April 1, 2010

Brisbane Times

Conroy: we're filtering less than Google

Communications Minister Stephen Conroy says critics of his proposed Internet filter are wrong and the Government will be doing less filtering than Google already does.

Web experts recoiled today at communications minister Stephen Conroy's assertion that the internet is not "special" and should be censored like books, films and newspapers.

In an on-camera interview with Fairfax Media's national Canberra bureau chief, Tim Lester, Senator Conroy dismissed the torrent of criticism directed at his policy as "misleading information" spread by "an organised group in the online world".

Asked what percentage of all of the nasty material on the internet his filters would block, Senator Conroy dodged the question, responding that his filters were "100 per cent accurate - no overblocking, no underblocking and no impact on speeds".

But Mark Newton, an engineer with ISP internode, said: "Censorship will not catch a single pedophile, will not cause a single image to disappear from the internet, will not protect a single child."

Senator Conroy also brushed aside concerns from leading academics and technology companies that the plan to block a blacklist of "refused classification" (RC) websites for all Australians was an attempt to shoe-horn an offline classification model into a vastly different online world.

"Why is the internet special?," he asked, saying the net was "just a communication and distribution platform".

"This argument that the internet is some mystical creation that no laws should apply to, that is a recipe for anarchy and the wild west. I believe in a civil society and in a civil society people behave the same way in the physical world as they behave in the virtual world."

Newton said this was a "gross oversimplification", pointing out that Australia Post and Telstra's telephone network were also distribution platforms but were not censored.

"Why should the internet, a distribution platform for all manner of intangibles, be censored as if it was a movie theatre? It makes no sense, the model doesn't fit," he said.

The Greens communications spokesman Scott Ludlam was also quick to ridicule Senator Conroy, saying books and films were distinctly different because they are "dicreet, physical packages of content", whereas the internet is dynamic and has "a trillion web pages already indexed and an unknown amount more added every day".

"To characterise sustained opposition by individuals and groups as diverse as EFA, Google, SAGE, Yahoo, Save the Children, Reporters without Borders, Justice Kirby, Choice Magazine, leading online academics and industry associations and the United States Department of State as 'an organised group in the online world' is a remarkably naive misreading of how unpopular this proposal is," Senator Ludlam said.

Full article here