Software, hardware, wetware

Free Speech != Supporting Criminals

Tonight’s coverage of the internet censorship debate on Insight (and the subsequent chat, which was … intense - I got quite a few comments in, and responded to by the guests!) featured a lot of the pro-clean-feed side arguing that being against the blacklist, or in support of free speech, is to be in support of criminal behaviour. (You can review the chat here)

This assertion needs to be torn to shreds. It’s a straw man argument.

I/we are directly opposed to the proposed internet censorship for a variety of reasons:

  • We hold that people should be able to make their own choices, within the framework of the law…

  • … but Government mandated censorship should never be a part of the framework of the law

  • We understand that you are innocent of any crime, until proven guilty in a court of law

  • The ability to speak freely, do research and come to a conclusion are an inarguable necessity of any democracy - no matter the subject, no matter how odious, there are legitimate purposes for not restricting access to most (if not all) content (how do researchers at the ANU, hypothetically, study the prevalence of illegal material if they cannot access it?)

  • The proposed clean feed does not block the most common routes taken by criminals for distributing their reprehensible materials (p2p sharing, private non-web filesharing sites, email, etc.)

  • The proposed clean feed CANNOT block all methods of access, because the world has encryption; it will always be possible to distribute information freely (regardless of the legality of that material)

  • Experience in Denmark, Finland, South Korea and Thailand has shown that while filtering systems may initially be intended to stop illegal material, they are soon used to stop legal material too

  • The leak of the ACMA Blacklist has shown that Australian authorities are not up to the task of administering and maintaining the blacklist, which contained several erroneous entries (and therefore blocked legal material).

A government is just a group of people, as fallible as any other. We do not trust them to make the decisions about what we can/can’t view on the Internet on a day to day basis, using taxpayer dollars; as citizens, we believe we have the right to self-inform and self-educate.

Criminals, meanwhile, should be bought to justice as swifly as possible. All the money being spent on this flawed internet censorship scheme should be channeled to law enforcement agencies who can track down, convict and prosecute (in a court of law) criminals of every stripe. We should do everything we can to support their efforts without censorship.

If the clean feed must go ahead, make it optional. Give parents the ability to sign up at an ISP level - which will be harder (but not impossible) for the kids to get around. Make ISPs mention the opt-in feed at registration time and give people the power to opt in/out at whim. Advertise it - educate the parents - protect the children of parents who want that protection to come from the government, and give all other parents the right to make their own parenting choices.