Strange bedfellows: Sex and IT unite to stop Net censorship

With the government spending millions on an impossible Internet filter, even the sex and IT industries agree its a bad idea

The Australian Sex Party's Fiona Patten

The Australian Sex Party's Fiona Patten

Who would have thought the government's proposed Internet filtering scheme would bring together so many disparate groups all united in their opposition to mandatory censorship?

The newly-formed Australian Sex Party, for example, has come out and blasted the idea of Internet filtering, putting itself on the same side as the entire tech industry — from networking vendors to ISPs.

Sex Party leader Fiona Patten believes the government is already backing down on its original promises and is shifting the focus of what type of content will be filtered — a significant concern for all who are seeking more transparency.

“In meetings I had with Senator Conroy last year he indicated that they had no intention of banning non-violent erotica or X-rated material,” Patten said. “But that is not the case — the ACMA Web site lists the types of material that will 'qualify' for the blacklist. This includes material that would be rated X (18+).

According to the Sex Party, there is a clear distinction between X-rated (18+) content, which can be legally traded on DVDs, and child pornography and sexual violence, and the government should not attempt to lump them together in one blacklist.

“They also state that the blacklist will only contain 10,000 sites. One wonders how they will choose from the millions of sexually explicit sites out there,” Patten said.

As for child pornography that is already deemed illegal, the Sex Party believes the filter will not reduce the amount of child abuse material out there because it is generally only available via P2P networks.

“I would like to see them spending more of their resources on catching the bastards that are creating this material,” Patten said.

So great is the opposition to the idea of content filtering that organised street protests have already popped up around the country, uniting unlikely groups of people for a common cause.

The initial Sydney protest attracted a “wide range of people”, including those from the gay and lesbian community, the Scarlet Alliance (the national sex worker alliance) and organisations like the EFA.

A number of political organisations were also involved — including the Greens, the Democrats and the Liberty and Democracy Party.

“When you read the blogs and comments on the major newspaper Web sites you realise the incredibly diverse range of people who are opposed to government's filtering [or] censoring the Internet,” Patten said.

The Sex Party also has a vested interest in not seeing the clean feed go through because it's own Web site might be censored in the second tier, or opt-out, filter.

“This would be tantamount to the censoring of political speech [and] we would definitely be fighting that,” she said. “Also, when you consider that this law makes what is legal in one format (magazines and films) and illegal in another I think there would be a trade practices argument that we would follow up.”

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