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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.

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And don't even get me started on topics like education and rehabilition. Or the benefits of choosing real security over feel-good security.

This filtering will certainly make many parents feel better, but that's a poor substitute for actually making things better for children and their parents.

My biggest problem is that it won't work as intended, unless it is intended to block content that the government wishes to censor (just not the child porn it was claiming to be able to block) - read political, commercial, special interest oh and some porn.

Similar (opt in) filters such as AOL, blocks the Boy Scouts, because its the WRONG SORT of CHRISTIAN ... heaven knows what they will try and block, but it won't be limited to porn. Assuming they can get through the political heat of the technical failures and cost.

I've already sent a letter to my local MP.

Yeah, I share those concerns too. I just wanted to pick on one thing at a time...

But I did mention "potential for abuse". The Government has not yet defined what's inappropriate or undesirable. But let's assume they start with a very limited range of blocked content. What protections will be implemented to prevent abuse by a future government? Who will watch the watchers? Who will decide what to add and when? What insight will the public have into what has been blocked?

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