Thursday, October 30, 2008

Australian government will maintain a national internet filter

The Australian government is implementing a national internet filter to protect its citizens from controversial websites that promote child pornography, certain "adult" content, euthanasia (suicide promotion) and anorexia promotion.

Information about the national internet filter has been revealed by US tech giants Google, Microsoft and Yahoo, and a coalition of human rights and other groups who have unveiled a new code of conduct that is aimed at safeguarding freedom of speech and privacy.

The Australian government passed a law forbidding the distribution of child pornography. The Australian government also passed a law forbidding suicide promoting websites.

The article concerning freedom of speech compares the measures taken by the Australian government to protect its citizens from predatory websites to the internet filters that have been implemented by the Chinese government. This is very inaccurate.

Link to the article from the Australian Herald Sun:,21985,24568137-2862,00.html

The fact is that Australia is one of several nations that are attempting to protect vulnerable citizens from suicide promoting websites. Korea, Japan and the UK are also known to be attempting by either by urging internet service providers to voluntarily block these predatory websites or to be moving to interpret the Criminal Code to enable the police to prosecute people who promote suicide via the internet or other communications medium.

I am convinced that blocking suicide promotion websites does not constitute a violation of free speech but rather a reasonable limit in the same way as protecting people from child pornography.

We must remember that people who live with depression and mental illness are often unable to effectively filter out the negative thoughts that are promoted by these websites. They will often commit suicide by following the instructions from these websites.

We need to protect people from the criminally irresponsible who continue to endanger the life and health of others by promoting suicide or suicide methods via the internet.

Link to article on the UK government blocking suicide promoting websites:

Link to article on the Korean government blocking suicide promoting websites:

Link to article on the Japanese government blocking suicide promoting websites:


kimba said...

It will be alright if it works, Alex. But I suspect it will end up blocking your site, and SHS as well.

Blaise Alleyne said...

Alex, this is so disappointing. How can you honestly believe that this is a wise or even plausible idea?

Want to get through the filter? Post to YouTube, Facebook, or... I dunno, Blogspot. A filter want block popular websites like that.

Plus, where do you draw the line? Do pro-euthanasia websites get blocked? As despicable as the argument is, do you think it should be banned? Is that a violation of free speech? Who's in charge of the list and who gets to determine what's on the wrong side?

I beg of you, point me to one, single example where an Internet filter has proved to be a good idea and actually (a) worked effectively as a filter and (b) not been abused. I'm absolutely dumbfounded at your narrow minded support for these measures.

Alex Schadenberg said...

Whether an internet filter is a good idea or a bad idea, the law needs to recognize how these websites directly effect the lives of people who live with depression or mental illness.

Because people remain irresponsible in their promotion of assisted suicide or euthanasia techniques, or even counsel people to kill themselves, via the internet or email, therefore something needs to be done to effectively protect vulnerable people.

The internet and communication technology creates phenomenal opportunities for discussion and good ideas, but some things incredibly harm the public good and irresponsibly cause harm to vulnerable people.

If the internet cannot be self-regulated then their needs to be some type of regulation to allow open discussion without harming specific individuals or identified groups.

We don't accept the idea of promoting child pornography or hate ideas on the internet. In the same way we should not allow suicide or euthanasia promotion on the internet because they harm specific people, especially since the people who are harmed by such information or ideas are not actually the targeted audience.

Do I think we can control the internet? NO

Do I think certain ideas need to be regulated because they directly effect certain individuals or groups? YES

How to do this?

Blaise Alleyne said...

Ok, I think we agree in large part. But filters are definitely in the "how not to do this" category because they simply don't work and are always abused.

Laws prohibiting child pornography or these sorts of websites that harm vulnerable people need to target the perpetrators, not Internet Service Providers. You don't create laws targeting Ford just because bank robbers are using a Taurus as a getaway car because it wouldn't be fair, reasonable or even effective.

Laws against these sorts of websites should target the creators of such websites. Go after the source.

And when it comes to blocking content, a notice-and-notice system ought to be employed, not a filter. A notice-and-notice system means that you can serve an ISP a notice for offending content, and they're required to pass it on to the website holder. If the website holder cannot defend themselves within a reasonable period of time, the content gets removed. This ensures that automated scanners down see conversations like this on and get the content taken down with a faulty notice. (Other systems are notice-and-takedown, or outright filters.) Outright filters and blocks from a central authority are prone to abuse. A simple look into the realm of intellectual property online shows what a terrible, terrible idea filters and takedowns are.

So, I agree with you that it's a good thing if a government recognizes the harm that theses websites can cause, but it should go after those producing the content. Filters will not work and will be abused. Simply "blocking" the websites will not work. Making them illegal and prosecuting those who break the law is the answer (and the websites would get removed in the process).

The Australian example is an embarrassment to the country, not something to be applauded.