Who would have thought that the land down under would be the first country (other than China, where we know things really aren’t quite right) that will force ISPs to filter out illegal content.
Once you get past the sheer terror that should inflict, you must consider the enormity of the job, and ask who will be the minute-to-minute arbiter of what is illegal.
A story from the BBC this morning elucidates –
Australia intends to introduce filters which will ban access to websites containing criminal content.
The banned sites will be selected by an independent classification body guided by complaints from the public, said Communications Minister Stephen Conroy.
So if there are no complaints, no blocking? It’s amazing how long some will keep their mouth shut if they need to. Also, some will look at something, be offended or know it is not right, and simply decide to move away, while doing nothing. Expecting reports from average people, effectively making every citizen a potential Big Brother has so many problems.
A seven month trial in conjunction with internet service providers found the technology behind the filter to be 100% effective.
However, there has been opposition from some internet users.
Twitter users have been voicing their disapproval by adding the search tag “nocleanfeed” to their comments about the plans.
“Successful technology isn’t necessarily successful policy,” said Colin Jacobs, a spokesperson for Electronic Frontiers Australia, a non-profit organisation that campaigns for online freedom.
“We’re yet to hear a sensible explanation of what this policy is for, who it will help, and why it is worth spending so much taxpayers’ money on.”
The impression I have always gotten of Australia’s people is that they are not thin skinned, and they are also frugal, both which would tend to go against this idea. Yet it is about to happen. Are my impressions that far off, or is this a case of the tail wagging the dog?
Mr Conroy said the filters included optional extras such as a ban on gambling sites which ISPs could choose to implement in exchange for a grant.
“Through a combination of additional resources for education and awareness, mandatory internet filtering of RC (refused classification)-rated content, and optional ISP-level filtering, we have a package that balances safety for families and the benefits of the digital revolution,” he said.
The filter laws will be introduced in parliament in August 2010 and will take a year to implement.
“Historical attempts to put filters in place have been effective up to a point,” Dr Windsor Holden, principal analyst at Juniper Research, told BBC News.
The “noble aims” of the filter could be lost in its implementation, he warned.
“Clearly there is a need to protect younger and more vulnerable users of the net, but one concern is that it won’t just be illegal websites that will be blocked,” he added.
“You have to take extreme caution in how these things are rolled out and the uses to which they’re put.”
Why are these people not putting the focus where it belongs – on parents? If this is designed to protect children, let parents implement a solution on a case by case basis. Perhaps the government could help with a nanny type software, but forcing this upon the entire population is a very bad idea.