Monday, December 21, 2009

The Karma Sutra Of The ALP's filtering policy

So, the Government's mandatory ISP-level filtering policy has morphed once more.

Back in 2006 when Big Kim was the great white hope of all Howard fearing liberals, the ALP introduced a policy to mandate that all ISPs offer a cleanfeed to families that wanted it.

As far we can tell, the ALP took this policy to the 2007 election (having changed horses in the mean time).

It came as a shock to us all when the Australian Christian Lobby's representative in cabinet announced, in the dying hours of 2007, that the new Government intended to mandate filtering of all residential ISP connections.

In the early days of this policy the Minister did offer an olive branch to those with free speech concerns - those perverts that were prepared to declare themselves as such could opt out.

When it became apparent that a large portion of the population was prepared to take this risk and opt-out, the flexible Minister changed his position once more and insisted that all Australians would be subject to a filter for which there was no opt-out option.

This was necessary, the Minister insisted, to combat the scourge of child pornography that was flooding, uninvited, into Australian homes.

Oh, really, Minister?

And then there was a lull as Government set about to concoct a trial that would demonstrate to a disbelieving public that the policy might just work. The trial was delayed for various reasons, the main one being a shortage of suitably compliant ISPs. Eventually a trial was established.

In the pressure to get the trial started, the department "forgot" to define success criteria for the trial, an oversight that the Minister thought was irrelevant since he would be in a much better position to determine what the success criteria were once the results were in.

The results came in. And had a nap. For months.

But during the extended nap, the results impregnated the Minister with new understanding. The filter cannot possibly be effective at the stated goal of ridding Australia of child pornography because of the ease of availability of "technical circumventions".

The newly impregnated Minister was worried. How can we sell this turkey to a disbelieving public?

"Change the scope, change the scope!", yelled the pragmatists.

So now we have it: the ALPs current policy on mandatory ISP-level filtering:

"Introduction of mandatory internet service provider (ISP) level filtering of content that is rated Refused Classification (RC) in order to reduce the risk of inadvertent exposure."

Gone is the fantasy that a mandatory filter can do anything about criminal access to illegal material.

In its place we have the objective of: "reducing the risk of inadvertent exposure" to Refused Classification material.

Does anyone have any evidence whatsoever that a) the probability of inadvertent exposure is high or b) the consequences to the individual or society of inadvertent exposure to refused classification material are serious?

Any evidence at all? Let alone quantified evidence that would allow some rational assessment of costs and benefits.

Apparently not. And why should we expect such a thing? The ways of the Karma Sutra are not to be understood by the uninitiated. We are mere citizen-playthings of the single-minded ALP-ACL beast.


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