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Censorship Government The Internet News Politics

Nation-Wide Internet Censorship Proposed For Australia 424

Posted by timothy
from the unarmed-populace dept.
sparky1240 writes "While Americans are currently fighting the net-neutrality wars, spare a thought for the poor Australians — The Australian government wants to implement a nation-wide 'filtering' scheme to keep everyone safe from the nasties on the internet, with no way of opting out: 'Under the government's $125.8 million Plan for Cyber-Safety, users can switch between two blacklists which block content inappropriate for children, and a separate list which blocks illegal material. ... According to preliminary trials, the best Internet content filters would incorrectly block about 10,000 Web pages from one million."
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Nation-Wide Internet Censorship Proposed For Australia

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  • WTF?! (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Bifurcati (699683) on Friday October 17, 2008 @04:58AM (#25410009) Homepage
    Okay, seriously, can anyone with sources verify if this is real? I mean, I might expect this from Liberals - but from Labor? Who decides on the black list? What sort of appeals process is there going to be? Is there 24/7 tech support?

    I want answers, damnit! I'm Aussie, and not used to fighting these sort of things - Americans, what's the best way forward to make my voice heard?!

  • Hypocrisy anyone? (Score:4, Interesting)

    by redscare2k4 (1178243) on Friday October 17, 2008 @05:00AM (#25410025)
    And let me guess, the Australian guys in the government that want this, are the sames that scream "dictatorship!!" any time Venezuela, Cuba, or China is mentioned. Hypocrisy
  • Re:WTF?! (Score:5, Interesting)

    by james.mcarthur (154849) on Friday October 17, 2008 @05:08AM (#25410071)

    You been living under a rock since the last election? It was a Rudd policy for ages. Now they're in power they're going to implement their scheme.

    Have a look at http://www.efa.org.au/ [efa.org.au] for some more background.

  • Re:WTF?! (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday October 17, 2008 @05:12AM (#25410081)

    Why wouldn't you expect this from Labor? This is the party who made taking photos of the rehersal of the Commonwealth Games opening ceremony illegal (for the greater good of course).

    No, sorry, the Labor party is not about individual freedoms, far from it. Maybe you should read policy and have a think about who you are voting for next time.

  • 1% false positive? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by NoNeeeed (157503) <slash@NoSPAm.paulleader.co.uk> on Friday October 17, 2008 @05:12AM (#25410087) Homepage

    I'm actually surprised that it is that low.

    What I particularly object to (in addition to the whole concept) is the capricious nature of many blocks. BoingBoing [boingboing.net] has been blocked by a number of blocklist companies, not because of anything rude or illegal, but because they had articles about filtering companies

    At the end of the day, you have a human organisation making decisions, and even in the best of worlds that will be open to abuse.

    As a brit, I welcome our Aussie friends to the panopticon of fear.

  • by Dreen (1349993) <dreen1@@@gmail...com> on Friday October 17, 2008 @05:20AM (#25410125)

    What dos it exactly mean?

    Is it: It blocks 100000 websites per every 1m (10% of the internet?)
    or: It simply blocks 100k (what does 1m mean then?)
    or: It blocks 100k of the 1m and this 1m is all you can get in australia anyway
    or: It blocks 100k attempts to access a blacklisted site per 1m of such attempts (that would be very inefficient wouldnt it)
    or: It blocks 100k illegal/harmful websites of 1m known. But if they know 10 times more why include only 10%

    Help me Im lost

  • Freenet? (Score:4, Interesting)

    by femto (459605) on Friday October 17, 2008 @05:31AM (#25410189) Homepage
    What's people's real world experience of Freenet [freenetproject.org]? Does it work and is it usable? Is it truly secure from government intervention and monitoring? If this proposal goes ahead it will be the thing that prompts me to install Freenet and badger all my friends into joining too.
  • by Terrasque (796014) on Friday October 17, 2008 @05:32AM (#25410199) Homepage Journal

    It could also mean, that for every 1 mill blocked, 100.000 of them shouldn't get blocked..

    Starting to get a bit confused myself when I start thinking of it.

    Of 1 million requests, it blocks X of them, where 100.000 of those shouldn't get blocked? Who knows..

  • by sakdoctor (1087155) on Friday October 17, 2008 @06:17AM (#25410431) Homepage

    Are you ignorant or just playing devils advocate?
    All the reasons you "cast aside" can't just be ignored. There will always be false positives, and it will always cost the tax payer money.

    First off, what is so sacred about legality? The law is not set in stone, it's constantly being updated, and varies wildly from location to location. I believe all knowledge to be ultimately good, and censorship will necessarily trample on that. It's digital book burning plain and simple.

    Information about illegal Drug, bomb construction, racism all blurs into legitimate subjects because there are no real boundaries. That's why the law making process is difficult, and why censorship will always have side effects and is never acceptable.

  • Re:WTF?! (Score:3, Interesting)

    by g0es (614709) on Friday October 17, 2008 @06:23AM (#25410465)

    Americans, what's the best way forward to make my voice heard?!

    1.) Form a political party
    2.) Take lots of money from special interest groups.
    3.) Sell soul
    4.) Profit!
    5.) Rule the country with all the money you have made. Profit even more by making sure the special interest groups feel special.

    But really your best chance is to form a group and get your message out, write your politicians and cross your fingers.

  • by AliasMarlowe (1042386) on Friday October 17, 2008 @07:00AM (#25410731) Journal

    This bill was brought to you by your local censors.

    So Aussies can look forward to a rabid reaming by prurient hypocrites, and the undoubted pleasure of being billed for it, too. The details of the public reaming will also be off-limits, of course (for the public good: can't have people witnessing such lurid acts).

    Due to the shotgun nature of blocking filters, there will be many pages wrongfully blocked. Based on the blocking policies enforced at some workplaces, entire domains may be blocked on account of just a single objectionable page in a single user's subdomain. Whole domains may also be blocked wrongly, through ambivalent ignorance or a mere typo.

    Whole communities might find themselves wrongfully off-limits, as happened a few years ago, when the alt.binaries.pictures.astronomy usenet group was blacklisted by a large US ISP. The ISP did not block all alt.binaries.pictures groups, but chose to lump the astrophotography group in with the porn groups. That's what misinterpretation of phrases such as "heavenly body", "images from last night", "multiple exposure", "open truss", "polar mount", "white dwarf", "full moon" and the like can cause. I doubt if anyone involved in the decision to block the group actually looked at the images being posted there - I never saw an inappropriate image in several years of regularly reading that group.

    Presumably, all anonymizing services will promptly find themselves on the blacklist, lest anyone use them to bypass the filters and look at unapproved pages. Expect also, that anyone acting as a freenet node will be dealt with appropriately (ISP cutoff, or legal action).

  • Re:WTF?! (Score:4, Interesting)

    by theaveng (1243528) on Friday October 17, 2008 @07:57AM (#25411107)

    It should all be allowed, except for the shouting (U.S. Constitution says *peaceably* assemble) or the revealing of a person's private data (essentially theft of property).

    We allow the Ku Klux Klan to print and demonstrate with signs the most racist garbage you can imagine, precisely because you CAN stuff earplugs into your ears and choose not to listen. People should not be censored simply because their ideas are unpopular or disgusting. Change the channel or walk away if you don't like that person's viewpoints.

  • Cleanfeed (Score:2, Interesting)

    by mdwh2 (535323) on Friday October 17, 2008 @08:24AM (#25411363) Journal

    On the (slightly) positive side, although my ISP (Virgin Media) apparently uses it, I've never seen any evidence of its presence. Also, I've never heard of anyone having problems or false positives (which obviously doesn't mean this doesn't occur).

    Note that you wouldn't actually know if you had reached a page that was blocked under the system. From http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/technology/3797563.stm [bbc.co.uk] :

    if you are a BT broadband customer and you follow a link to a website that is suspected of hosting images of child sexual abuse - what is often sloppily called "child porn" - then you will get a "page not found" error.

    (Compared with places like Saudi Arabia, which inform you why the page isn't available, and even allow you submit a form if you think it's been incorrectly blocked.)

    Note that although theoretically this only covers "illegal content" like child pr0n, from January the Government will start criminalising possession of some adult material, vastly increasing the range of sites which could fall under such blocking.

    Also it was the IWF (who run Cleanfeed) who recently reported someone for prosecution for writing a fictional story [slashdot.org] (although as it happens, the story in question still seems to be available and doesn't seem to be blocked - instead they're going after the author, who may face up to five years in prison).

  • Re:WTF?! (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Dorkmaster Flek (1013045) on Friday October 17, 2008 @08:35AM (#25411525)
    It also helped that we have a minority government who wouldn't want to piss off too many people and ended up making copyright law into an issue in several ridings. As a Canadian, I'm genuinely proud of how we derailed that piece of crap. One of the heads of the CRIA, the Canadian arm of the RIAA (they don't actually represent any Canadian labels anymore) was actually ranting in an interview about how Facebook derailed their precious copyright law, which made my day, let me tell you. Our minority government however has already announced their intention to move in the same direction with future copyright bills, so we'll see how long our victory lasts...
  • Walled gardens? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by OmniChamp (874914) on Friday October 17, 2008 @08:51AM (#25411699)
    So people have touched upon censorship, but in the big picture, is this a future trend? China's current implementation of the Great Firewall and now this? This may have a larger impact than most people think and I'm not big on fear mongering. Reduction of the access and free exchange of information breaks down the fundamental usefulness of the internet and if greater organizations (I say organizations because even if a country doesn't do it, but ISP monopolies worldwide do, the results are similar) continue down this path the internet will devolve into something resembling television: a passive experience with controlled and filtered inputs and outputs.

    Last tin-foil hat thought: The reason I'm concerned about this is that I've been confident that these attempts to censor or filter the internet in the past were futile because, like water confronting a rock in its path, the information will flow around the damage. But if things go the way of "1984", the general public just won't know of any better if they are brought up in a filtered environment and what they're missing. I'm straining my memory, but I believe in Orwell's book, they removed terms to describe dissent or hatefulness so that people would be unable to express their dissatisfaction. AOL users thought that their world WAS, in fact, the internet until they changed ISPs.

    Alright I'm digressing. If I lived in Australia, I would fight tooth and nail against this. To redirect the "Think of the Children" play, even if they are not subject to illegal or lewd material early on, it's still out there. A more reasonable action would be educating in school safe surfing of the web, how to determine reliable and unreliable sources and proper teaching of ethics in a more subjective and technologically advanced world. My last example is this: Would you rather have teach someone walking down the street why its important not to break into someone's house or line the doors and windows with spikes and barbwire? Think of the children!!!!

    /rant over. I'm getting some coffee.
  • Re:Mudoch countries (Score:3, Interesting)

    by ubercam (1025540) on Friday October 17, 2008 @10:44AM (#25413301)

    All the time! In Canada we have a healthy immigration system that heavily rewards business/education/financial success and refugees & their family members.

    Some individual provinces even have their own vetting system for immigrants wishing to establish themselves in that particular province. Manitoba's Provincial Nominee Program [immigratemanitoba.com] is the largest and most successful program in the country (and the only one I know anything about). It doesn't guarantee you a visa, but they do their homework, background checks etc, and also a labour market study to determine whether your skills are needed here, or whether you'd be stealing a job from a Manitoban. If they feel you're needed, they issue a recommendation to the Federal dept of immigration, which usually rubber stamps you, unless of course they find something which rejects you, like a criminal record or an unticked box on one of the thousands of forms.

    I have been helping my friend get his application together for the last couple months and he should have it sent in by Christmas. It will take 6-9 months to get a response though. Don't expect to apply and move in the next 2 weeks, more like 1-2 years.

    A Provincial Nominee Program isn't the only route, you can apply directly to the feds as well, but I know nothing about that route. The Feds announced recently that they were going to increase the immigration quota, so better chances.

    That said, Aussies are very welcome here. I hear Aussie accents all the time here in Winnipeg. If you're SERIOUS about it, do it. You won't regret it. Canada is seriously poised to take a huge leap upward in international power rankings... that is if the gov't manages this crisis properly and we keep our heads above water while everyone else is drowning. We're a net exporter of valuable resources (wood, oil, food, minerals), so we're better off than other countries who are net importers. We've also currently got the best banking system in the world. Cost of living is low... lots of really good reasons to move here. Best place to live right now and for a long time to come.

    If you're worried about the net neutrality issue, I'm positive that's gonna be on the back burner for the foreseeable future while parliament sorts through this much more important "economy" business.

    A neat bonus is that you'd finally get snow on Christmas!

  • Finland (Score:3, Interesting)

    by weicco (645927) on Friday October 17, 2008 @12:08PM (#25414643)

    Welcome to Finland! We already have secret filter lists that saves us from all the kiddie porn in the internet.

    Hey, wait! It doesn't! It just blocks DNS queries to kiddie porn websites. I'm sure no-one will never ever figure out how to set up DNS server of their own or use P2P networks...

    Funny thing about this law is that it is written so that it can only concern foreign websites containing illegal child porn material but actually it is used to block gayporn websites and domestic websites criticizing the law. And because filter lists are kept secret we really don't know what else is blocked. About those two we at least have some evidence. Well, they also managed to block japanese music shop in the process ;)

    Oh. And did I mention that they are trying to broaden this filterings stuff to concern copyrighted (other than kiddie porn) material also?

    So let me tell you again! Welcome to Finland - where Orwell lives and is well!

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