14 April 2010

Conroy spun the filter trial, and out came a report fluffier than a Himalayan cat that's been through a clothes drier

Senator Conroy has had more than enough time to provide clarity, substance and certainty on his planned mandatory Internet censorship regime. With each day that passes that their calls for reason, common sense and clarity on this issue are ignored, Australians with legitimate concerns about this policy grow ever more cynical about the ability of their politicians to understand and represent their views on issues relevant to ordinary Australians. In this age many Australians consider the Internet to be fundamental to their every day personal communications, just like the analogue telephone which is being replaced by VOIP, where voice telephony is delivered via the Internet. Many Australians consider this a serious issue that warrants robust and informed debate involving all stakeholders, and for it to be based on fact.

The Enex TestLab report is misleading and has Senator Conroy’s fingerprints all over it. Take for example the feedback from customers on page 28:

Participants were asked if access was blocked to sites that they thought they should have access to (e.g. to identify perceptions of over-blocking). Only a couple of respondents indicated that they were frequently blocked access to sites they should have had access to, while most respondents reported that they were blocked “possibly once or twice”. A number of users reported they were “unsure” as to whether they had been blocked unnecessarily and some customers commented on the benefit of seeing some “output” of the filters action.

Proponents of the government’s policy might think that this is just collateral damage in the war on child pornography because it appears in the section of the report titled Customer Feedback — Additional Content Filtering, which covers the impact of the optional “family” filter on customers’ experience. We don’t know whether reports of over-blocking and other negative feedback can be attributed to the mandatory filter which was used at the same time for customers who participated in the trial of the filter for optional additional categories. They did not seek feedback from customers who participated in the trial of the mandatory filter alone.

Conroy boasts that the AMCA filter is 100% accurate. It’s just like throwing a net into the ocean, pulling out a few fish and saying “See these fish I’ve caught? It’s 100% accurate at catching these fish.”

You don’t have to embrace libertarianism to see the insanity. The end does not justify the means, especially when evidence that the end will be achieved does not exist. Will it block 5% of child pornography on the Internet? Will it even block 1%? Nobody knows. It’s hard for experts to provide clear answers when they are not provided with clearly defined aims. Also, it’s hard to disprove something that was never proven in the first place. The government has failed to demonstrate that the technology it intends to impose on each and every Australian will be effective in protecting children from child pornography.

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