November 20th, 2008


Conroy Filter: Clive Hamilton is a fan

I can't really justify resubscribing to Crikey just to read the occasional article that interests me, but I'd love to know what Clive is on about:

Hamilton: Net porn goes way beyond naughty
"Net libertarians greet any suggested degradation with howls of protest because they refuse to acknowledge the extent of the social problem the Government is trying to address, writes Clive Hamilton."

I can't respond to the full article, but I'll respond to the abstract:

1. It is not necessarily the responsibility of government to address social problems. Some social problems, such as crime, do deserve attention, but it's not up to the government to fix all ills.

2. What does he mean by "social problem"? If he's referring to a crime, I understand. But instead of ineffective measures, let's put that money into actually fighting crime, not into partially controlling exposure to crime.

For example, we could spend millions of dollars on trying to block access to child porn and make filters increasingly more restrictive each time a workaround is discovered. Or we could spend the same money boosting the resources of law enforcement agencies and intelligence organisations so that they are better positioned to find and prosecute those who create and distribute child porn. My vote is for the measure that might save more children and catch more criminals. The civil liberties retained by not going down the slippery path to censorship are a bonus.

3. If "social problem" is defined with terms like "undesirable" or "immoral", then the government is overreaching. Or maybe he's talking about the interpersonal problems that can occur when people watch too much porn. Again: not the government's responsibility.

4. "Howls of protest" and "refuse to acknowledge" are emotional phrases. And I'm sure it's a true enough claim about some libertarians. But that doesn't give the Government the right to ignore the many important and reasoned questions that are left once you strip back the emotion about censorship.

I've seen a range of questions asked - without emotion and rhetoric - by senators, librarians, network engineers and others, for which Conroy has failed to provide answers.

Questions about the cost, potential for abuse, ability to meet policy objectives, clarification of policy objectives, etc.

We deserve better.