EFA attacks Labor’s ‘clean-feed’ Internet proposal

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EFA attacks Labor’s ‘clean-feed’ Internet proposal

Independent industry body, the Electronic Frontiers Australia (EFA) has savaged a plan by the Labor Government plan, (championed by Communications Minister Stephen Conroy) to "clean feed" filtered Internet connections to all homes and schools.

According to the EFA the mandate will “supposedly censor” the Internet of pornography and other "inappropriate material", however it goes further than the Liberal’s policies, by requiring individuals to opt-out of the scheme rather than request filtering from their service provider.

EFA chair, Dale Clapperton said waving the 'save the children' flag may be good politics, but it ignores serious technological problems which will likely cause the proposed scheme to fail.

"Furthermore, Australia is supposed to be a liberal democracy where adults have the freedom to say and read what they want, not just what the Government decides is 'appropriate' for them."

Clapperton said these announcements smack of the condescending paternalism which contributed to the downfall of the Howard government.

"The proposals threaten the free speech rights of every Australian, and our concerns will not be silenced by Government sound bites equating free speech with access to child pornography," he said.

However Senator Conroy makes no apologies for the development.

“If people equate freedom of speech with watching child pornography, then the Rudd-Labor Government is going to disagree,” he said.

The EFA believes that child pornography is already illegal, and very unlikely to come to the attention of either the casual web user or the censors themselves, said Clapperton.

He also believes that implementation of the proposal, would cause significant technical and administrative headaches for Australia's Internet Service Providers.

"This can only have the effect of making Australians' access to the internet slower and more expensive," he said. "Given the Prime Minister's election promise to focus on improving the nation's access to broadband, the fact that the first measures put in place should do the exact opposite is as disappointing as it is bewildering."

However Conroy said the Government’s proposal will not grind the Internet to a halt. However he has yet to explain to Internet engineers what the plans are to accomplish the plans.

"Anyone with a better understanding of the Internet than the Minister will tell you this system simply will not work," said Clapperton. "But a lot of taxpayers' money will be wasted if we try."

The EFA supports measures to provide filtering software to homes where it is requested, and to educate parents on monitoring their children's online activities.

"Unfortunately, ISP based filtering will not make the Internet safe for children, and may even cause harm in and of itself. If parents are deceived into believing that a 'filtered' Internet service is safe for children, they will be less likely to take sensible precautions such as supervising their children while they use the Internet," he said.

At a time when all sides of politics acknowledge the importance of developing our information economy, EFA feels that this announcement sends the wrong message to the rest of the world.

"The Coalition was rightly ridiculed by the rest of the world when they announced in the late 1990's that they would censor Australian's Internet access. The Coalition, at least, sensibly realised that their proposals were technologically infeasible. It seems that the current Minister with responsibility for the Internet has yet to learn that lesson."

While the debate rages on about how best to create a safe online environment for children, a Melbourne man was arrested on Christmas Eve for allegedly having in his possession 16,000 child pornography files.

The Australian Federal Police (AFP) allegedly found the images on the man's laptop computer when he arrived in Australia on a flight from China. He was detained at Melbourne airport as the result of a tip-off to the AFP's Online
Child Sex Exploitation Team.

Police examined the man’s computer and allegedly found more than 16,000 files depicting images and videos of child pornography. An external hard drive allegedly containing similar images. Video footage was also seized.

AFP agents then executed a search warrant at the man’s house in Bentleigh. Additional computers, hard drives, USB drives and CD files were seized, all of which are currently the subject of forensic testing.

The 40-year-old was charged with importing child pornography and possession of child pornography. The maximum penalty for these offences is 10 years imprisonment.
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