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:
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.