The cost of censorshipMikey 11 comments
Here we go again. Why is it the same people who find composing an email to be a technically challenging milestone are the same people who propose the most ludicrous and near impossible technical legislation regarding our beloved Internet?
Update:29th March 2006: It looks like Liberal are still keen on this idea, despite conceding that Australia can only enforce the removal of only about 10per cent of prohibited material because most offensive content is hosted by overseas. In this author's humble opinion, this is a colossal waste of time and resources.
In January of 2005, a NSW Supreme Court judge called for the Internet to be purged of any material that could influence jurors who might have wanted to conduct their own investigations into a trial. The mere suggestion sent shockwaves of laughter all over the world.
And who can forget Richard Alston, our former ill-fated communications Minister, who initially dismissed broadband as nothing more than a platform for distributing porn, and that an Australia wide rollout would be a costly waste of money. This earned his place in Australian history as the greatest Luddite ever.
And now labour party leader Kim Beazley is proposing that if elected, he would force all Australian ISP's to filter violent and sexual web site content. Did you hear that? Is that an earth quake I hear? No it's the familiar shockwaves of laughter starting to spread again.
Unless the government is willing to pay every ISP to deploy filtering on their servers, then the ISP will wear the cost. And you can bet the cost will eventually be passed on to the consumer; for a service that they might not even want. Why should subscribers have to pay a premium for adult content filtering when they may not even have children?
The cost would be so staggeringly huge that the Labour party would have to declare bankruptcy if they were ever brave enough to attempt this.
What Mr Beazley does not realise, is that filtering at the user's end is far more effective and less costly, and not mandatory. The further you move away from the user's computer, the more difficult and expensive it is to filter content.
It simply does not make any sense to force ISP's to filter content when the user is quite capable of doing it themselves, if they choose. This diagram (1:4,674,221,559 scale) demonstrates. Bearing in mind that for every single ISP, there are probably at least 1000 web sites of objectionable content.
From this we can see the user has the option to filter his incoming traffic if he chooses. Under Mr Beazley's proposal, all ISP's would be filtered regardless of how many people want content filtering. This is probably the most un-resourceful method of filtering adult content.
And this is only for web based filtering. Applying any sort of control over P2P or other closed networks is actually impossible. I would hate to be the guy tasked with creating an algorithm that could sniff P2P packets and assemble them to ascertain if they contained flesh toned colours or not. This could happen inside the script of any Hollywood hack, but not in real life.
Besides Mr Beazley's proposal being a costly, logistical and never guaranteed to be 100% effective and easily bypassed nightmare, the bigger question is 'why does he want to take the responsibility away from the parents?'
The last time I checked, Australia was not a communist society. I do not want the government deciding what I or my children can and can't have access to. If I wanted that, I would move to China.
As a parent with 2 young girls, the older of which already started to take an interest in the 'comploota' months ago, I have a lot more confidence in my own ability to 'segregate' a certain part of the internet for her curiosity than I do in the ability of any government or ISP.
Having said that, software has been available for many years that has been designed for the very purpose of stopping Johnny Internet from being exposed to pictures of . And if Internet Censorship is a concern for any parent, then they will take the appropriate action.
I think we can safely chalk this one up to either a mediocre attempt to win political favour with parents for the next election (although a little premature), or another case of a politician speaking before he thinks - or at least speaking before he gets some solid advice from people who actually understand the Internet.My sides are hurting.