Edit: You know what… forget my entire blog post, watch this instead:
The Australian Government, or rather Stephen Conroy (Minister for Broadband, Communications and the Digital Economy), is planning to make Internet censorship compulsory and will ban controversial websites on topics which it deems to be illegal.
There is already a protest organised for today (1st Nov 08) at 12 noon outside parliament house in all capital cities: Australia wide: No Clean Feed Protest
I sent an invite to this out to most of my friends in Australa and got an great response. I was amazed how many non IT people understood how serious this issue is, however I did have one friend ask me “all for the sake of fast internet access??”. I rattled off many of the main points in as few words as possible and after I had finished she changed her mind on the issue and asked me about the details for the protest. I then figured there are probably a lot of others out there thinking the same thing and just not asking me. For this reason I’m going to break it down here as much as possible so that everybody can see how bad this really is.
There are so many other problems, but really it comes down to two things….
1. It will not do what the Stephen Conroy is claiming
2. It will only make things worse in every way
1. It will not do what the Stephen Conroy is claiming:
From all the articles I have read on this issue Minister Conroy is claiming that these filters will help in two ways. He claims that it will stop kids from accessing unsuitable material and adults from accessing illegal material. Now of course no reasonable person would have a problem with his the general intent of the blocks as long as the term “illegal material” is changed to specific material that is widely accepted to be immoral (ex. CP).
However the problem is that it won’t block this content to anybody who doesn’t allow themselves to be blocked. Anybody who wants to access a filtered site already has so many options available to them for getting around filters, using a secure web proxy to fetch the data probably being the easiest. Proxy servers and similar technologies are already widely used of by the two groups that this filter is targeted at. Combine that with the fact that the filter can’t stop peer to peer traffic which account for 60% of all Australian traffic and you have a system that is so ridiculously broken that you have to wonder how the idea got this far and who needs to be fired.
2. It will make things worse in every way
The Australian government has already wasted $88 million creating software filters that were cracked within minutes by a 16 year old kid and which nobody downloaded anyway.
However now they are making a huge mistake by investing tens of millions more in testing this ridiculous filter, which even somebody with moderate knowledge of how the Internet works could tell is already broken.
Worst of all however is that Australia is investing 4.7 billion in a new fiber optic cable network, headed by non other than Stephen Conroy himself, to increase broadband speeds in order to keep Austral competitive with the rest of the world. However the insanity of this is that these new filters could completely nullify and speed gains and could even dramatically slow Internet access. It’s like this; you can have the fastest freeway in the world, but if you decided to stop everybody who uses it for a breath test, then your freeway is going to be backed up all the way to China.
I’m not even going to touch on the oppressive nature of the filter, I’ll leave it just at the fact that it is an awful business decision which needs to be stopped now. Can we really afford to be throwing away hundreds of millions of dollars right now on technologies that we can already show are systemically flawed and which could jeopardise another project worth 4.7 billion?
… OK gloves off
I was amazed when I heard about this plan for net filtering, at first I was upset for civil liberty reasons, but then after reading more about it I became really angry for a completely different reason. I looked at it from the side of the government and listened to their logic and wondered, how the hell could anybody in charge of the department of “Broadband, Communications and the Digital Economy” come up with a plan that was so technically flawed in every way! Then I started to read some of the quotes on various news sites from Mr. Conroy himself and it became pretty clear, pretty quick. The guy wasn’t just politician stupid about technology, he was actually about as ignorant as somebody could get on the subject.
Now I can look at a quote of his where he complains about having his plan compared to “The Great Wall Of China”, when in fact he should have said to said “The Great Firewall of China”; but they guy doesn’t actually understand the play on words because he doesn’t know what a Firewall actually is. However I never found a quote that that I could show to somebody outside the tech industry and have it be obvious that the Emperor was naked….. till now that is…
Right near the end of typing up this blog post I stumbled across this beauty where Stephen Conroy seems to be of the belief that increased Internet speed, under the new $4.7B plan, will lead more cyber-bullying and other bad behaviour online:
“With the development and roll-out of Labor’s national broadband scheme, we expect that there will be an increased opportunity for bad behaviour,”
“So it’s very important that we try and not wait till the horse has bolted.”
— news.com.au article
As if to say bullies were typing up nasty emails to their victims faster than it was possible to send them. Funny right… until you remember that this guy is in charge of Billions of dollars of Australian tax payer money and he is making deals huge deals with Telstra and other big companies, who do know their industry and will use his ignorance against him. How did somebody like him ever get into a position like this? Doesn’t the government actually check to see that somebody knows something about a particular department before they put them in charge of all it’s decisions and budget? If Conroy isn’t replaced soon he is going to end up doing a lot of damage.
Anyway, I’ve said all I can. I’ll protest later today and do my best to keep fighting this, but if there is still anybody out there who still believes there is some merit to the filter, then I leave those people with this quote.
Those who would give up Essential Liberty to purchase a little Temporary Safety, deserve neither Liberty nor Safety.
– Benjamin Franklin
The protest is being held at 12 Noon today (1st Nov 08), outside parliament house in all capital cities.