I headed off to the ABC Studios in Ultimo Sydney for Q and A last night thinking that there would be a high energy after the Four Corners broadcast. And there was. I guess I wanted to know more than anything else this: What else could the money be spent on?  Are there solutions that don’t need $40million to block 100,000 pages out of billions that are not easily routed around and that won’t limit free speech on important community issues such as euthanasia, what -is-art and abortion?

ABC TV: Four Corners addressed the Internet Filter:

  • Is there a problem with the internet? Have you ever come across anything truly legally blockable – not just nekkid girly bits – even if you went looking for it? i.e do we need to fix it?
  • If so, should it be addressed by the Government ? Or parents, or teachers? Who do you want making moral decisions for the next generation?
  • Is a grown up filter the same as a childrens’ filter? Filter for all Australians vs unsupervised children?
  • How do we ensure that legal material (abortion, euthanasia discussions) don’t get chucked out with the nasteh stuff?
  • How do we ensure we can still discuss at a community level online Bill Henson (Art or Child Porn), Euthanasia, abortion without being blocked or having our discussions removed?
  • How do we ensure the Government doesn’t use the filter for it’s own nefarious purposes (we love a good conspiracy theory, don’t we!)
  • If the filter blocks web pages not web sites (an individual page) then is a $40 odd million dollar (they didn’t say the cost on Four Corners but that’s right, isn’t it?) filter going to block more than 100,000 pages out of billions of pages? Apparently not.
  • If the filter doesn’t block YouTube, Facebook, Twitter, and peer to peer services such as MSN Messenger will it work? Particularly if the majority of traffic is to these sites, not hidden secret websites with nasty stuff on it.
  • Just how easy is it to get around. I mean, 15 year olds can, and 75 year olds can, but can I? Will we see Dummies Guide to Hacking The Australian Filter on the banned books list?
  • With VPN Tunnel Australia, encryption and the coming 802.11s what’s the point of spending money on a filter that can’t read anything?
  • What else could the money be spent on?  Are there services that don’t need $40million to block 100,000 pages out of billions that are not easily routed around and that won’t limit free speech on important community issues such as abortion, euthanasia and what -is-art?
  • That Stephen Conroy has done a great service to Australia by placing these issues – in a notoriously laid back “she’ll be right” nation – on the table for discussion. Well, since December 2009 anyway. For that alone he should be commended.

I learnt a couple of things from Four Corners that I didn’t know before. Both were from Stephen Conroy. One was that not the whole site would be blocked, just individual pages. The second is that a non-Government group would be the judge and jury, not the government. I think the Government has the best of intentions, but I know from experience that when even, say, Google is asked to take down a post on someone’s blog on Blogger (Google’s blog site), they delete the whole blog. That’s one reason I moved off from Blogger to here. I imagine that very quickly that will become the sensible thing to do – otherwise another page springs up to get around the blocked page. “Just block the whole damn thing already!”  As for the second – AUDA look after “legal” domain names in Australia. And after AUDA misusing their power and deleting my satire/parody OptusPoo site on the grounds that people could mistype the Z of Zoo (bottom left of keyboard) with a P for Poo (top right of keyboard), I don’t trust third party agencies to police the internet.

ABC TV: Q and A on censorship, filters and naughty Twitterati

Gee Tony Jones is a nice chap. That doesn’t come across on TV, I think the “warm up” guy was right. He moves into a more forceful ,strong character role when dealing with Australia’s intelligentsia and fiercely opinionated panellists each week. One senses that every other day and 23 hours on a Monday, he is more comfortable in a dressing gown and slippers, puffing on a pipe while quietly reading a book in an armchair. Then pow! lights camera action and he turns from genial chap to lion tamer. *crack*

Once I got into the studio, it was phones off, no tweeting due to their technical equipment which was mega disappointing. It was clear from what the floor manager said that she wanted us paying attention and being involved. Not doing what we do at home which is tweeting our disgust/delight. We were in fact encouraged to chatter, groan, laugh and create “energy” from participation. Which is a bit of a relief from all those years of “sit down, shut up and just listen/watch“.

I enjoyed the show, I came home and watched it again. Here’s the Q and A transcript. Here’s the Twitter #QandA info from ABC -click through to comments for more.  I’m not sure that Q and A resolved anything except for the fact that it’s clear that “If you are against the filter, you are for child pornography” has been show up for the specious argument that it is. Over 90% of the audience raised their hands as against the Filter.  I’m hoping that soon we can move on from “The filter doesn’t work” to “this works”. Though like Mark Newton said, do we need anything at all?

NOTE: As a community manager I have seen more porn than any one person has a right to see. I  don’t believe that these pain-in-the-patootie members inflicting obscene acts on my communities through images and videos are doing it for a sexual reason but for power and notoriety (same thing). They get banned but I have to remove it all. And if a guy posts up a nasty image 2000 times on one bulletin board cos he got drunk and grumpy one Friday night, and it’s me that has to remove each post over the weekend, I’m ready to murder him slowly and painfully. And I definitely block shock sites now. But I still don’t believe in an all encompassing Internet Filter.