Thursday, 27 November 2008

Activists target Rudd's net censorship plans

The political activists who helped free David Hicks and abolish Work Choices have now set their sights on the Government's plan to censor the internet, which is already facing a major backlash and a lack of political support.

GetUp says it plans to run mainstream ads and offline action that will be as elaborate as its free Hicks campaign. In just a day, a petition on its website has attracted over 22,000 signatures; GetUp said it had received more emails urging them to act on this issue than "any other campaign in recent history".

The Greens this week officially announced their opposition to the internet filtering plan, which critics like GetUp fear will slow the internet to a crawl and open the door to censorship of other material such as, political views and pro-abortion sites.

They join a chorus of dissent from internet providers, consumers, engineers, network administrators and online rights activists.

Despite the significant opposition, the Government is pressing ahead with live filtering trials, which it wants to launch by December 24. ISPs, which already offer free filters but on a voluntary basis, are reluctant to take part but fear they have no other way of showing the Government the deep flaws in its mandatory censorship plan.

"We're very, very concerned that there's going to be a unnecessary clamp down on the internet and it has to be watched," Greens leader Bob Brown said Tuesday.

GetUp campaign director Ed Coper said he was certain his organisation's "Save the Net" campaign would be "really big and ongoing".

"It's certainly one of the most ill-thought-out decisions of the Rudd Government so far," he said.

Laboratory test results released in June by the Australian Communications and Media Authority found available filters frequently let through content that should be blocked, incorrectly block harmless content and slow network speeds by up to 87 per cent.

The Government plans to impose a mandatory filter for all internet users that will block sites found on the secret ACMA blacklist and blacklists held by other countries. But only half of ACMA's list is child pornography, while the rest is mainly X-rated porn and sexual fetish material.

A second, optional filtering tier, which will also be tested in the trial, will block content deemed inappropriate for children.

The filters can easily be evaded by those using freely available tools.

Britain, Sweden, Canada, Norway, Denmark and New Zealand have all implemented similar filtering systems. However, in all cases, participation by ISPs was optional and the filtering was limited in scope to predominantly child pornography.

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