• Technology's New Role as a Parent

    605713-stephen-conroyThis is an opinion piece by forum member Lutze. Agree, disagree? Tell us why in the forums!

    With the government stubbornly ploughing through with the Clean Feed proposal, it seems that the future is nearly here for Australia as weíre all very close to having the ultimate parent watching over our shoulders as we browse the web. I decided that Iíd look into the proposal as far as I could and put myself into the position of a normal, busy Australian family with two kids one approaching 10 and the other 14.

    By the time a child is 14 they are expected to be doing at least a proportion of their school work on a computer, so the pressure is there from the start, that they have a computer in their bedroom where they can study in peace and quiet from their younger sibling. Though, thatís not to say that the younger child would not want a computer of their own, as is often the case.

    As a technical minded person my response is to make sure that the computers are not put in bedrooms, but placed in open, public areas where supervision is possible. But as weíre reminded a lot these days, we simply cannot watch our kids 100% of the time. This is where the Governments mandatory filter will fit in with the vast majority of the populations life.

    Governments do not pick a policy that they think will lose them the majority vote in the next election, so, the Minister and his team believe that this is a vote winner for the majority of parents. An assertion that has already been confirmed by various polls, among them the ABC commissioned McNair Ingenuity Research telephone poll of 1018 Australians in February this year. When the 1018 survey respondents were asked "Do we need Government regulation of content on the internet the same as other media content" - 62% said yes. When asked if "Having a mandatory Government Internet filter that would automatically block all access in Australia, to overseas websites that containing material that is Refused Classification" - a whopping 80% said yes.

    As the McNair research shows, when you look deeper into it, the Government have got a lot of evidence to show they are right. The 62% for regulation represent 10.1 million Australian adults, in comparison to the 35% who make up 5.7 million. Further - the 80% who are in favour of the mandatory Government filter represent 13.1 million voters compared to just 3 million Australian voters against it.

    Of course the Electronic Frontiers Australia group would have us believe that the results are entirely the wrong way around, based on a survey of a group of people on a popular internet forum, people for whom the filter is not particularly aimed at. The kind of person who hangs out on a web forum is, after all, almost always a crazed conspiracy theorist...

    So put yourself in the government's shoes. They have technology that they have tested and shown, to their satisfaction, works for the job itís being asked to do. This is a law that they can put into place that protects busy working parents children, while they try to do their best for the future of them. For the government, this is a win / win situation.

    There are, of course, other ways that the Clean Feed system could be implemented, most of the negative comments are based around the censor in this case being protected from publishing itís list of blocked sites and not being publicly accountable. An example of this method is currently being used by the UKís largest broadband provider, BT.

    Before I started writing this article I thought that it would be good to try to get the Ministerís answer to a range of questions about the Mandatory Internet Filter.
    If you do some searching you can find a lot out about our Minister for Broadband, Communications and the Digital Economy. Heís 46, though he wonít thank me for reminding people that heís fast approaching 47. Heís from Cambridgeshire in England - his folks came here when he was 10. I can relate to him, his parents were probably fairly strict, heís been brought up to be a Catholic and still seems to follow his principles on things where the church and the state converge like the abortion drug RU486 that he voted against. You can email him through senator.conroy@aph.gov.au and minister@dbcde.gov.au

    These are the questions I sent to Senator Conroy:

    1. Are you aware that it's extremely easy for the technically minded to bypass this filter in a way that completely hides the traffic from the system?

    2. Who is the filter aimed at? For example, I have three internet connections at home that will be affected by this - however my partner and I are both adults and neither of us is particularly likely to accidentally head into the material that has been proposed as blocked. We therefore would gain all the negatives without any positives.

    3. How was the decision reached to make the filter compulsory instead of opt-out?

    4. How do you feel about the negative press, acts of cyber terrorism being staged against Australian Government sites and the E.F.A.'s view that the filter is a bad thing?

    5. Is the filter technology replacing good parenting skills?

    6. What do you feel the positive outcome of the filter will be?

    7. From the trail that took place, what criteria was used to determine that it was successful?

    8. What review process is there going to be in place to ensure that the impact is going to be minimal when the filtering ramps up to include the larger internet service providers? iiNet, for example, have been publicly skeptical about this.

    Unfortunately the Minister has, at time of going to post, not responded to, nor has he acknowledged the request I sent him on the 23rd of February.
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