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09 July 2010

Australian Internet Filter Delayed Under PM Gillard, Sen Conroy, by Greg Tingle - 9th July 2010

Readers, punters, journalists, internet entrepreneurs, casino tycoons, and everyone else, major developments, or perhaps more accurately, a major news update on wait for it... the proposed Australian internet filter and blacklist, in what has developed into quite the saga... Media Man and and Gambling911 probe the Aussie web and political space again. One of the faces has changed, but the Aussie PM is standing firm with Senator Stephen Conroy at the communications inc internet helm. Will 3 times revisited work a charm, or is it going to be 3 strikes and your out? (come election time in roughly 3 months say experts).

Ok, we admit it, news of the delay (and reworking of the proposed internet filter and related blacklisted) brought somewhat of a smile to our kisser, but the fact remains, the internet filter and blacklist is still on the agenda. Does anyone one seriously think the Australian government will catch serious criminals on the internet? Crims are understood to use either p2p (peer to peer), closed networks, or not use the internet at all.

Media Man has spoken to hundreds of people about the proposed internet filter and blacklist over the past three years or so, and the general belief is that its more a part of the government puzzle as to the control of information, monitoring who says and writes what, and you get the idea. In a world where there are video cameras monitoring citizens on the street, cross referencing faces aka "mug shots" (slang) to drivers licences, red light cameras, telephone listing devices ("bugs") - overt or covert, why would one be surprised that the Governments of the world want to more closely monitor, even largely control the internet. Former mayor of Minnesota and host of 'Conspiracy Theories' said it well. "The government wants to try to control the internet. Internet control is what's next"!

Let's take a closer look at what's happening down under as we go to press...

Communications Minister Sen Stephen Conroy has apparently listened to widespread community and business concerns over his internet censorship policy and delayed any mandatory filters until at least next year. It's perceived and his, but its largely in his portfolio, and under the Labour government. Conroy is not the PM (we hear the collective sigh of relief).

Entrepreneurs, academics, ISP gurus, political commentators, media company owners, publishers, humanitarians, the United States government and a cross-section of community groups have long said that the plan to block a secret squirrel "blacklist" of "refused classification" web pages for all Aussies was tangled with complexities such as for eg: blocked RC content could include innocuous material.

Having consistently ignored these concerns, Senator Conroy announced less than 12 hours ago that implementation of his policy would be delayed until a review of RC classification guidelines could be conducted by state and territory censorship ministers. This is not expected to commence until the middle of 2011.

Sen Conroy remarked "Some sections of the community have expressed concern about whether the range of material included in the RC category ... correctly reflects current community standards. As the government's mandatory ISP filtering policy is underpinned by the strength of our classification system, the legal obligation to commence mandatory ISP filtering will not be imposed until the review is completed."

As of time of publication many Aussie ISPs including Telstra Bigpond, Optus, and iPrimus - have pledged to block child-abuse websites voluntarily. The voluntary approach has long been advocated by internet gurus and experts, bringing Australia into step with other countries such as Britain.

"It will be just child porn, and that will be consistent with best practice in Scandinavia and Europe," Peter Coroneos, chief executive of the Internet Industry Association, said.

The government has not scraped the bastard mandatory filtering policy altogether, as it has now announced a range of transparency and accountability measures to address concerns about the scheme.

The List...(thank you to our friends at Fairfax Media who also supply Media Man newsfeeds)

an annual review of content on the blacklist by an "independent expert".
clear avenues of appeal for people whose sites are blocked.
content will be added to the blacklist by the Classification Board, instead of the Australian Communications and Media Authority.
affected parties will have the ability to have decisions reviewed by the Classification Review Board.
people will know when they surf to a blocked page as a notification will appear.
"The public needs to have confidence that the URLs on the list, and the process by which they get there, is independent, rigorous, free from interference or influence and enables content and site owners access to appropriate review mechanisms," Senator Conroy said.

One of Senator Conroy's most vocal political critics (other than Media Man) is Greens party communications spokesman Scott Ludlam, who took the move by the government as a signal the detractors were winning their battle to have the policy altered more in line with what is supposed to be a society that respects privacy, freedom of speech, freedom of the press et al.

"A review of the RC is helping; that's a good idea. I think the fact that ISPs are putting their own initiatives forward voluntarily is also helpful," Senator Ludlam said.

"(But) if we're still pursuing mandatory ISP-level filtering then obviously we're not there yet. All we've got today is a useful acknowledgment of some of the flaws in the system and I'm hoping that they take this period to reflect on the overall objectives of the scheme."

He disclosed even if the policy was narrowed to just child-abuse material, major issues remained, such as that the filters are easy to bypass and will not block even a fraction of the net nasties. There was nothing stopping future governments from expanding the blacklist to cover other types of content.

"I don't interpret (the move) as killing it but I do interpret it as trying to neutralise the issue in the short term as far as the election is concerned," said Colin Jacobs, spokesman for the online users' lobby group Electronic Frontiers Australia.

"They're tinkering around the edges with the classification scheme without having a rethink around how you apply a system that was designed for books and movies to the internet."

The Safer Internet Group, which includes state schools, libraries, Google, iiNet, Inspire Foundation, Internet Industry Association, Yahoo and the System Administrators Guild of Australia welcomed the new approach the government was taking on cyber safety.

Google, which has seemed to have been at war with Senator Conroy over the policy, advised it was "heartened" to see the government had taken into account "the genuine concerns expressed by many" on the RC category.

"While we're yet to see full details, a voluntary proposal by ISPs, limited to child abuse material, is consistent with the approach taken in many of Australia's peer countries worldwide," Google Australia managing director Karim Temsamani said. In addition, "Our primary concern has always been that the scope of the proposed filter is far too broad. It goes way beyond child sexual abuse material and would block access to important online information for all Australians."

Simon Sheikh, chief executive of the online activist group GetUp!, said the delay on the mandatory filters was proof that the government had heard the voices of the hundreds of thousands of Australians prepared to vote on this issue.

"But a delay is not enough...the Government needs to announce that they will either scrap, or change the policy to an opt-in model, so that Australians themselves can judge how best to protect their children online. When it comes to protecting our children online we need investment in education, home-based filters and the federal police. These investments will better equip parents to protect their children at home, and better equip police to combat the issues at their source."

More Details...

iiNet is not currently involved in the voluntary filter but has not ruled out signing up.

An iiNet spokesperson said the ISP has yet to make a decision on the issue as it has not been clued in on the finer details of the plans.

"We haven’t seen details of what the Federal Government is doing today in terms of practicalities, technicalities and how it actually works," the spokesperson said.

The move contradicts the Minister's statement made days ago that the filtering legislation would be introduced by November at the latest. According to the Senator Conroy, the Internet clean-feed will only block RC content which includes overtly violent material, child pornography and content involving bestiality.

A Media Man spokesman said "While the latest developments and announcements are welcome there's still a number of other factors to consider. On good authority we under that the Australian government wants all Aussie ISP's to track and keep record of their clients internet websites visited. One must ask the question... is that invasion or privacy or not. We know the answer. Furthermore, real criminals are not doing to be peddling kiddy porn of whatever on regular internet connections either, so what is this really all about... governments trying to control its citizens I might suggest, just as Jesse Ventura has been tipping off his American friends. Jesse went on record with 'I will never commit suicide', knowing that it might be easier for the U.S government if Ventura was not alive to alert his fellow citizens as to the Government 'Big Brother' and 'Art Of War' tactics. Read up also on Wikileaks, founded by an Aussie Julian Assange and also and Alex Jones who has the now famous tag line... InfoWars, Because There Is A War On For Your Mind!

Online Poker, Online Casino Games, Poker Babes?...

It's a wait and see situation as to what poker and gaming websites may get blocked. For the record, and some readers will know this already, both Media Man and Gambling911 are website portals, covering a range of sectors from gaming, gambling, poker, entertainment, technology and politics. Websites such as TMZ, The Daily Telegraph and The Sydney Morning Herald also cover gaming, gambling and sports betting, often having pro active advertising campaigns running and sometimes with editorials and Google advertising feeds and "sponsored links". The nature of the web is dynamic, so in theory website content, campaigns, links etc can be changed on almost a second by second basis. That makes for even more complex legal, technical and other aspects. Oh, Media Man has 10,000s of web pages cross dozens of websites and only probably has one set of tits...wrestling babes (and no private parts below), so MM is not an adult company either. Media Man is in fact in the Hitwise top ten (entertainment - personalities category), as has been for the past 7 years. MM also participates in dozens of affiliate programs across about a dozen business sectors, just one being gaming. Readers, get the point of how complex some of the elements are, as explained to Fairfax Media two months ago in a 30 minute interview.


Wrap up...

Did you enjoy your internet and political report? Be sure to check out some of the proxy websites (they are supposed to hide ones computer identification). Not that you would be visiting anywhere you shouldn't be? We know... some lists are secret squirrel so how do you know. Many folks just don't like the idea of governments of the world monitoring their activities, which is fair enough. Some governments and defence forces also have equipment that can see through walls, and don't forget about the satellites up in the sky! Google Earth is just the tip of the iceberg, as is internet monitoring. My fellow citizens, be vigilant and be vocal, as you have been over the years. The "war" has just begun. Punters, as always know the odds and keep it legal. Good punting and web surfing, and have fun.

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*The writer is a special contributor for Gambling911

*Media Man is primarily a media, publicity and internet portal development company. Gaming is just one of a bakers dozen of sectors they cover. They also offer political commentary and analysis.

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