About a year ago I wrote a piece entitled Australia Online, in which I suggested that public discourse has failed to consider the economic impact of Internet policy, and has instead been distracted by the fears and philosophical questions that the medium has raised. At the time, I had assumed that the Australian Labor Party's policy to implement a mandatory Internet filtering system - to be enforced by Internet service providers - was merely a ploy. After all, despite the obvious economic need to increase bandwidth, there are still a few crazies out there who are scared of new technology.
As it turned out, however, this is a real policy that the Rudd government is committed to. In fact, they are actually pushing for technical trials despite a massive public backlash. Get Up! Australia - a non-affiliated collection of activists - have come out against the filter on both the economic and civil liberties front, so far gathering at least 86,000 online signatures. On Facebook, more than 5,400 people have registered their intent to join this weekend's national street protest in the state capitals, with a further 7,400 maybe responses. And, after Stephen Conroy, the Minister for Broadband and the Digital Economy, launched his department's shiny new blog, there has been a non-stop flood of comments against the proposal. Here's a taste:
- The proposed filter is flawed for reasons both technical and social. Its up to parents to police their children's Internet exposure, not some governing body. As a voter and ICT professional for may years, I vehemently oppose such a useless attempt at pandering to the ignorant an uninformed.
- Ridiculous. This is like 1984 meets China. Whatever happened to the free world?
In an attempt to counter the arguments of civil libertarians and people who actually know how technology works, advocates of the scheme have been arguing from a secular moral high ground, and a close look at this story on the 7:30 Report epitomizes how the debate is being framed - with protecting children on one side and supporting Internet stakeholders on the other.