Conroy backing down on internet censorship?

Well, the proposed Australian internet filtering plans have shifted, and changed, and been fiddled with, and shifted again. We went from an across-the-board opt-out censorship system (the election promise), to some sort of “clean feed” (a meaningless term), to mandatory nationwide censorship of all sorts of things, to mandatory nationwide censorship of Refused Classification material, to something that we won’t tell you about yet but that will be “evidence-based”, to filtering World Wide Web only, to looking at filtering peer-to-peer and social networking systems, to denying that the Wikileaks leaked list had anything to do with the ACMA blacklist, to admitting that oh maybe it did after all, to various other switches and changes.

At no point in this process has the left hand known what the right hand is doing, and at no point in this process has Stephen Conroy demonstrated enough technological knowledge of the internet for anyone with a clue to believe a word he has said.

The latest from Senator Conroy, Minister for Broadband, Communications and the Digital Economy, is that maybe the government will back off altogether on forcing internet censorship upon all Australians, and instead adopt a voluntary industry code. Except that they’ll all adopt it. From Australian IT:

Net filtering may not be mandatory

Responding to questions from shadow communications minister Nick Minchin on how the government may go about imposing the internet filtering scheme, Senator Conroy said that legislation may not be required and ISPs may adopt an industry consensus to block restricted content on a voluntary basis.

“Mandatory ISP filtering would conceivably involve legislation … voluntary is available currently to ISPs,” Senator Conroy said.

“One option is potentially legislation. One other option is that it could be (on a) voluntary basis that they (ISPs) could voluntarily agree to introduce it.”

In response Senator Minchin said he had never heard of a voluntary mandatory system.

Senator Conroy responded with “well they could agree to all introduce it”.


Also, the Australian Christian Lobby is upset. In case anyone cares.

Update 27 May 2009: Wikileaks has the transcript of yesterday’s Senate Estimates events, including the detail that this magical blacklist that will only protect us from child porn is at least 68% not child porn.

It includes this exchange between Stephen “Can we start calling him the Information Minister yet?” Conroy and Greens Senator Scott Ludlam:

Senator LUDLAM —Do you have a rough idea how many ISPs there are in the country?

Senator Conroy —No.

Categories: culture wars, Politics, technology

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5 replies

  1. OT but the ACL’s Jim Wallace quoted in that article is one creepy douche. He was on Sunrise the other day “debating” same sex marriage and actually did the “but then people will want to marry their cats” thing. To his credit, “Kochy’s”‘ contempt for him was barely restrained. I needed a shower after just watching him.

  2. There’s an article on what ‘voluntarily mandatory’ or ‘mandatorily voluntary’ might mean at Orzeszek Blog: “What Conroy Meant by Voluntarily Mandatory

  3. Jim Wallace – “The promise was clearly about providing a safer internet environment for children”
    Doesn’t he mean a safe planet for children? Not that it will, but it isn’t children who are accessing child porn on the net.

  4. Gods above, I realise having no knowledge whatsoever of the subject in question is just about a prerequisite for becoming the Minister in charge of it, but sometimes I really do despair of Mr Conroy. He’s been the minister responsible for this department for over a year now, and he still doesn’t have even a rough idea of how many ISPs are in the country? Damnit, when can we start pointing out that the man is being wilfully incompetent, and ask that he either be shuffled to a different cabinet role, or sacked from the cabinet altogether?

  5. Meg: Oh, it gets better. The exchange went on:

    Senator CONROY – There are different methods of applying the policy. One of the methods that has recently been tested overseas—I believe it might be New Zealand—has found a way to do it without distributing the lists.
    Senator LUDLAM —Maybe we will get to that a little bit later.
    Senator Conroy —I am not an expert in it. I just saw a reference to it recently, but I think it is New Zealand.

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