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Aussie Censorship "Live Trials" Won't Be Live 148

Xiroth writes "In what could be the first step to backing down on the plans to censor the Australian Internet, Communication Minister Stephen Conroy has made it known that the live trials of the Government filter will not, in fact, be live, instead being downgraded to a closed network test. Given that this would provide no further information than what Government tests have already provided, this may prove to be a face-saving measure before the plan is quietly scrapped. Nonetheless, concerned Australians are encouraged to attend protests planned for this weekend to ensure that the Government gets the message."
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Aussie Censorship "Live Trials" Won't Be Live

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  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday December 09, 2008 @07:42PM (#26053393)

    It turns out the UK has been censoring the web all along. [bbc.co.uk]

    I'm surprised this hasn't been on Slashdot already as it's been on the news quite a bit here.

    • by iDav ( 785175 ) on Tuesday December 09, 2008 @07:51PM (#26053475) Homepage
      It's new here because our supposedly left-of-centre Labour government is trying to impose a decidedly right-wing policy on the public. That and the (dis)Honourable Senator Conroy responsible for the plan shows only complete disregard for the truth and logic, and utter disdain toward the general public and ISPs.

      The primary reason for the protesting and media coverage is the fact that the blacklist that would be used is to be secret, and there will be no transparency or public accountability in regards to the content of the list. The fear is that the government could easily, and quietly, block ANY content they want at any time. This simply cannot be allowed. In the UK, they only use a ratified international blacklist of 1,300 sites. In Australia there would be those sites, plus anywhere up to 10,000 sites of the Australian Governments choosing.
      • by Xiroth ( 917768 ) on Tuesday December 09, 2008 @08:22PM (#26053809)

        In fact, they've already indicated that they're looking to ban illegal but morally grey information such a euthanasia methods. Independent special interests in the Senate such as Senator Xenophon [wikipedia.org] and Senator Fielding [wikipedia.org] have indicated that they're interested in banning sites where the legality hasn't even been settled, such as gambling websites and hardcore pornography.

        The biggest concern, of course, is the potential censoring of political speech. Euthanasia, in fact, falls under that, as the Greens [wikipedia.org] and Democrats [wikipedia.org] have indicated their support for legalising it - in fact, if memory serves, as a precautionary measure a Greens state senator read out methods of euthanasia in parliament under the protection of parliamentary privilege [wikipedia.org] with the knowledge that the proceedings of Parliament must be recorded and be made freely available to the public, rendering the government unable to block the publishing of the material. If material regarding euthanasia and other controversial topics is blocked, could that not soon lead to the blocking of political speech of minor parties and political activists that wish to overturn the bans on the material?

        • by iDav ( 785175 )
          Exactly!
        • by Capsaicin ( 412918 ) on Tuesday December 09, 2008 @09:15PM (#26054253)

          In fact, they've already indicated that they're looking to ban illegal but morally grey information ...

          Of the greatest concern is that the list of what is blocked is secret. Most Australians, myself included, would not disagree with censorship to some degree. However this is a power which in the hand of executive government (or indeed a private organisation) has a great potential for abuse. Consequently what is required is complete transperancy. The secrecy of current plan achieves the opposite of what our system of government requires.

          The biggest concern, of course, is the potential censoring of political speech.

          Exactly! And given the decisions of the High Court regarding the "implied right to political communication," inherent in the Constitution, it is also beyond the power of government to do so. If, however, we are to be kept in the dark as to what is being banned, how can we have any confidence a government is not indulging in such unconstitutional behaviour?

          • by PopeGumby ( 1125507 ) on Tuesday December 09, 2008 @09:55PM (#26054515)
            Of the greatest concern is that the list of what is blocked is secret.

            The biggest concern, of course, is the potential censoring of political speech.

            Exactly!


            You should decide which one is the biggest concern, because they are seperate things. If the greatest concern is that the blacklist is secret, then you're saying that if the Labour party just came out and said "we censored euthanasia page waystodie.com, because we felt like it", you would be okay with that?

            My greatest concern is that no other person should not be controlling what I can and cannot see on the internet, or anywhere else for that matter.
            • You should decide which one is the biggest concern, because they are seperate things. If the greatest concern is that the blacklist is secret, then you're saying that if the Labour party just came out and said "we censored euthanasia page waystodie.com, because we felt like it", you would be okay with that?

              Firstly, don't put words into my mouth, "the biggest concern" line was a previous poster. Nor does it the "then you are saying" follow from anything I wrote. It's just possible that if I knew they we

              • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

                by PopeGumby ( 1125507 )
                I never put words into your mouth.

                You said, "Of the greatest concern is that the list of what is blocked is secret."

                Then you quoted the parent to your comment, which said "The biggest concern, of course, is the potential censoring of political speech." and you said "Exactly!"

                Thats why I quoted those three pieces of text in my comment. They were cut and paste directly from your comment. Regardless of how closely they may be linked, they are two separate issues.

                Australia is a democracy, we will
                • Thats why I quoted those three pieces of text in my comment.

                  But in a misleading way that made it look like your comment "you should decide" was fair. Clearly I was agreeing that in focusing on the potential for political censorship the OP had hit the nail on the head. Given the logically garbled nature of your post it hardly falls to your to be that persnickety. For instance, I didn't point out that the UK parliament no longer governs Australia, there being of course no "Labour party" in Australia (or

                  • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

                    by the_xaqster ( 877576 )
                    Just a small point to consider. Supposing you have access to this list of blocked sites. Supposing it also contains a reason why each site is blocked. Unless the URL is very descriptive, how can you be sure that the reason for blocking it is accurate? After all, you can't access the site to perform an independant check, can you? Unless you are one of the pirates using illegal methods to get round the filter....
                  • I would like to have access to their list to know exactly what is being kept from my view and why, to know whether they have overstepped their power and I have any legal or political recourse to object.

                    I believe this would be a bad idea. Since no blocking is fullproof, all this would do is give free advertising to people who are looking for these types of things or to people that are curious(like kids).

                    All you'd have to do is hit a US proxy or SSH tunnel to some country that does not block. All you need is this nice shopping list of sites. I say you may as well go through normal law enforcement means and leave the sites to their current level of obscurity.

              • Here's an idea - how about the government gets gets on with the job of catching the people making child porn etc and gets the fuck out of my life. I don't need you to decide what is good for me and my family. I've been well able to do that myself for many years. If I want a filtered feed, I will filter it. Indeed, the kids' computers are filtered with K9, which seems to be working quite well thank you very much. If I need to ramp it up, there is always Dan's Guardian & Squid and plenty of other options
                • Here's an idea - how about the government gets gets on with the job of catching the people making child porn etc and gets the fuck out of my life. I don't need you to decide what is good for me and my family.

                  If the government "gets on with the job of catching the people makind child porn" they are deciding what's good for your and your family. What's this about me deciding? Do you think child pornography should be freely available in Australia, whether on the net or elsewhere.

                  I've been well able to do t

      • Streisand effect (Score:3, Interesting)

        by mangu ( 126918 )

        In the UK, they only use a ratified international blacklist of 1,300 sites. In Australia there would be those sites, plus anywhere up to 10,000 sites of the Australian Governments choosing.

        If you want to censor something, having a list of censored things only makes people more curious. It's much better (for the censors) to keep the censored list secret.

        This reminds me of the anecdote of the old lady who went to compliment Samuel Johnson for not putting any "bad words" on his dictionary.

        -- "Why, did you look

        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          by Malekin ( 1079147 )

          If you want to censor something, having a list of censored things only makes people more curious. It's much better (for the censors) to keep the censored list secret.

          This reminds me of the anecdote of the old lady who went to compliment Samuel Johnson for not putting any "bad words" on his dictionary.

          -- "Why, did you look up all of them"? was the answer.

          That doesn't quite follow because the list isn't the actual content being censored, but the addresses to the content. I can view the list and be satisfied (or not) that it's not being used for political censorship without actually viewing any illegal content - or, I could if it weren't a crime as it currently is.

          • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

            by Sique ( 173459 )

            You are lacking fantasy.

            Wenn Austria under Empress Maria Theresia in 1754 published its own "Index Librorum Prohibitorum" (list of forbidden books, a 40 volume work), the index grew so successful and was in so great demand, that Austria in 1777 put the Index on the Index.

            It's the same with all lists of things that are forbidden. They give you ideas.

      • Actually the primary reason ill be at the protest is not the fact that the blacklist is secret, but the fact that there is a blacklist at all.

        If they were to come out and say "we're going to blacklist sites, but at least we'll tell you who and why", I still would not find that acceptable.

      • Blanket bans such as this one proposed come directly from the left-wing handbook on public policy. The left has always sought for government to have greater control over individuals lives, individual freedoms and responsibilities are the traditional calls of the right.

        I always thought that Howard was one of the most left wing conservatives we have ever seen. He greatly expanded welfare programs into the realm of every day middle class families, and used this carrot and stick approach to attempt to control t

        • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

          You couldn't be any more wrong if you tried.

          Howard and Rudd are pandering to the religious right. The censorship in question is the type of "think of the children" mentality the religious want to impose on others. There is nothing progressive or liberal in censorship.

          Howard was one of the most RIGHT WING Prime Ministers we have ever seen! It's almost as if you are living in reverse world where up is down and left is right. (Almost like you are down under or something)

          Don't forget that in Australia our finan
          • Mod parent up. This reccuring political theater is played by BOTH major parties and is all about winning senate deadlocks, specifically this 'project' is the price KRuddy is paying for Fielding's vote. KRuddy & Conroy do not belive in this anymore than Howard's mob did when they tried the same thing a few years ago.
          • Mate, get yourself straightened out. Yes Howard was right wing, but the vast expansion of welfare under Howard was socialist policy. Left wing. Many in the media made this criticism.

            The conservative or right wing approach to this problem would be to offer up the censorship service to those who want it (Howards policy). Note here individual freedom and responsibility is emphasised.

            Here, I'll quote Jack the Insider [news.com.au] on this very topic for you:

            mandatory filtering is straight out of the leftist handbook on publi

      • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

        by smegged ( 1067080 )
        I love the viscious attack on the Right because of something that the Left are doing.

        This is exactly where the Left/Right methodology breaks down. Many on the Right are actually anti-censorship and are libertarian in their viewpoints. Many on the Left are authoritarian and pro-censorship.

        In this country we have more than two major parties anyway. We have Labor (center-left/union focus), Liberal (center-right/business focus), National (center-right/rural focus), Green (far-left/environment focus), D
    • by SeaFox ( 739806 )

      I'm surprised this hasn't been on Slashdot already as it's been on the news quite a bit here.

      But it was on Slashdot, didn't you see the article and long discussion for of insightful posts about how to counteract it?

      Oh, wait...

    • Typical. That's censoring for you.

    • by Smauler ( 915644 )

      Has anyone else actually tried going to the web page [wikipedia.org] in question from the UK? Because I'm supposedly one of those blocked from seeing this page (with TalkTalk), and I can see it just fine. Also, I for one find this [wikipedia.org] much more disturbing, but that may just be me.

  • by girlintraining ( 1395911 ) on Tuesday December 09, 2008 @07:45PM (#26053409)

    How Things Work Everywhere Else:
    1. Concept.
    2. Pilot.
    3. Evaluation. bad: Return to 1, or continue to 4.
    4. Real world trial.
    5. Evaluation. bad: Return to 1, or continue to 6.
    6. Implementation
    7. Fine-tuning
    5. Evaluation. bad: Return to 7, or continue to 8.
    8. Maintenance

    How Things Work in Australia
    1. Concept.
    2. Real world trial.
    3. Public relations debacle. bad: Return to 2, or continue to 4.
    4. Implementation.
    5. Drink beer.
    6. Maintenance.

    As you can see, everything is going according to plan. Just check your boots before you leave the server room. -_-

  • Surprise, Surprise! (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Abreu ( 173023 ) on Tuesday December 09, 2008 @07:46PM (#26053431)

    Who is willing to bet that the testing is done over "carefully controlled" conditions designed to hide all the faults of the system?

    • by BeerCat ( 685972 )

      Who is willing to bet that the testing is done over "carefully controlled" conditions designed to hide all the faults of the system?

      Or even easier - any conditions that show up faults in the system can be safely ignored as "statistical noise"

    • by z0idberg ( 888892 ) on Tuesday December 09, 2008 @08:26PM (#26053853)

      That might be the case if there was any chance it would even remotely work in the real world. But I think this is a sign of them finally coming to the realisation that it is going to flop spectacularly and this is a way to find that out away from the publics view.

      A real world trial would have showed up all the problems that everyone has been pointing out, and it would have brought those problems right into the homes of voters all over the country.

      This way they can continually have it in testing until it fades from the publics mind then mothball it.

      • Yeah at the moment it looks like it will die like the Australia Card [wikipedia.org]
      • by drsmithy ( 35869 )

        This way they can continually have it in testing until it fades from the publics mind then mothball it.

        I think you meant until the next election, at which point it will be rolled out again to garner the religious vote.

    • I was going to say just that.

      They're limiting the maximum throughput of the system to 12MBPS and trying to say that a real-world load of hundreds of customers at that rate will also work.

      This closed trial is carefully designed to further "prove" that their flawed system isn't.

      • by srjh ( 1316705 )

        Note that 12 Mbps is considered to be the absolute minimum for the other disastrous policy our embattled Senator Conroy is implementing (the National Broadband Network).

        Even if that 12 Mbps is per user, under their own guidelines, it's practically obsolete already.

  • Yay, protest. (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Starayo ( 989319 ) on Tuesday December 09, 2008 @07:48PM (#26053447) Homepage
    I'm certainly attending, though my efforts to rally my friends have been hampered by their SHE-DEVILS of girlfriends who all have plans for that day. Damn their icy hearts!

    Seeing as these filters are so ridiculously easy to bypass, a major concern for me lately is how they'll be handling people who use these methods, especially since they have perfectly legitimate applications *besides* bypassing the filter.
    • by QuantumG ( 50515 ) *

      I'm getting bored of saying it. The purpose of the filter is to shield people from material they don't want to see. The reason why the filter isn't "optional" is because the government's belief is that no reasonable person should want to turn it off. As such, people who "get around" the filter are of no concern to the government.

      • They should be, because circumventing the filter (in a blanket fashion, as is likely to be done by most who attempt to circumvent it at all, rather than simply enabling it for sites which are known to be filtered) is going to require a connection to a host outside of Australia. For local content, a second connection back IN to the country will also be required.

        This is problematic because Australia's connections overseas are nowhere near equipped to deal with this sort of traffic increase, either from an IS

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by Xiroth ( 917768 )

      Meh, get the girlfriends to come along too - it's not like this isn't attracting mainstream attention. The sign-up for the event on Facebook seems to be going reasonably well - here's [facebook.com] the Melbourne one, and it's got links to the other capital cities' events too.

    • by renegadesx ( 977007 ) on Tuesday December 09, 2008 @09:37PM (#26054389)
      There is now also a protest organized for Canberra.

      Garema Place, Civic from 12pm-2pm
  • Just like the previous government's token effort at web censorship, this effort is to win the support of a couple of hypocritical "for the children" senators. They may not need that support anymore (balance is shifting in the senate) in which case this silly idea will hopefully vanish. A problem may be that is once it is started some of the people involved will feel committed to keep it going despite the complete lack of a magic filter to do what is asked.

    IMHO the "Family First" party should be renamed "S

  • Finally (Score:3, Interesting)

    by adona1 ( 1078711 ) on Tuesday December 09, 2008 @08:14PM (#26053721)
    Finally there seems to be some resistance to this stupid plan from people other than from nerds & libertarians. Major newspapers are against the filter (the scope of which the Governement altered after they were elected) and Telstra, the most corporate of corporations, are even telling them to take a running jump. The Communications Minister isn't doing his little scheme any favours by refusing to discuss it in Parliament. Maybe Australia can stop being the laughing stock of the internet, if only for a little while.
  • Could it be that they're just reducing the size of the Test Group, to minimise any negative findings?? Either way, it sounds like they don't have much confidence in the system.
  • So it will just prove the government is 'right' and remove any reason not to implement.

    Nice move there.

  • "Anti-content-filtering rebels take to Australia's streets"

    Spidey and Ock rob bank.

  • by SigmaTao ( 629358 ) on Tuesday December 09, 2008 @09:04PM (#26054179) Journal
    There has been a recent court decision in New South Wales (a state in Australia), where images of Bart and Lisa Simpson engaged in sex acts are considered child porn and a citizen has been fined for having such images on computer he owned. If the national filter is to prevent child porn the scale of filtering is just mind boggling. (There are various references to the court decision... here is one example http://www.theaustralian.news.com.au/story/0,25197,24771973-16947,00.html [news.com.au] )
  • The Australian Government has also launched the first of potentially many blogs blogs [dbcde.gov.au] asking for input on key issues, including Senator Conroy's "filtering" initiative.
    • by srjh ( 1316705 )

      And surprisingly, they're accepting some strongly negative posts as well (an overwhelming majority of the posts there, actually). There's just a backlog of about 12 hours worth of posts that need to be approved first.

      I'm quietly hopeful that this means they're looking for a quiet excuse to drop it (and Senator Conroy).

  • How incredibly naive (Score:3, Interesting)

    by PaganRitual ( 551879 ) <splagaNO@SPAMinternode.on.net> on Tuesday December 09, 2008 @09:51PM (#26054481)
    "In what could be the first step to backing down on the plans to censor the Australian Internet

    You really believe that? Surely more likely is that this is being done to further remove the possiblity of yet more criticism of what is universally regarded to be a stupid idea so they can go ahead with it regardless.

    Not that it really matters because we all know, as Senator Conroy has already revealed, that anyone that against this idea is in support of child porn anyway. I wish I could find the article to quote.
  • by daver00 ( 1336845 ) on Tuesday December 09, 2008 @10:38PM (#26054775)

    Where is it? Come on Rudd, where the hell is the broadband infrastructure promised during the campaign?

    This is what gets to me the most of all in this debate, they have not even begun to build the infrastructure they promised to build, and here we are bogged down in this utter waste of time instead! I am dead set against the censorship plan, but what I am even more pissed off about is that the national broadband scheme has taken a back seat to this bullshit!

    The one reason this government appealed to me is that they appeared to understand the importance of infrastructure to the digital economy. But it seems like they are not even close to getting it.

    • Where is it? Come on Rudd, where the hell is the broadband infrastructure promised during the campaign?

      Well it's been in the news recently: the tender deadline just closed. Telstra were holding out because they didn't like the conditions - probably that the Government would even consider any other provider in the first place! They eventually submitted a tender that was supposedly 12 pages long (compared to the hundreds of pages for the others).

      Here's a place to go [news.com.au] to for some recent news stories.

  • by a.ameri ( 665846 ) * on Wednesday December 10, 2008 @04:05AM (#26056769)
    Taking part in the protests is the first (and very important step). Here is the list of places where protests will be held:

    Melbourne:
    Saturday 13 December
    State Library
    12pm-5pm

    Sydney:
    Saturday 13 December
    Town Hall
    11am-4pm

    Brisbane:
    Saturday 13 December
    Brisbane Square
    11am-3pm

    Adelaide:
    Saturday 13 December
    Parliament
    12pm-4pm

    Hobart:
    Saturday 13 December
    Parliament Lawns
    11am-1:30pm

    Canberra:
    Saturday 13 December
    Garema Place, Civic
    12pm-2pm


    Please also consider taking the following actions:

    1) Call Senator Conroy's office on 03 9650 1188. Do not be rude, do not swear, just in a very reasoned and rational voice, express your disapproval, and in a few short sentences, say why you disagree. It matters a lot.

    2) Write a letter to Senator Conroy, make sure it's between half a page to one page (no more than 400 words). Again, in a polite tone (that doesn't have to be formal, and doesn't have to have letterhead, etc., just your name and address) let him know why you disagree with him. His address is:
    Senator Stephen Conroy
    Level 4, 4 Treasury Place
    Melbourne Vic 3002

    3) Write a letter to your local MP. It doesn't matter what party he/she is from, Liberals will use your letter to back up their claims in Question Time, which gives publicity to the whole issue and will bring it to mainstream media's attention. Labor members will also express their criticism, privately, to him. This specially matters if your local MP is a Minister and serves in the Cabinet. To find out who your local MP is click here [aph.gov.au].

    4) Write a letter to Prime Minister Rudd. Let him know that when the Australian people voted him in office last year, they didn't know "Education Revolution" means censorship. Rudd's address is:
    PO Box 6022
    House of Representatives
    Parliament House
    Canberra ACT 2600

    5) Donate or become a member of Electronic Frontiers Australia [efa.org.au] . Right now the EFA is the sole organisation fighting this. They need all the help they can get.

    6) Write a letter to your ISP. It doesn't matter if it's the Evil Telstra; on this, we're all together. They are fighting the battle for us right now, but it would help them to know that what they are doing is a good business practice, that you expect them to fight this to the end.

    Don't just sit around and do nothing and then complain about how evil governments are. We, the citizens are the ones who allow governments to become evil, by our political apathy. Move! Take Action! Now!
  • Given the power Facebook had in making Canadian copyright didn't get out of hand, has anyone in Australia started a Facebook group to invite all their friends to the cause?

  • An internet filter such as Senator Conroy is proposing is at best a misguided attempt to provide a safe environment for children and at worst a totalitarian tool to placate the population.

    The internet is a social tool that will continue to grow in its scope and penetration. As the internet evolves from the teenager that it is, filtering will become less and less effective - despite developers best efforts, just look at how SPAM filters have failed to meet the raising tide since 1993.

    A better use of the prop

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