti-abortion web page blacklisted by
Australia's TV censor, ACMA, is pursuing a formal complaint against radio station 6PR for publishing a video of a brutal corporal punishment caning which took place in Malaysia approximately four years ago.
The 6PR website warns readers with two warning messages before they watch the corporal punishment footage.
ABC's MediaWatch host Jonathan Holmes says: This is on a general-use website. And there's nothing to stop a child intrigued by the warning clicking through to this.
The caning video was posted as background to a debate on whether Western Australia should introduce caning
A film set during the race riots that hit Australia four years ago has been pulled from cinemas in Sydney after fights broke out during screenings.
The Combination centres on tensions between gangs of Australian Lebanese and white youths in Sydney's western suburbs in 2005.
It was pulled by one of Australia's cinema chains, Greater Union, after violence flared outside two cinemas. Greater Union said it had cancelled screenings of the film in all four of its Sydney cinemas after violent incidents in its suburban
Parramatta cinema on Thursday and Saturday nights.
Maintaining the safety and security of our staff and patrons is our main concern and priority, Greater Union general manager Robert Flynn said in a statement.
The Australian Film Syndicate (AFS) managing director Allanah Zitserman said Greater Union's decision to pull the critically-acclaimed film was devastating for everyone involved, especially for the audiences: Although we do not support the
decision by Greater Union to pull the film from its NSW sites we respect and understand their position.
The Combination, directed by David Field, is set in late 2005, when ugly race riots between white and Lebanese Australians flared at the city's Cronulla Beach.
The film can still be seen at other cinema chains in New South Wales state, as well as cinemas in other Australian cities.
The Australian Sex Party will run candidates in three electorates in the upcoming Queensland state election. However, since the party does not have a sufficient membership base, the candidates will run as independents.
Queensland's censorship laws are far stricter than any other state in Australia and the same as laws on erotica in totalitarian states like China and Iran, says party convenor Fiona Patten.
The party will run of a number of platforms including same sex marriage and age of consent. In Queensland the age of consent for homosexuals is 18 while it is 16 for heterosexuals. Every other state in Australia has an age of consent of 16
regardless of sexual orientation.
The Australian Government's plan to introduce mandatory internet censorship has effectively been scuttled, following an independent senator's decision to join the Greens and Opposition in blocking any legislation required to get the scheme
The Opposition's communications spokesman Nick Minchin has this week obtained independent legal advice saying that if the Government is to pursue a mandatory filtering regime legislation of some sort will almost certainly be required.
Senator Nick Xenophon previously indicated he may support a filter that blocks online gambling websites but in a phone interview he withdrew all support, saying the more evidence that's come out, the more questions there are on this.
The Communications Minister, Stephen Conroy, has consistently ignored advice from a host of technical experts saying the filters would slow the internet, block legitimate sites, be easily bypassed and fall short of capturing all of the nasty
content available online.
Despite this, he is pushing ahead with trials of the scheme using six ISPs - Primus, Tech 2U, Webshield, OMNIconnect, Netforce and Highway 1. But even the trials have been heavily discredited, with experts saying the lack of involvement from the
three largest ISPs, Telstra, Optus and iiNet, means the trials will not provide much useful data on the effects of internet filtering in the real-world.
Senator Conroy originally pitched the filters as a way to block child porn but - as ISPs, technical experts and many web users feared - the targets have been broadened significantly since then. ACMA's secret blacklist, which will form the basis
of the mandatory censorship regime, contains 1370 sites, only 674 of which relate to depictions of children under 18. A significant portion - 506 sites - would be classified R18+ and X18+, which is legal to view but would be blocked for everyone
under the proposal.
Stephen Conroy yesterday confirmed that the Government would consider the possibility of adult consensual porn being blocked by its mandatory internet censorship scheme.
At Estimates hearings conducted by the Environment, Communications and the Arts committee, the Minister repeatedly confirmed that the censorship trial announced on 11 February, to be conducted in association with ISPs Primus, Tech 2U, Webshield,
OMNIconnect, Netforce and Highway 1 and others, would be based on illegal sites under the Broadcasting Services Act, but that the censorship of other content would also be determined after the trial.
Conroy's statement -- which he reinforced when he said that censorship of other (i.e. non-illegal) content would be determined on the basis of the trial -- establishes the basis for using the results of the censorship trial to extend
mandatory filtering to content that is currently legal.
The Broadcasting Services Act currently prohibits both Refused Classification material and X18+ material, meaning content depicting actual sex is treated in a manner similar to criminal content such as child pornography. The BSA also bans R18+
material (including simulated sex) if there is no age-based restriction. This clumsy regime means material that is available in your average newsagent, let alone the local adult shop, is banned online and will technically be blocked under the ALP
The Australian Communications and Media Authority maintains a secret blacklist which it describes as the worst of the worst in terms of child pornography and other criminal material. It is this list that will be used in the trial, although
it will extended beyond that to other filtering techniques such as key-word-based blocking. Given that the current regime also prohibits much of the petabytes of porn freely available on the internet, the idea of effectively filtering via a list
The ban also perpetuates the Ruddock-era ban on alleged terrorist books imposed by the Howard Government as part of its national security-based attack on civil liberties. Academics using the internet to research terrorism-related materials may be
blocked if filtering is imposed.
The results of the trial will not be known until at least mid-year.
A new movie said to be more gruesome and gory than Reservoir Dogs and Kill Bill should be banned from Australian cinemas, according to nutters
Inglourious Basterds , the latest Quentin Tarantino film, stars Brad Pitt as a Nazi-killing commander.
In World War II, Pitt leads a group of Jewish soldiers on a massacre, dismembering, disfiguring and torturing Nazis.
Speaking over a sinister rock soundtrack, Pitt says: We will be cruel to the German. And through our cruelty they will know who we are. Each man under my command owes me 100 Nazi scalps. And I want my scalps.
A nutter group has called for the film, which has been described as extremely brutal, to be banned. They claim Tarantino has increased the shock value to keep audiences interested, but this time he has gone too far.
Bill Muehlenberg, from the Family Council of Victoria, said Pitt would attract a young and influential audience and he recommended parents beware: He is a role model for many young people, so the more gory and bloody and violent it gets, the
worse the example. We have a classification board that allows filmmakers to get away with murder.
Jewish groups were also uneasy about the level of bloodshed, saying it did not reflect reality and was not a true story. However, it could split the community, according to Rabbi Sholom Kluwgant, who said some might applaud its revengeful
In 2008, Grand Theft Auto IV on console was released in Australia in a censored form. No blood pools, no sexy camera angles. In 2009, though? All is forgiven, all censorship, removed.
The original Australian version of GTAIV on console was censored. Blood was kept to a minimum, and you couldn't enjoy the same kind of intimate viewing experience with ladies of the night as you could elsewhere.
But when the PC version rolled around later in the year, it passed without incident. It did include blood pools, and it also included the full range of sex-related camera angles, despite being the same game intended for the same audience.
Newly-released expansion Lost & Damned is no different. It's been given an MA15+ rating and will have all the blood and sex that was deemed unacceptable less than a year ago in the same country.
Leaving us with this absurd situation: If you boot up your 360 copy of GTAIV and play GTAIV , it's censored. But if you boot up your 360 copy of GTAIV and play L&D , you'll get the full, uncensored experience.
Bare breasts and raunchy sex scenes have sparked fierce debate following the second outing of the Underbelly prequel.
Nutters have expressed concern over this week's episode of Underbelly: A Tale Of Two Cities , which featured raunchy sex scenes between heroin kingpin and his drug-running mistress.
The Australian Family Association said the show was pornography and inappropriate for its 8.30pm timeslot.
The laws governing censorship need to be reviewed because teenagers are still up at this time, AFA spokesnutter Joe Lopez said: There's no excuse at anytime to show excessive pornography or violence like they do in Underbelly.
The Australian TV censor, ACMA, has agreed a undertaking from The Nine Network to classify Gordon Ramsay's fruity language with a more restrictive rating:
The Nine Network will be required to put in place more rigorous classification procedures for future series of Underbelly —including the forthcoming second series A Tale of Two Cities —under an enforceable undertaking accepted by
the Australian Communications and Media Authority. Nine will also reclassify repeat broadcasts of a number of episodes of the original Underbelly series, and implement additional training and reporting processes.
In addition, Nine will classify as MA all episodes of Kitchen Nightmares and other programs substantially featuring Gordon Ramsay, subject to any material change in the content of the programs.
‘This remedial action is the product of extensive discussions with the Nine and WIN networks about action they will take over the next 24 months to ensure that these programs are correctly classified and shown in the appropriate time slot,
said Chris Chapman, ACMA Chairman. It is a response to the unacceptably high number of incorrectly classified Underbelly and Ramsay programs broadcast in 2008. It aims to create an improved compliance culture, while giving ACMA an avenue to
pursue further remedial action if necessary .
If ACMA subsequently finds that one of the licensees has breached its undertaking—for example, by incorrectly classifying a program covered by the undertaking—ACMA may apply to the Federal Court for an order that the licensee pay ACMA an amount
equivalent to the financial benefit the licensee obtained by breaching the undertaking.
In relation to the Underbelly programs Nine and WIN will:
reclassify or edit programs found by ACMA to be incorrectly classified
provide reports to ACMA on any complaints alleging code breaches with respect to these programs.
In addition, Nine will:
conduct an extensive education program for the Underbelly production team to outline the requirements of the M classification
develop ‘detailed internal classification guidelines' based on ACMA's findings
ensure that classifiers review scripts and assess each episode of the 2009 series, to ensure that the classification requirements are met
report to ACMA on compliance with the classification training requirements.
All programs featuring celebrity chef Gordon Ramsay will be classified MA. Nine and WIN will also provide reports to ACMA on any complaints they receive alleging code breaches with respect to these programs.
Jeremy Clarkson has apologised after referring to Prime Minister Gordon Brown as a one-eyed Scottish idiot. He was speaking in Sydney, Australia where he is hosting Top Gear Live , a stage version of the popular BBC show.
During a discussion on the economy, he compared Brown unfavourably with Kevin Rudd, the Australia prime minister, who had addressed his country on the scale of the financial downturn.
He genuinely looked terrified. Poor man, he's actually seen the books, Clarkson said of Rudd.
We have this one-eyed Scottish idiot who keeps telling us everything's fine and he's saved the world and we know he's lying, but he's smooth at telling us.
Lesley-Anne Alexander, chief executive of the Royal National Institute of Blind People, said: Mr Clarkson's description of Prime Minister Brown is offensive. Any suggestion that equates disability with incompetence is totally unacceptable. We
would be happy to help Mr Clarkson understand the positive contribution people with sight loss make to society.
In a statement issued by BBC Worldwide, Clarkson said: In the heat of the moment I made a remark about the Prime Minister's personal appearance for which, upon reflection, I apologise.
Scottish politicians reacted angrily to Clarkson's remarks. Iain Gray, the Scottish Labour leader, said: Such a comment is really a reflection on Jeremy Clarkson and speaks for itself. Most people here are proud that the Prime Minister is a
Scot and believe him to be the right person to get the UK through this global economic crisis.
Australian video game publishers and retailers are risking hundreds of thousands of dollars in fines by selling online role playing games such as World of Warcraft without age classifications.
The games industry believes there is a legal loophole exempting online games that don't have a single player component from classification requirements but this view is contradicted by the federal and state attorneys-general.
World of Warcraft , with more than 11.5 million subscribers, is the most popular of the online-only games but there are other examples including Age of Conan , Warhammer Online and Pirates of the Burning Sea.
All are sold as boxed sets in retail stores across the country without classification by the Classification Board or the appropriate labelling, for instance M or MA15+.
A spokesman for NSW Attorney-General John Hatzistergos said the NSW Classification Enforcement Act prohibited publishers and retailers from selling unclassified computer games: The NSW legislation covers computer games bought online as well as
those bought in stores, and treats single, multi-player and online games the same way .
The spokesman added that enforcement of the act was the responsibility of police but penalties for breaking these laws ranged from $1100 to $11,000 for individuals and/or 12 months' imprisonment. For corporations the fines were approximately
A spokeswoman for Federal Attorney-General Robert McClelland said that, although it was up to each state and territory to enforce game classification requirements, Commonwealth legislation also had no loopholes for online games: The National
Classification Scheme does not distinguish between games based on whether or not they contain a single player component. Online games are computer games within the meaning of the Classification (Publications, Films and Computer Games) Act
1995 and are covered under the existing legislation.
But Ron Curry, chief executive of games industry body the Interactive Entertainment Association of Australia said he believed that online games without a single player component did not require classification by the Classification Board.
Despite reports earlier in the week that World of Warcraft and other multi player online games were being withdrawn from sale due to legal reasons, the games are still for sale in all stores.
A loophole in the Australian law that allowed online games with no single-player content to go on sale without a classification was exposed earlier this week, and the federal and state attorneys-general declared that all titles without
this classification were to be withdrawn from sale. However, this only applied in NSW, the other states were unaffected. Also, it was up to the police to act on complaints about sales of the games, something which they are unlikely to receive.
National President of the Atheist Foundation of Australia, David Nicholls, is going to have to seek legal help to try to get his atheist bus ads approved.
APN Outdoor, the company who is in charge of advertising on buses in Adelaide and other cities, would not accept ads for an atheist bus campaign. According to a report on The Independent Weekly, Nicholl’s said: …they wouldn’t
accept any ad from atheists. I spoke with sales staff in Adelaide, then higher sales staff in Brisbane, and finally to a sales executive in Sydney. He said APN would have to seek legal advice but they rang back in less than a minute saying they
were not going to take our ad, no matter how it was worded.
As a result, the atheist group has decided to take the case to the Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission. Nicholls said: The world-wide response demands we act decisively to release freedom of expression from the arbitrary control of
bus company advertising executives. We therefore have no option but to seek legal means to that end.
South Australian Attorney-General Michael Atkinson has thrown a spanner in the works of proposed changes to the videogame classification system.
This time, as Jason Hill reports for The Age, it's come to light that Atkinson has failed to provide his final comments on the discussion paper originally announced in March last year.
Censorship ministers last March agreed in principle to canvass public opinion on the proposed introduction of an R18+ classification for games and to release a discussion paper on the issue. Atkinson is still yet to provide his final
comments on the paper after earlier refusing to make it public unless changes were made.
The draft discussion paper, titled R18+ for computer games was sent to ministers last September and details the advantages and perils of introducing an adults-only rating for games. If it gets released, the paper will be available to the
public via the internet and provided to interested parties such as industry groups and family associations to seek their views.
By our reckoning, he's been sitting on that paper for five months now, having known it was coming for another five months before that. While we don't doubt the minister is a busy man, one gets the impression he may be deliberately trying to
stymie the public debate. I can't think why he might want to do that, can you?
Australia's well known for its iron-handed, dogmatic views on video game ratings, and it seems Dragon Ball: Origins on the Nintendo DS is the latest game to suffer.
All other Dragon Ball games have received a PG rating Down Under, but a shot of one of the character's pants in Origins is apparently enough to force a recall of the game so it can be given a more mature rating.
Atari has issued the recall notice, though how successful it'll be is anyone's guess. It's all good advertising, of course, and this sort of nonsense will undoubtedly help boost the original's resale value on eBay in years to come, so our advice
to all those Aussie DS gamers is to hang onto it.
The church and the Atheist Foundation of Australia (AFA) are among more than 150 organisations and individuals to make submissions to a freedom of religion and belief project, being run jointly with the Australian Multicultural Foundation, RMIT
University and Monash University.
The Australian Human Rights Commission discussion paper sets out to examine the extent to which the right of freedom of religion and belief can be enjoyed in Australia.
The church's six-page submission said blasphemy should be made lawful.
Blasphemy is not a common law offence at a national level but a few federal laws, such as the Broadcasting and Television Act, still include it as an objectionable item'.
We look for a society where religious discourse is conducted in safety and security, and people are free to disagree without danger or social exclusion or harm to person or property, the church said in its submission: These conditions will
entail the freedom to engage in robust debate and disagreement about religious beliefs and practices. We support the abolition of the common law offence of blasphemy and the repeal of any laws creating the offence of blasphemy.
The AFA said in its submission it backed an end to blasphemy laws, adding there were sufficient laws in place to prevent vilification.
The AHRC have extended the deadline for submissions to its discussion paper to February 28. Race Discrimination Commissioner Tom Calma said the discussion paper had already generated a lot of interest, but more comment was being sought.
The age of overzealous risk management and fear of upsetting the most sensitive of minds hit the West Australian arts community this week when an innocent photograph of two children without t-shirts was pulled from an exhibition.
Perth photographer Nicole Boenig-McGrade shot two young children pottering about on a typically Australian street for the exhibition entitled Kids in Suburbia . She captured an image of childish activity that takes place in most suburbs
The library manager charged with overseeing the exhibition in the Subiaco Library deemed the image too controversial to be hung.
Prominent arts figures said the image was no different from that screened on countless nappy advertisements on television. Many questioned just what kind of a nanny state WA was becoming.
The decision was taken following the 'furore' artist Bill Henson ignited when he showed an image of a naked 13-year-old girl at a Sydney exhibition last year.
Perth artists and gallery owners today questioned whether an arts specialist, instead of a bureaucrat, should have made the decision to pull the photo. The black and white picture by Boenig-McGrade shows a boy and a girl, both wearing pants,
playing with chalk and a bucket on a suburban footpath.
This morning the Subiaco Council reinstated the image in the exhibition. Deputy mayor Andrew McTaggart admitted the decision to pull the photograph was erring too far on the side of caution.
United Galleries director Robert Buratti said it was a gallery's responsibility to be mindful of upsetting audiences.
A survey on mandatory ISP filtering conducted by one of Australia’s major ISPs, Netspace, has received responses from nearly 10,000 customers.
Asked whether they agree with the Federal Government’s policy to make ISP level filtering mandatory for all Australians, 62% of respondents strongly disagreed and 17% disagreed.
Over 70% of respondents also strongly disagreed with having to pay more or suffer reduced Internet speeds to facilitate mandatory ISP level filtering.
When asked if they agreed if it is reasonable for consumers to experience “innocent” websites being blocked from viewing in order to facilitate mandatory ISP level filtering, 70.1% of respondents strongly disagreed and 16.6%
In response to whether customers would purchase a filtering service or “Clean Feed” from their ISP if it was available, 64.9% of respondents answered no.
Offsite: So Where does Conroy's support come from?
Senator Conroy tries to portray the filter-fighters as "extreme libertarians". But with GetUp!'s "Save The Net" campaign having already gathered 95,000 signatures and $50,000, it's starting to look pretty mainstream. That,
plus a new survey by middle-rank ISP Netspace, starts to paint the supporters of compulsory filtering as the minority.
In 2006, Senator Conroy presented the key petition supporting the current policy, with 20,646 signatures, the bulk of which were gathered through churches.
The Christian Right continues to be Conroy's main supporter. Only last weekend the Fairfax news sites carried the Australian Christian Lobby's Jim Wallace's argument for compulsory filtering, which I have deconstructed elsewhere.
South Australian attorney general says he is not the only classification minister to oppose R18+ classification; lauds current system's ability to encourage modification.
For many Aussie gamers, Michael Atkinson is a deeply unpopular character. The South Australian attorney general has been a vocal critic of game violence, and he has blocked previous moves to introduce an R18+ classification for games down under.
Without an R18+ classification, the highest game rating is MA 15+, which means that the Classification Board is forced to ban any game that doesn't meet that rating's standards.
Australia's Standing Committee of Attorneys General (SCAG)--a board made up of all state, territory, and federal AGs--has the power to change this, but only if all members agree. Atkinson has been the most public voice of dissent among the group.
In a lengthy response to Gamespot's questions Michael Atkinson said:
I don't support the introduction of an R18+ rating for electronic games, chiefly because it will greatly increase the risk of children and vulnerable adults being exposed to damaging images and messages.
The interactive nature of electronic games means that they have a much greater influence than viewing a movie does. People are participating and 'acting-out' violence and criminal behaviour when they are playing a video game. They are essentially
rehearsing harmful behaviour. Children and vulnerable adults (such as those with a mental illness) can be harmed by playing video games with violence, sex, and criminal activity.
A 37 second Internet video campaign is said to be shocking and crude, cut together to showcase the most violent and sex-charged scenes of the new TV series Underbelly: A Tale Of Two Cities.
The clip has already sparked outrage from Christian Democratic Party leader Reverend Fred Nile, who labelled the video pornographic and will concern family groups. I think it’s disgusting and shocking.
Even for a viral campaign there are standards and this would come into the category of pornography. The worst part about it is that it’s making the criminals heroes when that’s a black page on the history of Sydney. There is
nothing proud about it.
Reverend Nile said the Christian Democratic Party would hold protests, the same held when the original Underbelly screened early last year and call for advertisers to boycott the program, when the show premieres on Channel 9 in February.
Issue eight of the Aussie graffiti magazine Dirty Deeds has just been banned by the censors. The applicant in this case was Dirty Deeds Streetwear.
In the 2005-06 annual report of the Standing Committee of Attorneys General (Censorship) it was mentioned that the South Australian Attorney-General Michael Atkinson wanted to change the censorship rules to make it even easier to ban films,
games, and books that feature graffiti. However this was opposed by the other ministers and the issue was dropped from the agenda by the time of the next annual report.
This has not prevented the censors from going ahead and banning items with graffiti themes anyway.
In response to a complaint about an anti-abortion web page showing photographs of what appears to be aborted fetuses, ACMA has declared the page prohibited or potential prohibited content. The Whirlpool member who made the complaint,
presumably to gauge ACMA’s response to such content, has published the department’s email:
Following investigation of your complaint, ACMA is satisfied that the internet content is hosted outside Australia, and that the content is prohibited or potential prohibited content.
The Internet Industry Association (IIA) has a code of practice for Internet Service Providers (ISPs) which, among other things, set out arrangements for dealing with such content. In accordance with the code, ACMA has notified the above content
to the makers of IIA approved filters, for their attention and appropriate action. The code requires ISPs to make available to customers an IIA approved filter.
Thank you for bringing this matter to ACMA’s attention.
Perhaps someone should complain about a vanilla hardcore porn website and tie down whether the Government will set their filters to block it or not. After all, this is the question everybody wants to know.
smh.com.au by Nick Minchin, the shadow minister for broadband, communications and the digital economy.
Underlying the Rudd Government's plan to screen the internet is an offensive message: that parents cannot be trusted to mind their children online.
Adult supervision should be front and centre of the effort to improve online safety, a responsibility accepted by most parents, grandparents, teachers and carers. But the Communications Minister, Stephen Conroy, seems to think differently:
filtering content at internet service provider level is "central to the Government's plan to make the internet a safer place for children".
There is no technological substitute for adult supervision and it's irresponsible and misleading to infer otherwise. Mandating a so-called "clean feed" has the potential to create a dangerous false sense of security, leading parents to
believe ongoing supervision and vigilance is no longer needed.
A self-published author faces legal action if he keeps distributing graphic books on incest before the federal classification board reviews them. But he may escape prosecution for mailing the books to the 500 libraries throughout Australia.
Charles Kevin, 82, bypassed classification laws to distribute Sibling Love and Bet and Zak . The books contain graphic descriptions of sex between brothers and sisters and a mother and her son.
More than a dozen public libraries which had the books in general circulation, have since pulled them off their shelves.
Kevin, also known as Charles or Zoltan Kovacs, sees nothing shameful in incest and sought as wide an audience as possible for works he admitted were perverted. He welcomed efforts to ban the books, saying it was would only lift his profile.
Federal authorities now want Kevin and his home publishing business Anthos, to submit copies of the book to the classification board. Kevin's failure to do so, and any subsequent distribution of the books, could result in fines and jail. But the
State Government, which enforces classification violations, said he would not face prosecution for the previous distribution of the books or for failing to submit them for classification.
Just a day after the game was given an 18 rating by the BBFC, Sega has revealed that MadWorld has also received a rating in Australia. Surprisingly, it appears as if the violent Wii title was given a MA 15+ rating by the Australian
Classification Board without any cuts made to the content.
Because the highest rating the OFLC has is MA 15+, a number of high profile mature titles have been recently banned and only reinstated after edits. However, in spite of what the BBFC describes as very strong, stylized, bloody violence, Mad World was given a pass.
Atari, the publisher of the game Silent Hill has commented about what they censored from the game to achieve an Australian MA 15+ rating.
A spokesperson for Atari states:
The major changes to the Australian release of Silent Hill Homecoming will be made to its cut scenes, where new camera angles and techniques will be used to reduce the impact of the unclassifiable material.
The company notes changes have only been made to some scenes, while the original storyline remains unchanged.
The newly-formed Australian Sex Party has come out and blasted the idea of Internet filtering, putting itself on the same side as the entire tech industry — from networking vendors to ISPs.
Sex Party leader Fiona Patten believes the government is already backing down on its original promises and is shifting the focus of what type of content will be filtered — a significant concern for all who are seeking more transparency.
In meetings I had with Senator Conroy last year he indicated that they had no intention of banning non-violent erotica or X-rated material, Patten said: But that is not the case — the ACMA Web site lists the types of material that
will 'qualify' for the blacklist. This includes material that would be rated X (18+).
According to the Sex Party, there is a clear distinction between X-rated (18+) content, which can be legally traded on DVDs, and child pornography and sexual violence, and the government should not attempt to lump them together in one blacklist.
They also state that the blacklist will only contain 10,000 sites. One wonders how they will choose from the millions of sexually explicit sites out there, Patten said.
So great is the opposition to the idea of content filtering that organised street protests have already popped up around the country, uniting unlikely groups of people for a common cause. The initial Sydney protest attracted a wide range of
people , including those from the gay and lesbian community, the Scarlet Alliance (the national sex worker alliance) and organisations like the EFA.A number of political organisations were also involved — including the Greens, the
Democrats and the Liberty and Democracy Party.
Another organization that has been invigorated by the Clean Feed project is the national Digital Liberty Coalition. Whether or not the filter goes ahead, the DLC will be looking to use its groundswell of support to push for a specific Bill of
Rights in Australia.
DLC executive Jeremiah Hutchinson said having explicit freedoms, as opposed to simply implied ones Australians currently have, is the only way to stop politicians continuously returning to the absurd notion that censorship is wise course
In terms of uniting disparate groups, Hutchinson said nationalists turned up at the Melbourne protest and were happily protesting alongside socialists: The issue of Internet censorship is one that effects every person in the country, so it
isn't surprising to see people come together on this issue, despite political or historical differences.
The Australian Government has closed the programme established by the previous Coalition Government which gave all Australian families access to a free PC-based Internet content filter under its NetAlert initiative.
The filters were available through the NetAlert web site. The site now says simply that The free availability of internet content filters from this website under the National Filter Scheme ended on 31 December 2008.
Shadow minister, Nick Minchin claimed that the Rudd Government had quietly closed the programme...under the cover of the festive season on 31 December. However, a spokesman for communications minister, Stephen Conroy, told iTWire that
plans to close the scheme had been revealed in the May 2008 budget. He said that free filters were now widely available from ISPs so provision by the Government was unnecessary.
The free filter scheme was announced with great fanfare by the Coalition's communications minister, Helen Coonan, in June 2006 as part of a $116.6 million comprehensive package of measures to crack down on the scourge of Internet pornography.
The rest of the world has been smirking at Stephen Conroy's ill-conceived plan to censor Australia's Internet for a while now, but a new study published by Brooklyn Law School entitled Filtering in Oz: Australia's Foray Into Internet
Censorship is a serious embarrassment.
This report is important. Not only is it authored by a reputable and neutral foreign observer but it also focuses more on the legitimacy of the scheme than the technical concerns, and it finds some serious problems.
The study's author applies a process-based methodology to determining censorship’s legitimacy by asking four questions. Is the country open about its censorship plans and the reason behind them? Is it transparent about what is to be
restricted? How narrow is the filtering? And finally, are the processes and decision makers behind the scheme accountable? While the Government earns praise for openness (Internet filtering was a central campaign promise), serious issues are
highlighted in the other three areas.
Commentators, industry groups like Electronic Frontiers Australia and opposition political parties have consistently called for clarity on both the aims of the censorship scheme and the range of material to be targeted. Yet phrases like other
unwanted material still represent the best information we have received from the Government. Whether or not this is a deliberate attempt to hobble debate we cannot say, but the situation was not lost on Bambauer:
To date, Australia’s transparency regarding its filtering has been poor. The country has vacillated on what material it will target for blocking. This uncertainty makes it difficult for citizens to assess whether the
scope of material blocked is appropriate, and whether the set of targeted sites comports with the underlying rationales for censorship. The Labor government is opaque about the types of sites that will be blocked, how a site will be evaluated
for filtering, and how those decisions map to larger social and political goals.
Ministry of Broadband,
the Digital Economy
A growing mountain of criticism rightly targets the policy's cost, its likely performance impact, the impossibility of its meeting required reliability standards, its expense, and the fact that its compulsory nature violates a Labor Party
But further gems of controversy have attracted little attention, and deserve to be brought to light. None are particularly complicated; all are damning.
If you don't like the new censorship regime and want to get around it, you can. If internet users avail themselves of free access to what those in the networking game call an open VPN (virtual private network), their traffic would become opaque
to the Government and immune from the effects of the censorship system. Accessing a VPN is as simple as installing a free browser plugin, and requires no technical knowledge.
So, where would that leave us?
To begin with, it would leave us in the same situation we were in before - with uncensored, unfiltered internet access - only several hundred million dollars poorer. All we would have to show for the money spent on the censorship system would be
the inevitable slowdown it would cause.
However, the effects of widespread VPN use run deeper than this.
Subscribers who intended to violate copyright would flock to VPN technology as the new censorship regime drew more attention to VPNs' ability to provide anonymity. In addition to "relocating" internet users - mainly to a new U.S.
jurisdiction - VPNs also encrypt network traffic.
Once they were encrypting their traffic, the telecommunications interception warrants used by law enforcement would be useless. A police officer cannot do anything productive with an encrypted data stream - it holds no value as evidence. It is
virtually inevitable some criminals would go free for lack of evidence against them once the government firewall was in place.
Ministry of Broadband,
the Digital Economy
As the debate around the proposed Great Firewall of Australia censorship scheme in Australia continues, the Government’s long awaited censorship trial is due to begin shortly.
While some ISP’s are participating only to prove that the filter is flawed, it’s the testing procedure itself where things are completely wrong. The number of sites to be filtered in the trial: 10,000.
While 10,000 may be 10,000 too many, it’s also no where near close to how many sites the filter will have to block to comply with the Government’s guidelines.
We know that among other unwanted things, the following falls into the censorship regime: porn, R rated games, certain types of political speech (for example discussion of methods of euthanasia) and possibly copyrighted content.
We can’t count every category, in part because we simply don’t know exactly how the Government will define what stays and what gets blocked, but we can estimate block rates for porn, because we know R rated softcore and X rated
hardcore (R Rated stays only with strict age verification, which 99.99% of sites won’t meet) is out.
According to Netcraft, there are 73.6 million active websites. Estimates of the number of porn sites online vary from 1% through to a massive 35% of all sites online. The most common figure used is 12%. 12% of pages to be blocked by the Great
Firewall of Australia would total 9.12 million sites. Even if we take the minimum figure of 1%, 736,000 sites would require blocking.
Do any of these figures sounding anything close to 10,000 sites? I’m told that the more sites listed on a blacklist, the slower the filter becomes because each website requested must be checked against the list. 10,000 sites vs 9.12
million: there is no way the trials can give a representative result of what the implementation of the Great Firewall will do for internet speeds in Australia.
The Government may well say in response that they will not be filtering that many sites, and that may be the case. But if true, how will the firewall be effective if some sites are blacklisted, and others aren’t?