by Geordie Guy

Today’s Online Opinion features Abigail Bray, a post-doctoral research fellow at the University of Western Australia.  Her article, available at, unfortunately doesn’t seem to draw on what we’d assume is a depth of experience and qualification.

She writes how a “couple of weeks ago”, which I’ll presume is some sort of modern parlance for the “in a reproducible experiment performed under controlled conditions” we expect from academics who submit articles for publication, she went looking for pornography.  Astoundingly she found it.

The three paragraph diatribe that continues after this setup explains how she typed the word “sex” into Google and clicked on the first hit, being presented with a website which seems focused on depicting porn actors who are very drunk to the point of being passed out.  Of course I typed sex into Google to attempt to untangle what it is that Ms Bray was talking about and I got the Australian Human Rights Commission’s sex discrimination page, followed by Your Sex, then same-sex reforms at the Attorney General’s website, then sex education for teens, then Cleo, then the Australian Sex Party.  But I guess that’s because I ensure that I have my settings for that search engine set so that the most relevant searches for me are displayed.

Ms Bray then talks about how these depictions are entirely legal, and then in the very next paragraph tells us there are 220 stills from videos of very young women being tortured and raped.  It would appear that not only is Ms Bray unfamiliar with the Google I use, she has her very own preferences set for her reading of the Commonwealth Crimes Act and the various state acts and criminal codes.

This entire experiment is of course a 6:30pm tabloid television walk-up in the guise of academic writing for a journal.  It’s no different to television stories entreating us that crime is out of control by showing an undercover investigative reporter pretending to stagger up Kings Cross at three in the morning waving his wallet, and filming the results.

When I read this article I was of course expecting the next cry to be one to censor the Internet, perhaps with reference to a 6 year old poll showing that parents want something different, perhaps with rhetoric about silver bullets and comprehensive plans and noisy minorities.  Thankfully a saving grace of the article is that the author doesn’t call for this, only alludes to it by waffling about ISP responsibilities and explaining how she rang the Internet Industry Association what to do and was told that she could purchase a product to filter her personal net connection for between $50 and $80.  Ms Bray dismisses this, expressing her disdain for paying a “corporation” to give her a product which empowers her to avoid the trauma inflicted upon her by child sexual abuse images.

One has to wonder if she is also reticent to pay the gas company just so she can avoid smelling terrible by having a hot shower, or if she indeed refuses to pay for her car to have registration safety checks just to allow her to drive safely on the road.  I’m honestly surprised that someone doing post doctoral work continues to conflate rights with “things that other people should give me for free so that I can live my life the way I choose”.

The rest of the article has all the usual hallmarks of someone whose grasp of the issue has not given them pause to investigate beyond a single Google search before putting pen to paper, and it’s very, very frustrating.  The debate about regulation of ISPs as a solution to perceived social problems has been thankfully continuing in the absence of Dr Clive Hamilton for some while now; and it would appear that at least one protégé is stepping up to the plate. A new doctor at OnlineOpinion is filling Hamilton’s role of undermining their credentials by using weasel words like “general agreement amongst experts” (what agreement? How general? Most importantly, which experts?), and pointing the finger at Internet Service Providers for obstinately refusing to leave their objective of providing Internet connectivity; to do the police and law enforcement agencies’ job of arresting and charging those who use the Internet for illegal activity.

Here’s hoping that those in the community who correctly expect the police, the legal profession and the judiciary to protect Australians from crime online dismiss Ms Bray’s article for what it is; a play with pseudo-investigative journalism which was sold with the credentials of someone who should know better.  Someone, I’ll add, who’s admitted on the Internet to viewing online material that depicts a person who is, or appears to be, under the age of 18 involved in sexual intercourse.

Disclosure: I haven’t actually seen the site that Ms Bray has written about; I likely don’t have the stomach.  Besides, to view it (if it as she says it is) would be illegal in Australia.