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Get Thee to a Library & Learn!

An eclectic overview of the current state of play on prospective Australian net censorship is presented by Warwick Rendell – suggesting the leaking of the possible / partial ACMA list plays into pro-filter hands, and that filter opponents need to focus on the development of workable alternatives.

Activities which violate human rights – child pron, rape, war, murder, torture, economic servitude, domestic violence, racism and so on are worldwide problems both on and off the internet. Those who prosecute human rights violators are to be applauded. Yet it is desirable that success in identifying and dealing with human rights violators should be achieved without compromise of others’ fundamental human freedoms. For example, consider the logical extreme – of an hypothetical nation banning computers and electronic data transmission completely as a last resort to protect a vulnerable group from ‘undesirable’ material.

At this point it’s been definitively revealed what won’t work to address these violations and the violators productively – blacklists which interminably and inevitably end up on Wikileaks, increasing ease of access for voyeurs of abuse.

Firstly if a blacklist must exist, a right of appeal and review is essential in order to protect freedom of speech and allow redress for those whose sites have been wrongfully banned or filtered. Political free speech, the only free speech afforded some protection in our Australian constitution is at stake – and sex too can be regarded as a form of political communication, an act of freedom, of free individual expression. Likewise sites which discuss euthanasia, abortion and so on also have political dimensions and opinions thereon have a right to be heard and debated no matter how uncomfortable some may find the subject and extent of the argument. One *does* have a choice not to read sites thrown up in one’s search results. Will we as parents and adults serve our children well if these freedoms, which many of us have taken for granted since the advent of the internet, are not preserved for them?

Consideration of the above adult subject matter (as opposed to prurient voyeurism of exploitative abuse), is part of normal, healthy human activity – we all die, most of us desire sex and many of us are faced with reproductive choices. Would stigmatisation and repression of adult material as a consequence of mandatory and/or opt-out censorship assist us to maintain a healthy, guilt-free society? is there a possibility that suppression of adult net content may even contribute to civil unrest, or uninformed, neutered political apathy and personal disempowerment? are we there already?

The main thrust of the pro-filter argument is that children must be protected from unsuitable material upon which they might stumble inadvertently or through curiosity.

However, as has been pointed out by anti-government filter proponents (in addition to a plethora of technical problems), parents have primary responsibility for their children, not government – and functional parents employ self-chosen, caring, one-on-one methods of parenting to address the individual needs of their unique offspring. The internet is an online library in some ways analogous to a physical library. Books and magazines not suitable for children may be housed on the top shelf, away from young eyes, or hidden in drawers, should that be the parental proclivity. Are not parents in the best position to judge when their child’s reading age has progressed to be able to handle more ‘adult’ material? Why do pro-filter lobbyists demean Australian parents by assuming they are incapable of choosing to supervise their childrens’ net activities, subscribing to a ‘child-friendly’ ISP or installing PC based filtering software? why treat Australian parents as if they were children themselves and assume without real evidence that (a) children have been harmed by accessing an unfiltered internet for the past 30 years and (b) that the vast majority of Australian parents want the government to censor their internet?

The issue of consistency across the media spectrum logically arises as a flow-on from the filter debate – whilst parents may collect a vast array of adult reading material for their own physical libraries, will the government, under further pressure to act on behalf of ‘inadequate’ parents then intervene again to ensure parents do not make their salacious or otherwise provocative material available to their children? will the government next institute brigades of inspectors to do spot checks on shelves of books and magazines kept in the familial home, just in case the children inadvertently open the wrong drawer, or find a ladder to climb to the top shelf? Further along, will ALL adult material be banned, for fear parents may fail to conceal it from their children. The slippery slope to a virulently sanitised toyland is not at all inviting.

When forbidden, that which is ultimately attractive to curious humans – information and stimuli enabling exploration of their own functions, feelings and purpose – may become all the more tantalising. I developed a fascination with Ian Fleming’s novels at a young age, precisely because my father valiantly attempted to hide them from me. To no avail. Portnoy’s Complaint and Lady Chatterley’s Lover (the history of the banning in Australia of both these books should serve as a potent reminder of our antipodean propensity for wowserish, parochial overreaction ) were successfully purloined from my mother’s secret library. One wonders whether I would have been interested in these works at all, had not they been concealed. (I strongly suspect that I would be the first kid on the block to find a way around a net filter as well, simply because it was there).

On reflection now, I know that these books irrevocably enriched my life. It is worth remembering too that those who abuse more often than not learn it from modelling the real life culture which surrounds them. Footballers who participate in pack rapes don’t learn their behaviour from books or the net, they model the established real life behaviours of their ‘tribe’.

We do not ban sugar because diabetics cannot tolerate it; we do not ban football because some footballers pack rape. Should we emasculate the net because pro-filter advocates assume an unmeasured minority of parents may presently lack the skills to teach themselves and their children well?

Treating the entire population as incompetents, criminals or potential criminals by instituting mandatory, unaccountable and optout filtering of their internet feed including non-illegal adult net material to boot for ‘the sake of the children’ is unacceptably patronising and fascistic.

In Queensland at least, some libraries provide free internet training. Parents who lack computer skills, who wish learn to supervise their offsprings’ browsing habits, discuss PC based filtering and existing choices of filtered ISPs might do well to avail themselves of these courses. The extravagant waste of our taxpayer funds on filtering proposed by Conroy and his acolytes would be far better spent as a worthy investment in those wondrous institutions shining at the pinnacle of human civilisation – our libraries.

“You think it’s just a movie on a silver screen
And they’re all actors and fake each scene
Maybe you dont care whose gonna lose or win
Listen to this and I’ll tell you somethin’

It’s a horror movie right there on my TV
Horror movie right there on my TV
Horror movie and there’s known abuse
Horror movie, it’s the six-thirty news
Horror movie, it’s the six-thirty news

The public’s waitin’ for the killin’ and the hatin’
Switch on the station, oh yeah
They do a lot a-sellin’ ‘tween the firin’ and the yellin’-a”

– Skyhooks

“Censorship cannot eliminate evil. It can only kill freedom.”

– Excerpt from a letter to 28 newspapers, signed by Ed Morrow, president, American Booksellers Assn. and Harry Hoffman, president, Walden Book Co., Inc. (1990).

Portnoy’s Complaint

– Time included this novel in its TIME 100 Best English-language Novels from 1923 to 2005.[1]

– In 1969 the book was declared a “prohibited import” in Australia, though the Australian publisher, Penguin Books, resisted and had copies printed up in secret and stored in fleets of moving trucks. Several attempts to prosecute Penguin and any bookseller carrying the book failed.[3]

Lady Chatterley’s Lover

– Not only was the book banned in Australia, but a book describing the British trial, The Trial of Lady Chatterley, was also banned. A copy was smuggled into the country and then published widely. The fallout from this event eventually led to the easing of censorship of books in the country. However, the country still retains the Office of Film and Literature Classification. When the office considers material to be too offensive or obscene, it will refuse to classify the material. Material that fails to receive a classification cannot be distributed. Its officers are called “classifiers” not “censors”.[7]

UPDATE

Wikileaks to Conroy: Go after our source and we will go after you

Thu Mar 19 23:07:20 EDT 2009

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 censorship.

Senator Conroy, in an official media release yesterday, claimed, in response to the release of the Australian internet censorship list by Wikileaks, 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.”

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 that right.

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.”

Senator Conroy may wish to consider the position of the South African Competition Commission, which decided to cancel its own high profile leak investigation in January after being advised of the legal ramifications of interfering with Sunshine Press sources.

See:

* Australian government secret ACMA internet censorship blacklist, 6 Aug 2008
* There is no bigger issue than net censorship
* Bank Fees: Banking on silence
* In depth background detail on Australia’s proposed internet censorship system
* Sydney Morning Herald: Leaked Australian blacklist reveals banned sites
* Sydney Morning Herald: Dentist’s website on leaked blacklist
* 278+ other press references

Contact: http://sunshinepress.org/wiki/Wikileaks:Contact

Over to you, Senator Conroy!

Possible Australian ACMA banned sites list published

Wikileaks, the international purveyor of information governments would rather keep privy from their citizens, has published what is claimed to be the Australian ACMA blacklist in their section on Australia.

The leak was revealed by @ashermoses in an exclusive in the Sydney Morning Herald.

Wikileaks has previously published the blacklists for Thailand, Denmark and Norway.

University of Sydney associate professor Bjorn Landfeldt said the leaked list “constitutes a condensed encyclopedia of depravity and potentially very dangerous material”.

He said the leaked list would become “the concerned parent’s worst nightmare” as curious children would inevitably seek it out.

But about half of the sites on the list are not related to child porn and include a slew of online poker sites, YouTube links, regular gay and straight porn sites, Wikipedia entries, euthanasia sites, websites of fringe religions such as satanic sites, fetish sites, Christian sites, the website of a tour operator and even a Queensland dentist.

The subject matter of banned content may shed a unique light on national societal tabus and mores – for example, the distaste of the Thai government for internet content which criticises their sacrosanct monarchy. Apparently online poker is an Australian tabu – is this because our government collects taxes from local betting in TABs, casinos and pokie machines than have precious revenue dispersed to overseas gambling dens?

ACMA clarifies:

The Interactive Gambling Act 2001 (the IGA) makes it an offence to provide, or advertise, certain interactive gambling services. ACMA is responsible for investigating formal complaints made under the IGA in relation to prohibited internet gambling content.

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 the service.

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.

Other legal adult sites also feature on the list.

Although AbbyWinters is hosted overseas and accessible now, it would be blocked to all Australian Internet users if mandatory ISP filtering is introduced.

Perhaps certain sectors of our government may have serious religious and/or personal issues with sex and a prurient interest in what consenting adults choose to do in the privacy of their own homes on the net with legal adult material.

Julian Assange, founder of Wikileaks, dug up the blacklist after ACMA added several Wikileaks pages to the list following the site’s publication of the Danish blacklist.

He said secret censorship systems were “invariably corrupted”, pointing to the Thailand censorship list, which was originally billed as a mechanism to prevent child pornography but contained more than 1200 sites classified as criticising the royal family.

“In January the Thai system was used to censor Australia reportage about the imprisoned Australian writer Harry Nicolaides,” he said.

“The Australian democracy must not be permitted to sleep with this loaded gun. This week saw Australia joining China and the United Arab Emirates as the only countries censoring Wikileaks.”

The leaked list, understood to have been obtained from an internet filtering software maker, contains 2395 sites. ACMA said its blacklist, as at November last year, contained 1370 sites.

Assange said the disparity in the reported figure is most likely due to the fact that the list contains several duplicates and variations of the same URL that stem from a single complaint. Alternatively, some sites may have been added to the list by the filter software maker.

That the list has been so readily leaked attests to the counter-productivity and uselessness of maintaining such a list at all, let alone attempting to censor its entries at ISP level, which can be easily circumvented using VPNs, proxies etc.

Warning – “ACMA said Australians caught distributing the list or accessing child pornography sites on the list could face criminal charges and up to 10 years in prison.”

Controversy is raging in the twitterverse as to whether direct linking to the relevant Wikileaks page may lead to criminal prosecution – and at present there is no shortage of folks willing to defend their tweets in court. Relevant ACMA legislation is here.

Asher Moses has now interviewed some legitimate businesses and sites who’ve ended up on the ACMA blacklist – legal claims against the government may be relevant?

The Queensland dentist included on the Australian communications regulator’s blacklist of prohibited websites has demanded that the list be cleaned up, as he is now being associated with child porn peddlers and sexual violence sites.

Other Australian sites on the list are canteens.com.au (“Tuckshop and Canteen Management Consultants”) and animal carers MaroochyBoardingKennels.com.au.

The dentist, Dr John Golbrani, was furious when contacted to inform him that his site, dentaldistinction.com.au, appeared on the blacklist.

“A Russian company broke into our website a couple of years back and they were putting pornographic listings on there … [but] we changed across to a different web provider and we haven’t had that problem since,” Golbrani said in a phone interview.

He said the fact that he hadn’t been removed from the list was “criminal” and he was scared potential customers may avoid him.

“The government needs to get in and clean it up,” said Golbrani.

UPDATE

Conroy says the list on Wikileaks is not the ACMA blacklist.

“I am aware of reports that a list of URLs has been placed on a website. This is not the ACMA blacklist,” Conroy said in a statement.

“The published list purports to be current at 6 August 2008 and apparently contains approximately 2,400 URLs whereas the ACMA blacklist for the same date contained 1,061 URLs,” he said

He admitted the list contained some common URLS, but said that other URLs on the list had never been the subject of a complaint or ACMA investigation.

“ACMA 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,” Conroy said.

How odd – Conroy says that the Wikileaks banned list is not the ACMA list, then decrees that one can be at risk of prosecution for making it publicly available?

Conroy’s statement should be reviewed in the light of ACMA’s press release today:

ACMA has previously investigated and taken action on material—including child pornography and child sexual abuse images—at some of the sites on this list of 2300 URLs. However, the list provided to ACMA differs markedly in length and format to the ACMA blacklist. 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.

It also appears that many of the 2300 URLs provided on the list are no longer active. However, some of the URLs that remain active appear to relate to online depictions of child sexual abuse. Possessing, distributing or accessing such material may amount to an offence under the Commonwealth Criminal Code and relevant State laws.

ACMA provides the ACMA blacklist to the fourteen providers of filter software which have been tested and accredited by the Internet Industry Association (IIA), as part of IIA’s Family Friendly Filter scheme. ACMA is discussing with the IIA what if any action it may need to take to help ensure that ACMA’s list remain secure.

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.

ACMA does not mention any penalties for linking to the current Wikileaks page.

Conroy screwed as Xenophon sees the light

In the SMH, Asher Moses reports that Opposition Senator Minchin has obtained legal advice that the conservative Labor government will almost certainly have to pass legislation to enable net censorship filters to be installed at ISP level.

With Senator Xenophon changing sides on the issue, net censorship legislation would be comfortably blocked in the Senate.

Senator Nick Xenophon previously indicated he may support a filter that blocks online gambling websites but in a phone interview today he withdrew all support, saying “the more evidence that’s come out, the more questions there are on this”.

Xenophon said instead of implementing a blanket mandatory censorship regime the Government should instead put the money towards educating parents on how to supervise their kids online and tackling “pedophiles through cracking open those peer-to-peer groups”.

Technical experts have said the filters proposed by the Government would do nothing to block child porn being transferred on encrypted peer-to-peer networks.

“I’m very skeptical that the Government is going down the best path on this,” said Xenophon.

“I commend their intentions but I think the implementation of this could almost be counter-productive and I think the money could be better spent.”

Of course, Rudd, Conroy and Co. might produce some juicy carrot to entice Xenophon back into the faith-based net totalitarian camp. Yet with recent polls showing immense public disagreement with the government’s censorship proposals along with overwhelming criticism from technical experts, the prudish Pixie mob will face an uphill battle to implement their ludicrous, unworkable filters.

This week, a national telephone poll of 1100 people, conducted by Galaxy and commissioned by online activist group GetUp, found that only 5 per cent of Australians want ISPs to be responsible for protecting children online and only 4 per cent want Government to have this responsibility.

A recent survey by Netspace of 10,000 of the ISP’s customers found 61 per cent strongly opposed mandatory internet filtering with only 6.3 per cent strongly agreeing with the policy.

Conroy’s Stupid Filter Trials – You Gotta Laugh

Once a jolly swagman plugged into the internets,
Under the shade of a coolibah tree,
And he sang as he watched and waited as he torrented
“Don’t go deploying your filters on me”.

“Deploying your filters, deploying your filters
Don’t go deploying your filters on me”
And he sang as he watched and waited as he torrented,
“Don’t go deploying your filters on me”.

Down came the content speeding through the internets,
Up jumped the swagman and viewed it with glee,
And he sang as he shoved that content on his backup disk,
“You’ll be a-wasting your filters on me”.

“Wasting your filters, wasting your filters
Don’t go a-wasting your filters on me”
And he sang as he shoved that content on his backup disk,
“Don’t go a-wasting your filters on me”.

Up rode the Conroy, mounted on his ISP,
Down came the troopers, one, two, three,
“Where’s that jolly content you downloaded so illicitly?
You’ve been evading the filters from me.”

“Evading the filters, evading the filters
You’ve been evading the filters from me.”
“Where’s that jolly content you downloaded so illicitly?
You’ve been evading the filters from me.”

Up jumped the swagman and handed them his backup disk,
“You’ll never crack my encryption”, said he,
And his packets are tunneled and proxied through the internets,
“You’ll never get your bloody filters on me”.

“Your bloody filters, your bloody filters
You’ll never get your bloody filters on me”.
And his packets are tunneled and proxied through the internets,
“You’ll never get your bloody filters on me”.

from mudshark on Slashdot.