• Libs take Government to task over U.S. filter opposition

    Apr 22 2010, 3:09

    EFA has received the text of a letter from Liberal Party Senator Sue Boyce to Communications Minister Stephen Conroy and Foreign Minister Stephen Smith demanding they come clean on the nature of representations made by the U.S. government regarding their internet censorship policy.

    Recent revelations that the U.S. Department of State had broached the subject with the Australian government, followed up by a diplomatically-worded butdamning statement by U.S. ambassador Jeff Bleich on Q&A last week leave little doubt that Australia is on the U.S.’s watch list. The Obama administration drew a line in the sand in January with Secretary of State’s Hillary Clinton’s landmark speech on internet freedom. Despite disingenuous attempts to spin it otherwise, Senator Conroy’s mandatory censorship scheme clearly crosses that line.

    This has not been lost on Senator Boyce. In her letter, she questions Senator Conroy’s assertion that the U.S. government merely asked for some background information on the censorship plan. “I am sure that [State Department spokesperson] Mr Clay would have chosen his words carefully and I find it difficult to reconcile a statement that the US Government had ‘raised concerns’ with Minister Conroy’s assertion that the US Government had only asked for background information.”

    Referring to Ambassador Bleich’s comments, Senator Boyce goes on to say,

    It is a deplorable situation when Australians have to rely upon the frankness of a foreign diplomat to provide information about bilateral discussions on a very important matter because relevant Australian Ministers either dissemble or just refuse to say anything.

    Given the Ambassador’s statement that the US Government has been “able to accomplish the goals Australia has described … without having to use internet filters” I would appreciate your advice as to whether the US Government has advised the Australian Government about how that has been managed in the USA, when that advice was provided and to whom.

    To those following the debate it will be well known that the mandatory filtering plan has drawn criticism for its technical flaws, confused goals, free-speech risks and ever-shifting details. The fact that it is drawing international opprobrium is not new – for instance, Conroy’s receipt of the “Internet Villain of the Year” award – but the remarks by the United States show just how seriously this is being taken.

    When Reporters Without Borders named Australia as a country “under surveillance” as an internet enemy earlier in the year, the Minister tried to deflect the blame onto EFA for misleading them. Are we also to blame for misinforming Secretary Clinton, ambassador Bleich, and even President Obama himself? Or could it just be that it’s possible to understand Senator Conroy’s policy and harbour serious concerns without being sympathetic to child pornography? While we don’t expect the Minister to concede this any time soon, the broad array of organisations opposing the filter is making this line of attack increasingly untenable.

    In any case, EFA looks forward to hearing the Ministers’ response to Senator Boyce’s timely questions.

    The full text of the letter is available here.

  • 5 Comments

    1. Matt says:

      A bit rich coming from the US.

      When Jay Rockefeller said this – http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ct9xzXUQLuY

      http://www.cnn.com/2006/TECH/internet/02/27/net.n

    2. Patrick says:

      They are already censoring at optus. try viewing http://www.iraq-war.ru

      Google search says it exists but optus won't let you visit it…

      http://www.google.com.au/search?hl=en&source=

      It's got nothing to do with child porn. The net filter is just Big Brother BS.

    3. Ben says:

      Patrick, the site isn't responding because there's an error trying to connect. I tried a proxy and even it can't find the server.

    4. Allan Lewis says:

      It seems that the government, and particularly the Minister, will not change their minds. Logic and evidence have proven ineffective thus far, and it is becoming increasingly apparent that more of logic and evidence will not achieve anything new.

      I suspect even a credible threat of their being voted from office won't even do it. I think we actually need to vote someone else in.

      It may be that the time for convincing the government is over, and that now is the time for convincing the public.

    5. Awatif says:

      I think that internet filtering has acceptable limits at the cost of keeping the internet safe especially for children. For example, parents could block any site and choose what they think is bad for their children for things like games that contain violence or pornographic images which is deemed unsuitable for children. Also blocking or monitoring social networks such as chat rooms. Moreover it is designed to act as a kind of password to ensure that the user’s identity remains private which is important for minors, when you use credit card information and it is a great protect for your computer from spammers via free email sites such as Yahoo, Gmail and Hotmail by sending different material to junk email folders. Also the benefits from using the filter are to provide extra security and keep file sharing such as music and video from copyright. Furth more, in a work environment, employees become more productive in office instead of wasting time on unnecessary sites.