A rational banter on filtering

Amid the media panic, the doomsayers' cries and the sense of foreboding that has gripped all those who have had some contact with the unwinding censorship debate, we seem to have missed one thing — rational discussion. Of course, you can't really expect that from the politicians.

Thankfully, the UNSW Cyberspace Law and Policy Centre yesterday played host to a forum of experts from affected industries to discuss the government's filtering proposal from all perspectives. Unfortunately, we weren't able to make it there, but fellow IT journo Stilgherrian was gracious enough to liveblog the proceedings for all to see. It is a long read but it is well worth it.

Of course, as is common for long-winding academics and industry experts, the forum didn't yield a firm conclusion on the matter but there were definite themes running throughout the discussion — namely that, for technical, ethical and commercial reasons, the government's censorship proposal won't work. Over the course of a few hours, representatives from the IT industry, law and policy experts, and even a former deputy director of the OFLC took the platform, outlining various ways in which the filters would be too costly, too risky, and too easy to bypass.

Despite the misguided approach the Australian government, there still seems to be a few out there with sanity intact, able to discuss the censorship proposal's positives, negatives and impossibilities.

Guess what Mr. Conroy? There's a sound coming from UNSW Kensington campus, and it's a big and resounding "NO". It's not a "no" as in, "we want free Internet so we can look at kiddy porn guilt-free". In fact, anyone who linked freedom and child pornography at the discussion was guaranteed to be shown the front door.

Instead, it appears that even those present at the discussion that would have a hand to play in imposing the filter — namely representatives from Optus and Cisco — are negative toward the entire process and for good reason. The filter won't work and people will simply bypass it. Our government might have the same ambition as China, but it certainly doesn't have the will or guts to police it.

Questions or comments? Leave them in the comment box below or email james_hutchinson at idg.com.au.

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