Sunday, January 4, 2009


I've added Stigherrian to the blog roll - but more out of anger than anything else.

He had yet another piece about Internet filtering in Crikey today (in the subscriber section so I haven't linked it). The following is the comment I've offered to Crikey (that they chose not to publish)

Re: Conroy attacks BitTorrent: Ruins Australia online Stilgherrian is now well reowned amongst Crikey readers as an Internet censorship hater, but you really should be reading what he writes before you print it. His opening paragraph critices the Government's filtering plan without showing any recognition of what the plan entails - so that he continues to repeat the nonsense that the "filter" won't work.

The Government has never anounced a plan to ensure everyone is safe, just that it wants to implement something that looks like the existing classification scheme (that applies to books, movies etc) to websites. The fact that it can be by-passed by other means (e.g. by e-mail or snail mail) isn't the point. And the point of a technical trial is to see what happens.

I'm reminded of the might with which telcos claimed that they could do nothing about Internet dumping in the early part of the decade, only to find via this morning's SMH that Optus was up to their necks in it.

Your correspondant goes on to claim that Conroy's comment about possibly filtering peer-to-peer traffic amounted to a plan to block all BitTorrents, then goes and quotes one legitimate BitTorrent user to get a reaction to the inaccurate conclusion. All of it is garbage.

Meanwhile if Stilgherrian really believes his rhetoric on censorship let's see him start a campaign to have all Refused Classification material allowed into Australia as X+ because - using his logic - existing restrictions won't guarantee that none of it will get in.


  1. It's a shame Crikey didn't publish your comment. Still, I can point out what I think are problems with it here, eh?

    My article is now available outside the Crikey paywall at my website.

    One difficulty in writing for Crikey is that their 400 to 500 word limit on articles means subtleties have to be dropped. One is repeating the description of the government's plan. Despite your claim, they have announced an intention to filter much more than the ACMA blacklist -- varying from being "made available" to opt-in to opt-out depending which version you hear. Irene Graham has what I think is the definitive documentation at

    I didn't actually claim Conroy's single sentence "amounted to a plan to block all BitTorrents", and indeed the quotes from Eirik Solheim do differentiate between the effects of blocking all torrents or trying to "filter" them -- albeit not as clearly as it could have been.

    Mark Newton notes on my site that there are no COTS products which can "filter" BitTorrent, so it would appear to be that one either blocks them all or none -- and I suspect Senator Conroy has not yet had the chance to be properly briefed on that.

    I don't see myself campaigning to allow all RC material into Australia, because it's nasty stuff from all accounts. What I am in favour of, though, is spending the money where it'll do the most good -- and that's been a consistent theme of my writing on this topic. Rather than tens of millions of dollars on Internet filters which won't achieve much in practice, just $10M to the Australian Federal Police would more than double their budget for dealing with child abuse material, with corresponding benefits to children.

  2. This blog has emphasised that this censorwall is designed less to protect children from seeing porn and more to protect children from being abused in the first place. It's a good point and one that lends itself to the censorwall being a bad idea.

    I'd like to see this blog post a reason why $44 million + ongoing maintenance costs should go to a filter that is demonstrably lacking instead of going to law enforcement agencies such as Argos, Centurion or the AFP.

    If the concern was to stop children being abused, then taking money away from law enforcement is counter-intuitive and dangerous.

    Also, I find it disappointing to note that this blog has also failed to mention the repercussions of such a black-list being leaked. A leak like that would enable paedophiles worldwide easy access to child porn. A black-list would enable child abuse in this regard.

    Jumping to the conclusion that Stilgherrian would like to see all censorship dropped from all media is just more of the knee-jerk desperation we're seeing in increasing amounts coming out of the pro-censorwall lobby.