1) Conroy isn’t backpedaling, he’s reengineering rhetoric:

He now claims his plan is to block only material which would be classified as Refused Classification (RC). Well ‘almost exclusively’ Refused Classification — In typical Conroy fashion he has left himself a backdoor with enough room to park a Hummer-sized load of as much ‘unwanted’ content as he or anyone else in government likes.

Conroy’s plan has morphed from blocking child pornography and prohibited content on the ACMA blacklist into mandatory blocking of RC content (and a bit more). Little has changed and it’s no less dangerous.

Most RC content is legal to possess and view in Australia, with the exception of Western Australia and some indigenous communities in the Northern Territory. It’s a classification category that includes adult pornography containing fetishes like spanking… oh, and that anti-abortion web page we shouldn’t see. Refused Classification is a broad category of content that when applied to the Internet is immediately unmanageable, not like any other censorship system in Australia and an unequivocal attack on free speech.

2) Conroy is reacting to opposition:

Opposition from yourself, families, the Greens, the Liberals, ISPs, technologists, academics, media, business and nearly every nook and cranny on the Internet. He’s not changing tack for the fun of it; he’s doing it because his arguments are being discredited.

3) Conroy still doesn’t have clear policy or goals:

He’s been running the Government’s communications portfolio for well over a year now and his mandatory ISP filtering policy is barely more defined than it was when Labor went to the election. Conroy says policy will be determined by the outcome of the trials, yet offers no metric to measure their success. As Senator Minchin said last month, ‘it’s policy written on the back of envelope’.

4) Support for the filter is limited, but the community still needs educating:

Parents like Wayne Mitchell, the father at the start of the episode, believe the Government’s filtering plan will make the Internet ‘safe for all kids’. That’s a problem in more ways than one. What the Government has proposed will not stop the explicit spam Mr Mitchell’s daughter has been receiving through email and Bluetooth, nor will it stop cyber-bullying, identity theft or risks associated with those who exploit children.

We must continue to show families why relying on ISP filtering to protect children online is neither workable, safe or an alternative to education and supervision. We also need to educate them about how to use technology safely.

5) There is still a misconception by those who advocate this plan that filtering child abuse material stops child abuse:

There is no evidence to suggest that ISP filtering reduces the demand for, distribution of, or access to child abuse material, especially when the web is reportedly not the primary method of distributing such material. It’s also naive to believe a filter – a piece of hardware or software – is capable of stopping the physical and emotional abuse being perpetrated each day.

Bernadette McMenanin, who wants filters to block child abuse content and ‘other material’, told Insight viewers that ‘Internet service provider filtering is working, can work – it does work’, presumably referring to international examples. But how do you define ‘working?’ In most international examples, including the UK, ISP filtering is voluntary with the goal of stopping accidental access to child abuse material. That’s not what is being proposed in Australia.

To really make an impact on these crimes the Government must first deal with the problem of violence, especially against children. As Senator Scott Ludlam said in his talk at the recent NewMatilda forum on Internet regulation held in Brisbane, that’s an issue that can’t ‘be solved by half-arsed attempts of censorship’.

You can watch the Insight episode on filtering here.