Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Net filter: major misrepresentations

I've written previously about why the Australian Federal Government's proposed mandatory internet filter is one of the stupidest ideas to come down the pike, more draconian than China's Great Firewall that blocks any sites the Chinese Government finds inconvenient, will actively damage the economy, and is just plain counter-productive. It will succeed in slowing down the internet speed for all Australians by 86% (which means accessing anything will take five times longer). Most importantly, it will NOT PROTECT CHILDREN. Go read my previous post, in which I use a fairly simple road-traffic analogy to make my points.

Back now? Thanks. Today, ABC News reports that Electronic Frontiers Australia have opined that the plan will not protect kids.

Of course it won't. Particularly in light of recent findings by the Internet Safety Technical Task force - composed of representatives of the computer industry, academics, and executives from Facebook, MySpace, Yahoo, AOL and Verizon - that the greatest online danger for kids comes not from adult sexual predators, but from each other. A child is much more likely to be a victim of cyber-bullying by their peers than a target for pedophiles.

Let's be completely clear: all of the people who are best qualified to know oppose it vehemently. Not a single ISP in the country supports it. iiNet's CEO says it will be fail dismally and iiNet is only participating in the trial so that the results won't get swept under the carpet and the filter pushed ahead anyway. Opponents include the System Administrators Guild of Australia and the Internet Industry Association as well as Electronic Frontiers Australia. The IIA's opposition especially should be noted: it's the industry peak body.

Despite the very clear reasons why a compulsory Australia-wide net filter will be an abject failure, some groups continue to say that they support it. Their arguments are completely without merit and remind me of nothing so much as the woman from the Simpsons whose sole contribution to any crisis is to wail "Won't someone think of the children?!?". Let's take today's comments from the Australian Christian Lobby's managing director Jim Wallace:
"...[Wallace] has dismissed claims the trials will show the system will not work."
I love that. Wallace can't compete (or even argue) the technical issues, so just dismisses them. Wallace, you're arguing against industry experts, ISP CEOs, and the ISP peak body. They know their shit. You need to have good arguments or just shut up.
"The advances in performance and accuracy shown in the Australian Communications and Media Authority trial results internet filtering released in June last year over the previous 2005 NetAlert Ltd trial show that it is both sensible and responsible to continue with the trial process."
That's almost word for word from the executive summary of the ACMA's report on Closed Environment Testing of ISP-Level Content Filtering. You know what the main difference between this and the NetAlert trial was? "Closed environment". It was done in a test lab. Ask an IT professional how good the correlations are between results in a test lab and results in the real world. When they'v finished laughing, you'll get an earful.

Finally, Wallace quotes a 2003 Newspoll commissioned by the Australia Institute - a well-known right-wing think-tank - and says:
"A Newspoll commissioned by the Australia Institute in 2003 found that 93 per cent of parents of 12 to 17 year olds were in favour of automatically filtering out internet pornography at ISP level unless adult users asked otherwise," he said.
C'mon, it's the Australia Institute. Can we spell "foregone conclusion", children? No? How about "clear bias"? Let's have a look at the actual wording of the question:
‘Would you support a system which automatically filtered out internet pornography going into homes unless adult users asked otherwise?’
So let's summarise Wallace's statement:

* a complete failure to address the issue or argue anything of substance

* quoting the results of a lab test conducted by a Federal Government agency in support of a Federal Government proposal. (Who really thinks the ACMA would have published an anti-filter finding? Anyone...?)

* quoting a 2003 heavily biased push-poll that contained no caveats or downside to the hypothetical filter.

Yeah, I'm sure convinced. /sarcasm

If you want to check the numerous, extremely good, reasons why it won't work, start at http://nocleanfeed.com/ and then check the "Further Reading".


Anonymous said...

¿Cómo puedo pedirle más detalles? Gran post necesidad de saber más ...

Anonymous said...

Suona bene, mi piace leggere i vostri blog, appena aggiunto ai miei preferiti;)

Anonymous said...

There is obviously a lot to know about this. I think you made some good points in Features also. Keep working ,great job!.