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Internet filter policy under fire -

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KERRY O'BRIEN, PRESENTER: In Washington, the State Department has raised concerns over the Rudd
Government's internet filtering legislation. The $120 million cyber safety policy would force
internet providers to block websites deemed to be carrying offensive material, but this week the US
Ambassador to Australia has argued that the internet should be free and that there are other ways
to combat content like child pornography. The industry giant Google has weighed in, criticising the
exercise as heavy handed, warning that it could help legitimise regimes like China censoring the
net. The Government isn't budging, labelling critics as misguided and promising a completely
transparent system. Kirstin Murray reports.

KIRSTIN MURRAY, REPORTER: Many who've come to this community hall are still learning how to use a
computer. But if all goes to plan, by the end of this workshop each senior citizen will have
mastered how to hack a computer to sidestep the law.

PHILIP NITSCHKE: What the Government has planned, that is, to keep you in the dark, is not going to

KIRSTIN MURRAY: Armed with computer engineers, outspoken euthanasia advocate Philip Nitschke's
travelling the country to teach followers how to get around the Government's proposed internet

DAVID CAMPBELL, COMPUTER ENGINEER: These guys aren't very technically skilled. A lot of them barely
know how to turn on a computer. But I'm confident that over 90 per cent of them now can just walk
straight through this filter. And it makes me very happy.

KIRSTIN MURRAY: If the Government's successful, sites like The Peaceful Pill will be deemed
illegal, refused classification and blocked from Australian computers.

It's part of a plan to make the web for family friendly and it's just what's needed, according to
the Australian Christian Lobby.

JIM WALLACE, AUST. CHRISTIAN LOBBY: At the moment we have a internet which is full, it's almost a
cesspool. Violence and sex, children are degraded, women are degraded. Within that is a lot of
illegal material.

KIRSTIN MURRAY: But what was an election promise has created a massive backlash.

IARLA FLYNN, GOOGLE AUSTRALIA: The Government's proposal for filtering we view as heavy handed.

JOE HOCKEY, SHADOW TREASURER: There's a scheme that will create the infrastructure for government
censorship on a broader scale.

STEPHEN DALBY, CHIEF REGULATORY OFFICER, iiNET: I think it's a political exercise to show that the
Government is concerned.

CATHERINE LUMBY, JOURNALISM CENTRE, UNSW: There's a huge problem in applying media content
regulation that was developed where we had a very narrow point of purchase, or distribution, to an
environment like the Internet.

KIRSTIN MURRAY: Compared to other Australian media, the Internet remains largely unregulated.
Communications Minister Stephen Conroy says the Government simply wants to apply laws from the real
world to the virtual.

STEPHEN CONROY, COMMUNICATIONS MINISTER: Last time I looked into this debate, the civil society did
not equate to the Wild West, completely unregulated, anything goes.

KIRSTIN MURRAY: It's content like this that would be blacklisted: here gamers earn points for
stalking and raping young women. This is all that can be shown as more graphic material's already
banned from television.

STEPHEN CONROY: It's material like pro-rape websites, bestiality, child pornography, glorification
of crime, terrorist promotion. This material is so damaging. One viewing could scar an individual

KIRSTIN MURRAY: What was your response when you viewed this kind of material?

STEPHEN CONROY: Well I have not viewed it because you're not allowed. I've had some of it described
to me, and I have to say to you I still have an image in my mind of what was described to me and
it's nearly a year since this was described to me.

STEPHEN DALBY: It's a little bit like saying let's put a roadblock across the main road when the
child pornographers are bringing in their illegal content via helicopter and boat.

KIRSTIN MURRAY: Stephen Dalby for iiNet, one of the internet service providers that would be forced
to filter, should the plan go ahead. He says paedophiles know how to work undetected and anyone
wanting to access blocked sites can easily do so.

STEPHEN DALBY: It's pointless, it's pointless. Child pornography is not posted on public websites
anymore than it's published in the Sunday Times. And the suggestion that ISPs will just filter
general public websites and have an impact on the trade in that sort of illegal content is just a

IARLA FLYNN: The concern we have with this is that parents may believe or understand that the
Government's filter will actually block out all the bad stuff on the internet and thereby giving
parents a false sense of security that maybe they don't need to be so vigilant with what their kids
do online. That would be a very wrong outcome here.

KIRSTIN MURRAY: What will instead be picked up by the filter is politically and socially sensitive
websites, warns communications academic Catharine Lumby. She's analysed what the filter might

CATHERINE LUMBY: There are public interest reasons, clear public interest reasons for people to
have access to information about brutality and demonstrations politically. There are good public
interest reasons to allow young people in a safe social networking environment to discuss their
sexuality and their sexual practices. There are good public health interest reasons to have harm
minimisation websites around drug use.

JIM WALLACE: The Government has to look very clearly at the motivation of people who are opposing
this. In the main it is people like the sex industry who have said that they'll go broke in five
years if this comes in. It's people who have either a pecuniary interest like that or an
ideological interest like civil libertarians who don't want any regulation of anything.

STEPHEN CONROY: The filter that we are talking about is a complaints-based mechanism. It is not
that we are filtering the entire internet and then letting Australians see what we have approved.

KIRSTIN MURRAY: Senator Conroy says while the list of banned websites will be secret, it won't be
controlled by the Government.

STEPHEN CONROY: We will introduce a new mechanism. It could be, for an example, a retired judge,
every six months, looks at what's on the list and says, yeah, that is exactly what the Government
are intending to be on the list.

KIRSTIN MURRAY: But Google says the Government's treading a fine line with the mandatory model it's
chosen and warns Australia's actions are being closely watched by others.

IARLA FLYNN: Non-democratic regimes would point to Australia's system as somehow legitimising their
own censorship efforts and it'd be very, very unfortunate because I think Australia is seen,
particularly in the Asia-Pacific region as a country that provides leadership, a strong democracy
in this part of the world.

KIRSTIN MURRAY: But Australia's approach is being debated much further abroad.

HILLARY CLINTON, US SECRETARY OF STATE (January): We stand for a single Internet where all of
humanity has equal access to knowledge and ideas.

JEFF BLEICH, US AMBASSADOR TO AUSTRALIA (Monday): We have been very clear: the internet needs to be
free. It needs to be free the way we have said skies have to be free, outer space has to be free,
the polar caps have to be free, the oceans have to be free. They have to be shared. They're shared
resources of all the people of the world.

KIRSTIN MURRAY: Did you expect to come up against so much criticism?

STEPHEN CONROY: We as a sovereign government are not going to allow large multinational
corporations or foreign governments to determine what should be in our refused classification
category. Google signed a contract with China to do censorship. They signed a contract to do that.
In Thailand, Google have agreed to filter any criticism of the Thai royal family. What's that
about? So, Google want to talk about legitimising censorship in other countries; they should have a
look in the mirror.

KIRSTIN MURRAY: With legislation still being drafted, Senator Conroy's unlikely to get his bill
debated in Parliament before the election. But in the public arena, debate is off and running

SENIOR CITIZEN: People are entitled to have that information. I mean, that's a different thing from
things like child pornography and so on.

SENIOR CITIZEN II: The Government needs to get everything else right, leave Exit alone, leave old
people alone, leave senior citizens alone. They're not doing any harm.

KIRSTIN MURRAY: So even if the filter is introduced, this workshop's shown those who want to get
around it can and will.

KERRY O'BRIEN: Kirstin Murray with that report.