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The Federal government has come good with one of the promises that is to introduce mandatory Internet filtering. They want to introduce what's called a "clean" feed. People will be able to opt out. But will it actually solve the problem?

We would not disagree with the proposition that there is a lot of nasty content out there on the Internet. The question is what we do about it? Content filtering is an old-style method to deal with the problem. The thing is the world has changed. A lot of our life has moved from the real lives there into the virtual realm and this requires a new paradigm, a new way of thinking. In real life can't always avoid the nasties, so we use strategies to deal with them. The same applies to the virtual world.

Whose responsibility is it to monitor Internet content? Should it be up to the State to do it? Do we trust the current State to do it? Would we trust a future state? We're not trying to drift off into some kind of Orwellian fantasy. Talk of Australia going the way of China is an exaggeration. Who decides what is appropriate? Let's put forward a hypothetical. What happens if for example, the government wants to put a piece of legislation through the Senate. Governments very rarely have a mjority in the Sentae and often have to do deals to get legislation through.  That's politics. What's to stop a Senator with a strong, moral belief in "family values" from putting forward something like information on abortion as being judged inappropriate content? Would the government do a deal with the "devil" to get the legislation through? We'll leave that one with you.

Are still questions over the technicalities of filtering software. Does it work effectively? Will slow the Net down? A lot of these questions remain unanswered. One problem is the sheer volume of traffic on the Internet. This has been growing exponentially since the Internet began. The sheer volume of content that is going to need to be filtered under such a scheme is going to grow at a huge rate. We doubt there be a supercomputer powerful enough to actually cope with the ever-increasing tide of data.

It is also quite easy to bypass a clean feed filter. Political dissidents do it all the time in countries like Iran and China. The technology is out there. It is open source and very easy to find.

The responsibility should really rest with the individual. It is up to families to monitor how the Internet is used in their homes. There are some hints as to what you can do:

  • If the kids are accessing the computer that needs to be in a public area. The computer out in the lounge living area.
  • Supervise what your children access on the Internet.
  • Talk to them about what's out there. Maybe show some examples. Show them some spam. Explain that spam is about fraud and theft
  • Give them the tools to deal with the net nasties.
  • Install some filtering software on your home computer

Footnote

In late 2012, Senator Conroy quietly ditched the cleanfeed filter idea.

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