So, here’s a summary of the issues as I see them:
- there’s no serious Internet content problem to solve – you just can’t inadvertently stumble on RC or child porn on the Internet
- even if there was, few want the government to solve it this way – there are better, more effective, more workable and more societally acceptable options
- the technology presents a real risk – we’ve seen the trial results and the extensive analysis which points out the flaws
- the blacklist itself is a problem – it’s secret, unappelable, deals with material that remains legal, it’s already been leaked and will again (you’ve heard of the Streisand Effect, right?)
- the filter will not address criminal distribution of illegal material – it’s far better to ensure funding and resources for law enforcement, who are the only people equipped to deal with this problem properly
- the filter impinges on the freedom of Australians to determine for themselves – it represents a real shift in the ability for Australians to determine what is and isn’t appropriate for them to view online and significantly changes a fairly workable classification system in other media to cope with a medium that is changing rapidly
- the filter will be administered by governments ill-equipped to do so – the technology and policy are complicated and problematic. We’ve seen several policy and program stumbles lately, do we want one over this?
- there is no guarantee that future governments will not change the scope of what is filtered – the suppression of material based on moral or political grounds is anathema to what Australia is about
This is far from a simple issue.
I’d like to close with a few words from Will Briggs, an Anglican priest from my wife’s home town of Somerset, Tasmania. Will is a strong voice in the discourse on the filter. He said:
“[This issue] is best [addressed] through clear information, balanced argument, reasoned debate…[on the] multiplicity of issues… [it is] a debate which is not simply about sexual ethics but about freedom of speech, the reductionism of morality, and the role of government in society… by… simplifications in this case [we] look like simpletons.”
Click through the link above to get the full text of Stephen’s excellent Speech