Yesterday Yahoo, Google, the Australian Librarian and Information Association (ALIA) and Inspire Foundation came together under the banner of the Safer Internet Group to make a public statement about the proposed mandatory Internet filtering policy.
The paper calls for two things:
- That the scope of filtering be reduced from RC content to child pornographic material
- That adults can choose whether they have Internet filtering or not
The choice of an opt-out in the Safer Internet Group forms the substance of the proposal, however the paper focussed on the reducing the filter from RC rather than on the case for opting out. I have heard the arguments that limiting the scope of a mandatory filter to child pornographic material and understand that for many, this change would remediate their concerns about a RC filter, but in effect, the ability to opt out resolves this core complaint anyway.
The bottom line is that for many people a (generally silently applied) mandatory filter with a secret blacklist would always be concerning regardless of the filter scope. It still wouldn’t engage or educate all Internet subscribers in better online safety practices, it wouldn’t deal with business concerns and it wouldn’t deal with concerns around a secret blacklist: only the direct engagement of Internet subscribers and the ability to legitimately opt out resolves these fundamental objections.
With this in mind the approach I am taking takes the opportunity to educate subscribers about better internet safety that empowers them to make an imformed choice and addresses the fundamental objections through:
- the introduction of a Mandatory Option for all Internet subscribers that requires an active choice on the level of filtering for that household, with the government RC filter as the default service if they fail to make a choice within a reasonable period of time, whilst making other information about cyber safety best practices and support available, and
- a requirement of ISPs to provide an Open Internet service as one of the Mandatory Options to Internet subscribers, creating the ability to opt out. I think mandating the provision of an Open Internet service in legislation for all ISPs also protects the civil libertarian principles of freedom of information and speech whilst not diminishing the ability of the authorities to tackle illegal content such as child pornography where is found.
Yesterday there was a very interesting opinion piece in the Sydney Morning Herald that dealt directly with the issue of Australia and the open Internet by Chris Zappone. I agree with these concerns, and I think that legislating to protect the presence and availability of an open Internet service would clearly solve several of the public concerns whilst also showing the world that Australia takes freedom of speech and association very seriously.
Some other relevant articles from the last week are below:
- 9th February (ABC Online) – Conroy’s filter will not make the internet safer
- 11th February (UK Telegraph) – Google refuses Australian government request to censor YouTube
- 12th February (ZDNet) – Anonymous says Titstorm beats a petition
- 16th February (ARN) – Librarians: Close the books on Internet filtering
- Google Insights shows that there is quite a rise in interest around this topic in Australia.
UPDATE: Please note the Senator has three other posting on this topic: