Internet filter gets caught up in politics

Rodney Gedda

Rodney Gedda is the former deputy editor of CIO and former editor of Techworld.

It was a long time coming, but the coalition has done what many predicted was inevitable and formally opposed the government’s mandatory Internet filter policy. Good politics or a knee-jerk reaction during the campaign trail? Let’s investigate. I would have liked to see more discussion from the opposition when the concept of ISP filtering became mainstream – and frequent – technology news.

A very short history of the idea began with the Howard government a decade ago (then opposed by Labor) and has since been openly pursued by the Labor government and its communications minister Stephen Conroy.

Over the past few years Labor’s progressive introduction of the scheme has attracted vocal criticism from many in the IT community and all other walks of life – even the Sex Party.

The problem is not so much the intention, but the implementation.

Most people don’t care if lurid material is filtered from the Internet, but having a central filter to achieve this is bound to be beyond the scope of what is aimed to be achieved.

Why? Because content that they don’t want to be filtered will invariably end up being filtered and that level of censorship goes against our basic principles.

For this election campaign the question is whether the coalition really cares about people’s liberties or is it just trying to swoop on what it can see as being bad policy.

Me thinks it’s the latter. The policy of ISP filtering is a dismal failure. Rudd should have seen that long ago.

There will always be people who are interesting in politics and support one particular party and there will always be those who are apolitical and don’t care about party politics at all, but when one party introduces a policy that has the potential to infringe the right of the apathy then suddenly all those people will be influenced to vote against a political party on the basis of policy.

Labor should have seen the writing on the wall. Organised street protests of thousands of people against the potential of a political party’s policy? Come on, that should have set alarm bells of right from the start. Remember, this thing isn’t even law yet.

All the people that didn’t care which way they voted in this upcoming election now suddenly do have a reason to vote in a particular direction.

By announcing its opposition to Internet filtering the coalition has essentially found itself “appealing” the apathy.

Today I received a media release from SAGE-AU (yeah, apparently it still exists) welcoming the opposition’s stand on the Internet filter. Talk about swinging voters.

IT and politics generally don’t mix. But when the latter starts to impede the rights of the former the wider population understands very quickly how important information is in their lives and people are prepared to act to defend their rights.

Rodney Gedda is Editor of TechWorld Australia. Follow Rodney on Twitter at @rodneygedda. Rodney's e-mail address is Follow TechWorld Australia on Twitter at @Techworld_AU.

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