Book Reviews | Gordon Campbell | News Flashes | Scoop Features | Scoop Video | Strange & Bizarre | Search

 


Filtering the Net: Conroy’s Fantasy of Control

Filtering the Net: Conroy’s Fantasy of Control

by Binoy Kampmark
November 17, 2012

Regulation is second nature to Australia’s paternal puritans, who feel that citizens are mere infants in swaddling clothes terrified of the world beyond. The arrival of the Internet must have suitably terrified many of them, and one such figure has been Communications Minister Senator Stephen Conroy, an individual of limited imagination and paralysing fears. Or at least that’s the impression he gives.

His desperation to limit the world wide web is very much in evidence despite repeated calls that filters do not work. The No Clean Feed group, dedicated to stopping Internet censorship in Australia, states it in rather stark terms. “The filter will do nothing to prevent the people who are wilfully making, trading, and accessing child sexual abuse material.” A fact sheet release by Electronic Frontiers Australia makes the obvious point that the risks posed to children tend to come from “inappropriate contact with others” rather than “exposure to inappropriate content”. Material of a rather innocuous sort tends to be the victim of such a filtering scheme.

The measure has now been dropped, suggesting that Australia might have retreated from the global censorship regime. Common sense? Hardly. The response has been muddled, thrown off course, but not totally abandoned. On the one hand, there are claims that mandatory ISP filtering has been abandoned as a strategy. On the other, internet service providers will still be directed by Australian officialdom, including the Australian Federal Police to block “child abuse websites”. Those websites will feature on an INTERPOL list of naughties.

In Conroy’s words, “Australia’s largest ISPs have been issued notices requiring them to block these illegal sites in accordance with their obligations under the Telecommunications Act 1997.” This is censorship without censorship, the usual hollowing out of language that has become second nature.

There is speculation – Glyn Moody for one, writing for Techdirt (Nov 8), that this might be part of a broader strategy. Back down from a seemingly extreme stance, then pick a more modest position. The principle, however, remains. “After all, it’s a standard tactic to make totally outrageous initial demands so that anything less seems reasonable by comparison. Or perhaps it was Plan B: try to push through ISP filtering as Plan A, and that if that fails, drop back to ‘limited censorship’.”

The tendencies towards censorship in Australia seem pathological. Unelected officials are appointed to classify material that Australians might never read or see. The classification, named “refused classification” is tantamount to an official ban that is enforced through the infliction of penalties. Watch and distribute at your own peril.

As the National Classification Code defines it, the RC includes a series of elements – material that promotes, incites or instruct in matters of crime or violence and material that describes, depicts matters of sex, drug misuse or addiction, crime, cruelty, violence of revolting or abhorrent phenomena. That “revulsion” must offend against the standards of morality and decency accepted by reasonable adults, a troubling control if ever there was one. If ever you wish to encounter the drudgery of Australian officialdom, the absence of the inner life, consult those behind their censorship regime.

As university academic Bjorn Landfelt explained, “There’s no clear definition of refused classification that can be debated in society” (Sydney Morning Herald, Dec 16, 2009). The result can be rather absurd – in Australia, the best selling porn movie Pirates received an RC rating because it featured a scene where animated skeletons duel. That, it seems, is something Australian citizens can’t stomach – at least according to Conroy and his ilk.

*************

Binoy Kampmark was a Commonwealth Scholar at Selwyn College, Cambridge. He lectures at RMIT University, Melbourne.

© Scoop Media

 
 
 
 
 
Top Scoops Headlines

 

Syed Atiq ul Hassan: Eye-Opener For Islamic Community

An event of siege, terror and killing carried out by Haron Monis in the heart of Sydney business district has been an eye-opener for the Islamic Community in Australia. Haron was shot down before he killed two innocent people, a lawyer and a manager ... More>>

Jonathan Cook: US Feels The Heat On Palestine Vote At UN

The floodgates have begun to open across Europe on recognition of Palestinian statehood. On 12 December the Portuguese parliament became the latest European legislature to call on its government to back statehood, joining Sweden, Britain, Ireland, France ... More>>

ALSO:


Fightback: MANA Movement Regroups, Call For Mana Wahine Policy

In the wake of this years’ electoral defeat, the MANA Movement is regrouping. On November 29th, Fightback members attended a Members’ Hui in Tāmaki/Auckland, with around 70 attending from around the country. More>>

Ramzy Baroud: The Mockingjay Of Palestine: “If We Burn, You Burn With Us”

Raed Mu’anis was my best friend. The small scar on top of his left eyebrow was my doing at the age of five. I urged him to quit hanging on a rope where my mother was drying our laundry. He wouldn’t listen, so I threw a rock at him. More>>

ALSO:

Don Franks: Future Of Work Commission: Labour's Shrewd Move

Lunging boldly towards John Key, shouting 'Cut the crap!' - Andrew Little was great, wasn't he? Labour's new leader spoke for many people fed up with Key's flippant arrogant deceit. Andrew Little nailing the Prime minister on lying about contacting a rightwing ... More>>

Asia-Pacific Journal: MSG Headache, West Papuan Heartache? Indonesia’s Melanesian Foray

Asia and the Pacific--these two geographic, political and cultural regions encompass entire life-worlds, cosmologies and cultures. Yet Indonesia’s recent enthusiastic outreach to Melanesia indicates an attempt to bridge both the constructed and actual ... More>>

Valerie Morse: The Security State: We Should Not Be Surprised, But We Should Be Worried

On the very day that the Inspector-General of Intelligence and Security released her report into the actions of people the Prime Minister’s office in leaking classified Security Intelligence Service (NZSIS) documents to right-wing smearmonger Cameron ... More>>

Ramzy Baroud: PFLP Soul-Searching: Rise And Fall Of Palestine’s Socialists

When news reports alleged that the two cousins behind the Jerusalem synagogue attack on 18 November were affiliated with the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, a level of confusion reigned. Why the PFLP? Why now? More>>

Get More From Scoop

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Top Scoops
Search Scoop  
 
 
Powered by Vodafone
NZ independent news