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US-Australia Tensions Rise Over Net Filter 169

Posted by samzenpus
from the trouble-down-under dept.
daria42 writes "Tensions between the US Government and its counterpart in Australia appear to be rising over Australia's proposal to filter the internet for objectionable content. The US government has raised its concerns over what it sees as potential censorship directly with the Australian Government. However, last night, Australia's Communications Minister Stephen Conroy denied he had had any approach from US State Department officials."
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US-Australia Tensions Rise Over Net Filter

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  • diode effect? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday March 30, 2010 @04:37AM (#31667748)

    "We can censor you but you can not censor us, we can hide info to you but you can not hide info to us." --United States of America

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by FriendlyLurker (50431)

      "We can censor you but you can not censor us, we can hide info to you but you can not hide info to us." --United States of America

      Probably just another CIA "Red Cell" [telegraph.co.uk] style case of manipulating public opinion similar to this case [salon.com]. Only In this example its just basic old Reverse psychology [wikipedia.org]: Your citizens overwhelmingly do not want filters. If the US says don't do it, your citizens will rally against foreigners telling them what to do - and so be more open to implement filtering. Childish, but it probably works on some.

      • by deniable (76198)
        It'd probably work better than their attempts to make and distribute porn films starring fake foreign leaders. In this case, it'd be a funny take on the filters, but I'm not sure I want to see Big Kev in action.
        • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

          by Fluffeh (1273756)
          Possible title for the "adult movie":

          The flood of the stud, Rudd, poking into the crud... thud thud thud.
      • Re:diode effect? (Score:4, Interesting)

        by Anachragnome (1008495) on Tuesday March 30, 2010 @06:03AM (#31668138)

        I've always operated under the belief that the US government uses the internet as a means (probably the most effective means since we rely so much less operatives then we have in the past) to disseminate their own "form" of democracy. The US has invested heavily in this outlet of propaganda (news, if you prefer to call it that).

        Australia jeopardizes all of this by possibly starting a trend that spreads to other countries, in effect, legitimizing filtering.

        I think someone in the US government finally realized that would be a HUGE step backwards in terms of what the US government wants.

        To be honest, I find it highly amusing that all of this, the use of the net as a means of disseminating propaganda, might actually be the one thing that ensures net neutrality.

        • Re:diode effect? (Score:5, Insightful)

          by aussie_a (778472) on Tuesday March 30, 2010 @07:09AM (#31668414) Journal

          Australia jeopardizes all of this by possibly starting a trend that spreads to other countries, in effect, legitimizing filtering.

          The problem is, EVERYONE keeps saying its impossible (which isn't a problem for those who don't want a filter).

          First the ISPs joined the test-run specifically to prove the idea is infeasible.

          Then Stephen Conroy kept pushing for it, so the company whose filters they were going to use stepped up and said "It won't work. Our filters are for small networks such as at a high-school. They won't work on a nation-wide scale."

          A company, who the government wanted to throw money at, said "Don't give us money. We can't sell you this product because it won't do what you want it to do." They did this. PUBLICLY! That degree of honesty is just staggering and shocking. And if that company is sacrificing the chance to make so much money, the filter simply can't be done.

          So no matter how much Stephen Conroy might want a filter, it won't happen unless he gets some technicians from China to help us out.

          • Re:diode effect? (Score:5, Insightful)

            by JasterBobaMereel (1102861) on Tuesday March 30, 2010 @08:43AM (#31669010)

            What most people don't realise it the the great firewall of China does not work either ... it is only mostly effective because of the consequences of trying to get around it ...

            If it was implemented anywhere in "the west" then most citizens would find ways around it, or bypass it completely ....

            • I think you misunderstand the aim of the Chinese firewall. From what people I know in China have said, it's pretty easy to bypass and a lot of tech-savvy people do. The aim is subtler. It's closer to a party-sponsored news outlet like Fox News; it isn't to stop people finding things out, it's simply to make it easier to find party-approved information than anything else. It's not there to make it impossible to find information that the party doesn't want you to see - that's impossible - it's there to ma
            • If it was implemented anywhere in "the west" then most citizens would find ways around it, or bypass it completely ....

              Until the Daily Mail "named and shamed" people bypassing the filters and sandwiched their picture between a known paedophile and Jon Venables. Then you'll find the consequences for dissent are every bit as unpleasant as those available to the Communist Party.

            • by mjwx (966435)

              What most people don't realise it the the great firewall of China does not work either ... it is only mostly effective because of the consequences of trying to get around it ... If it was implemented anywhere in "the west" then most citizens would find ways around it, or bypass it completely ....

              Forget the citizens, Australian ISP's would just not implement it. A VPN to Singapore or Sweden becomes standard part of the package, after this ISP's will just implement the filter in the cheapest way possible

          • by elrous0 (869638) *
            The goal of most filters isn't to be completely impossible to bypass, it's to make it enough of a pain in the ass to bypass that only a tiny minority will do it.
          • The problem is that it *may* work. As in, they will turn it on, filtering 500 web sites, tell the populace that they are now safe from internet child porn and the ignorant masses will notice nothing different and vote for the government for doing the right thing.

            Nobody will notice that it is completely ineffective, or that it entrenches use of secure P2P channels by pedophiles so that it becomes infinitely harder to track them down. Nobody will give the slightest thought to the fact that infrastructure

            • by ultranova (717540)

              Nobody will notice that it is completely ineffective, or that it entrenches use of secure P2P channels by pedophiles so that it becomes infinitely harder to track them down.

              Is that a bad thing, thought? A pedophile downloads child porn to jack off to; you track him down. Why? What, exactly speaking, does that accomplish, apart from making life even harder for someone who's already dealt a shitty hand?

              I understand people want to see someone suffer - that's what the gladiator games of Rome were all about, fe

              • Well, you're engaging in a whole different argument about whether passive pedophilia is dangerous or not. You appear have a view about that. It doesn't really matter. Linking the argument against censorship to the notion that consumption of child sex abuse material is harmless would be horrifically destructive to the cause. It would alienate a substantial portion of people who are against censorship and validate the bizarre accusation that continually gets made that people opposing the filter are sympa
        • It won't ensure net neutrality. They'll just ensure (what they want to get through) gets through, and allow (what they don't want to get through) to get censored. It's not so much a problem with filtering. It's more about who decides what gets filtered.
    • I was thinking the message was more along the lines of:

      "We hate censorship, and you should too. Ask me how."

      Never mind hypocrisy, this is cultural imperialism.

      • by ultranova (717540)

        Never mind hypocrisy, this is cultural imperialism.

        Some cultural values are better than others, and should dominate over them. For example, free access to information is better than censorship, and should dominate over it. This can be easily demonstrated by thinking whether you would want some entity preventing you from accessing information that entity has deemed contrary to its goals.

        But hey, keep on lying to yourself that all cultures are equal, and specifically that ours isn't superior to any other; ou

        • Some cultural values are better than others, and should dominate over them.

          Yeah, like the way that respect for other people's cultures should completely dominate cultural imperialism. When I say respect, of course, I don't mean you have to agree with them, but at the same time, you don't have to shove alternatives down their throats.

          You wait. If China becomes big enough, you're going to get a huge taste of your own medicine. You're going to see exactly what it's like when a bunch of powerful idiots come in

          • by ultranova (717540)

            Yeah, like the way that respect for other people's cultures should completely dominate cultural imperialism. When I say respect, of course, I don't mean you have to agree with them, but at the same time, you don't have to shove alternatives down their throats.

            I haven't suggested shoveling anything down anyone's throat. I have merely suggested letting the Chinese people decide for themselves, rather than Chinese Communist Party deciding for everyone and hiding alternatives to prevent any of their subjects f

  • by Taliesan999 (305690) on Tuesday March 30, 2010 @04:38AM (#31667752)

    One branch is expressing concerns about our lovely Internet filter while the other is trying to ram ACTA down our throats.

    BOTH will have an effect on free speech... neither of them we want.

    • by dakameleon (1126377) on Tuesday March 30, 2010 @06:36AM (#31668274)

      ACTA isn't being rammed down our throats, since we're taking an active part in negotiating it. Far more nefarious was 5 years ago when through the AUSFTA [wikipedia.org] we had copyright extensions from 50 to 70 years, and the DMCA rammed into Australian law without any significant debate in the Australian parliament under the banner of the greater trade good.

      • by WNight (23683)

        Who's we?

        I feel ACTA is being forced upon most people, despite what their country may say.

        • Who's we?

          We the people of Australia through our elected representatives in government. If you don't like it, go speak up, or stand for parliament and make a change through the system. Most people won't care too much because they either don't know or are likely to believe it'll not affect them, unless we who understand the implications raise awareness and can argue a persuasive case.

          Welcome to democracy.

  • by Whuffo (1043790) on Tuesday March 30, 2010 @04:42AM (#31667770) Homepage Journal
    Successfully filtering the net is impossible - that's been proven time and time again. If either one of them realized this simple truth then they'd know that their statements are somewhat nonsensical.
    • by $RANDOMLUSER (804576) on Tuesday March 30, 2010 @05:46AM (#31668058)
      <Slaps forehead> Of course! We just have to make politicians live in the real world! I wonder why no one's thought of that before?
    • by srjh (1316705)

      I think it's extremely unlikely that Stephen Conroy isn't aware of this simple truth.

      It's being pushed through for the same reason most policies are pushed through by governments -- because they think there is political capital to be gained in doing so. While I'm unsure whether their assumption is accurate, there is no way it would have come to this point without extensive focus group testing and behind-the-scenes calculations of exactly what they have to gain.

      On the other hand, I'm struggling to see how it

      • by dangitman (862676)

        (the Liberals are the conservative party for our foreign readers... go figure).

        That actually makes sense. Liberalism is a fairly conservative array of political values. It's not actually "extreme leftism" or "socialism" or any of the other things the nutty right-wingers would have you believe.

    • by chrb (1083577)

      Successfully filtering the net is impossible

      That depends on what your definition of "success" is. Successfully filtering the net completely - so that no single person is ever able to access some forbidden information even once - may well be impossible. However, filtering the net enough to be effective in manipulating the views of an entire population is entirely possible. I have met Chinese students who have been raised behind the "Great Firewall" and who had never heard of the Tiananmen Square protests until they relocated to the West. People who we

  • Thank You USA (Score:3, Informative)

    by domukun367 (681095) on Tuesday March 30, 2010 @04:42AM (#31667774)
    Normally I disagree with USA foreign policy, but in this case I welcome US government sticking its nose in where it's not welcome. On behalf of all (thinking) Australians, thank you USA for standing up to our government and this facist policy. http://stephenconroy.com.au/ [stephenconroy.com.au]
    • Re:Thank You USA (Score:4, Insightful)

      by LuNa7ic (991615) on Tuesday March 30, 2010 @04:51AM (#31667808)
      ...except that they haven't done anything at all. There are just a few mumbles of 'concern' over something their voter-base is likely to disapprove of. I don't see that making a difference any-time soon.
      • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

        by domukun367 (681095)

        ...except that they haven't done anything at all. There are just a few mumbles of 'concern' over something their voter-base is likely to disapprove of. I don't see that making a difference any-time soon.

        True... we need a larger, more official push. If we get that, then the Australian government will cave as it always does e.g. FTA (Free Trade Agreement) between the USA and Australia.

      • I don't think so. I think even the bare mention of this at diplomatic levels will have more effect than all the protest from the Australian public put together. Censorship is a big deal in the US right now because of Google and China and Australia going ahead with it will make it measurably more difficult for US companies in China because China will (and already has) cited Australia as an example to defend their policy.
    • Yeah, well, I wouldn't break out the bubbly just yet.

      We [USA] are just waiting for the world to bend over, then we'll goatse you all with ACTA.

      Nothing personal, as we USA citizens are getting gaped also.

  • Remarkable... (Score:4, Insightful)

    by vikingpower (768921) <exercitussolus&gmail,com> on Tuesday March 30, 2010 @05:13AM (#31667910) Homepage Journal
    ...how both so-called "free" countries will crack down upon China for filtering the internet on what they claim to be important free-speech-issues, but in the same time will not hesitate to implement rather identical measures at home.
    • by Spad (470073) <slashdotNO@SPAMspad.co.uk> on Tuesday March 30, 2010 @06:07AM (#31668154) Homepage

      That's obviously because China is a repressive dictatorship, whereas the US and Australia simply want to protect their citizens from harmful material.

      • That's obviously because USA and Australia are repressive capitalists, whereas the China simply want to protect their citizens from harmful material.

    • by Bigjeff5 (1143585)

      The US has no nationwide government filtering of any kind, period. There is nothing available on the internet that I can't get to.

      All government sponsored internet filtering there is exists at the state and local level, and only within schools and libraries (it's always "for the children"). Even some of that is getting pushed back, libraries in particular.

  • by rubenerd (998797) on Tuesday March 30, 2010 @05:39AM (#31668026) Homepage

    This news isn't on the scale of Google redirecting mainland Chinese search results to Google.cn but has more in common than Senator Conroy here in Australia would like people to think. Wait, no, that isn't even right, he's openly compared [rubenerd.com] the proposed Great Firewall of Australia to the filters in China.

    When Prime Minister Kevin Rudd and Federal Labor won the last election and Barack Obama and the Democrats won the elections in the US, Australian newspapers reported their first meetings as being one with kindred spirits, in much of the same way as George Bush and John Howard. This filter is perhaps the first large(ish) crack in this relationship, and I'm really hoping the Americans kick up as much of a fuss about Australia's laws as China's if the filter in Australia goes through.

    The problem for the voting public here is in our version of the two party system, the opposition are considered the more conservative party, and its new Christian far-right leader Tony Abbott has been fairly silent on the whole issue. One can imagine he supports it in spirit but doesn't want to seem as though he's agreeing with Labor. Either way, we're royally stuffed.

    In the meantime if you're an Aussie, don't forget the Electronic Frontiers Australia is accepting donations [efa.org.au] for their Open Internet campaign.

  • by hughbar (579555) on Tuesday March 30, 2010 @05:46AM (#31668056) Homepage
    Certain countries, including Australia support the Cultural Exception [google.co.uk]

    I lived in France for 20 years, also a supporter of this, I wish we did in UK. In France, it meant that the continuous diet of brainless, braindead violent programmes and 'rich people behaving nauseously' (Beverly Hills xxxxxx) were present, but in limited quantity, There were and are a lot of local cops shows, Julie Lescaut, for example, more connected with the indigenous culture.

    Finally, I have family in the West Indies and when the island switched from BBC to US channels (anecdotally, but many people said it) violence increased.

    I know I'll get a lot of hate for posting this, but there is a category of cultural toxic waste and it does modify behaviour, however much we wish it didn't.
    • I know I'll get a lot of hate for posting this, but there is a category of cultural toxic waste and it does modify behaviour, however much we wish it didn't.

      So what do you propose doing about it?

    • The road to hell^W censorship is paved with good intentions. If people, even a minority, want to see US shows, who the hell are you to decide if they should or not?
      Give people access to all shows, and let them decide.

      there is a category of cultural toxic waste and it does modify behaviour, however much we wish it didn't.

      Yes, it turns people into being less chauvinistic, perhaps.

      Not that I care personally: I get all my content from the interwebs. But I oppose your "benevolent censorship" as a principle. WIth

  • These people... (Score:3, Insightful)

    by MichaelSmith (789609) on Tuesday March 30, 2010 @05:49AM (#31668070) Homepage Journal

    Today in The Age: Government goes to war with Google over net censorship [theage.com.au]

    Senator Conroy has conceded that greater transparency is needed in terms of how content ends up on the blacklist, but last night he again refused to make the blacklist itself public, saying it would provide people instant access to the banned material.

    Okay Stephen here is how it works: every time an Australian hits the black list they post the URL on a wiki somewhere so if anybody needs some porn or the libaral party website or whatever they just follow the link from there and access it through a russian VPN? Simple? Okay.

    • by deniable (76198)
      OK, you take care of that end. I'll build the submit-bot to flood ACMA with requests to add to the list.
  • by EoN604 (909459) on Tuesday March 30, 2010 @06:00AM (#31668114) Homepage
    I really hope that the US put a lot of pressure on our Australian government to try and prevent this draconian Mandatory Internet Censorship. If it goes ahead in Australia, it will pave the way for many more developed Western countries. This is a serious attack on our freedom. There's not much left we can do at the moment - the internet community is kicking up a fuss, most polls & votes are >94% AGAINST the censorship, the US gov, google, local telcos, ISP's and all the technical experts are advising AGAINST it, but ignorant Senator Conroy and the government keep pushing ahead to censor the internet. If it goes ahead it will be bad news for everyone. The more people that support us on this VERY important issue, the better. Slashdot + its community probably have the potential to help make a difference. Please USA, and the entire international online community, show your support on this in any way you can!
  • by syousef (465911) on Tuesday March 30, 2010 @06:02AM (#31668130) Journal

    The Sydney Morning Herald had an informal web poll today with 3 choices: In Favour of filtering, Against filtering, Indifferent. Last I looked at it 96% had voted against! That's overwhelming. You usually get lots of indifferent here. How this sad man Stephen Conroy can claim to be a representative of the people is beyond me. He is clearly acting against their interests and against their wishes. He's one of few politicians here that's gotten public death threats (not that I could ever condone something as stupid as a death threat). Since he would seek to push ahead despite this he should be sacked. I have no idea if there's a legal provision for it in the Australian constitution (and I doubt there is) but there ought to be.

    • by MichaelSmith (789609) on Tuesday March 30, 2010 @06:20AM (#31668200) Homepage Journal

      Since he would seek to push ahead despite this he should be sacked. I have no idea if there's a legal provision for it in the Australian constitution (and I doubt there is) but there ought to be.

      I don't know if you are an Aussie but it seems to me that the Government is being pushed in this direction by the owners of media companies. This could be because of thoughts like "the internet competes with TV so it should have the same ratings system" or "first we block child porn, then those torrents of Neighbours and Blue Heelers" or "more people would watch A Current Affair if they weren't browsing 4chan one handed".

      In any event it is doomed to failure and I am reminded of a science museum years ago which set up a termian (VT220 or similar) for kids to play on. It accumulated a lot of rude words so somebody wrote a black list but there had to be a command to print the black list out and some young geek found the key combination...

      • by fostware (551290)

        "more people would watch A Current Affair if they weren't browsing 4chan one handed"

        You mixed that up with 'Today Tonight' viewers... ACA viewers would be protesting the existence of 4chan, while 'Media Watch' viewers would be outraged by the trailers for TT, without even seeing the episode...

      • by mjwx (966435)

        I don't know if you are an Aussie but it seems to me that the Government is being pushed in this direction by the owners of media companies.

        I'd say this comes from the religious right in our nation. Conroy is just recently shmoozing up to the likes of Packer and Murdoch because he needs their support as no one else will.

    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward

      How this sad man Stephen Conroy can claim to be a representative of the people is beyond me. He is clearly acting against their interests and against their wishes.

      Here [abc.net.au] is a more in-depth survey telephone survey commissioned by the ABC [abc.net.au]. According to it, 92% are in favour of some form of ISP-based filtering, which lends at least some credence to Conroy's claim. But that's about where the consensus ends, 70% have concerns that the filter will be used to block free speech and 90% are against a secret blacklist.

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by L4t3r4lu5 (1216702)
        I can just picture the questions now:

        "Hi folks, here's the poll! If you are for the filtering of indecent images of children and violent sexual acts, dial this number! If you believe that everyone should have access to indecent images of children and violent sexual acts, dial the second number."

        Lies, damn lies, and statistics. Filtering does not solve the problem of child abuse: It just takes it out of the public eye.
    • The problem is that web site polls are massively biased towards tech savvy people who understand what a load of rubbish this idea is. When they do more general polls they come up with 70% in favor. I really hope that it starts to change as people understand more of the details of the filter policy and just how bad it is (it's not just generically bad - it's bad even amongst censorship policies. Even people in favor of internet censorship should oppose this particular version of it).
    • by rdnetto (955205)

      I have no idea if there's a legal provision for it in the Australian constitution (and I doubt there is) but there ought to be.

      There won't be. The Australian constitution doesn't have a bill of rights like the US does. There are some acts (e.g. the Victorian Charter of Human Rights) but they're more like guidelines then rules.

  • by DeBaas (470886) on Tuesday March 30, 2010 @06:46AM (#31668310) Homepage

    However, last night, Australia's Communications Minister Stephen Conroy denied he had had any approach from US State Department Officials."

    Filter must already be working then

  • by Benson Arizona (933024) on Tuesday March 30, 2010 @07:38AM (#31668558) Homepage
    Don't you hate to see the children fighting?
  • Despite any posturing, It's their fucking wet dream to be able to do it here too.

    • Of course they care. A filter controlled by a third party could harm US commercial interests in Australia. Just because they're acting from selfish motives doesn't mean that they are wrong, however.
  • I don't want censorship at all. But I think it's hilarious that America, which is so censored that it can't even show boobies on television (nipples, specifically), is telling Australia that it shouldn't be censoring things.

    There was an article posted only a couple of days ago that essentially said censorship is harmful to democracy [slashdot.org]. Maybe both the US and Australian governments should get out of censorship altogether, lest they wind up like China.

    • This is a Myth: TV is not censored in the USA, but the networks will not show anything that offends since they believe it will lose them audience share if they do

      Self censorship is far more effective than government imposed censorship ....

      • Broadcast T.V. can face fines from the FCC. That is government enforced censorship.
        • by Bigjeff5 (1143585)

          Not really.

          This sort of thing has come up before. Broadcasters can be punished after the fact, but they cannot be prevented from broadcasting anything. To avoid indecency fines, the broadcasters self censor.

          It's similar, but it actually puts the government in a pretty weak position, as they cannot prevent anything if the broadcasters are willing to take the fine. What really stops them is that people in America don't want that sort of thing on a regular basis, else it would be worth it for broadcasters t

          • I do agree there are massive differences between proactive and reactive censorship. However, "To avoid indecency fines, the broadcasters self censor", is still government enforced censorship.
      • by deniable (76198)
        Do you remember Janet Jackson's nipple? Tell me extreme delays on live events weren't in any way government imposed.
        • by Bigjeff5 (1143585)

          Sure thing, time delays on live events weren't in any way government imposed.

          The broadcasters censored themselves by implementing longer time delays without government influence, because the lack of such time delays cost them a hell of a lot of money in indecency fines.

          That's the closest thing we have to censorship - our indecency laws. They are the same laws that make it illegal to run around flashing everybody. You can argue against those if you like, but broadcasters are held accountable for the conten

    • by Shihar (153932)

      We might not be able to watch nips on broadcast TV, but at least we can watch small breasted Asian midget pr0n on the Intertubes while playing a nice and gory round and Aliens vs Predators. Not that I want either, but I would take the US governments regulating three crappy broadcast channels from showing nips over a universal internet filter and a fucking censor board on video games. Wait until someone realizes that books have violence in Australia. OMFGTHECHILDREN!

    • You have no idea what you are talking about.
  • ...or what else are they babbling this time?

    A new entry in Slashdot (a mere six hours later) shows that "The Cybersecurity Act of 2009 passed a Senate panel giving the president unprecedented power to issue a nation-wide blackout or restriction on websites without congressional approval."

    To fight the eeeeeeeevil terrarists, obviously. Why else?

  • I'm all for the US Government bringing the matter up with our government. It sounds like this was done respectfully and informally, which is the right way to go when you have one mature democracy dealing with another. They aren't making demands or threats or anything ... just voicing some concern. An added pressure on Conroy to drop the idea, hopefully. Anti-Americanism is rampant in Australia these days but I hope people can still see that, for its flaws, the US still acts as a positive force in areas such

  • Stephen Conroy (the current communications minister) is the most incompetent politician Australia has had the shame to put up with in dozens of years.

    He has shown, if nothing else, a complete and absolute lack on integrity in his pursuit of this filtering scheme.

    Between one interview and the next, between one statement in parliament and the next, his excuse for the filter has changed, his reasoning has changed.

    He has been dismissive, arrogant and accusatory of anyone who says *anything* against his poli
    • "Stephen Conroy is a classic example of someone who will be *instantly* turfed out on his arse at the next election,"

      Whilst a most desirable outcome, that is very unlikely as Conroy is in the number 1 position in labors Victorian senate ticket.

      It would be unprecedented to have no labor senator elected, and as our senate is based on proportional representation, unfrotunately Conroy will probably stay.

      Hopefully cabinet will be aware of the damage Conroy is causing amongst younger voters and he will be removed

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