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Child protection groups undermine Aussie Firewall

Gov.au attacks 'spurious claims'

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You know your child protection policy is in trouble when even mainstream children’s charities speak out against it – and this is just the latest in a string of bad news to hit Australian Communications Minister, Stephen Conroy over the last seven days.

First up is the news that Save the Children and the National Children’s & Youth Law Centre have joined with anti-censorship group Get Up! to oppose government plans to put in place filtering software to protect the Australian public from inappropriate and harmful content. In a joint statement (pdf) with other pressure groups, they said:

"We argue that the tens of millions of dollars that such a scheme will cost should instead be diverted to appropriate child protection authorities and police to prevent the abuse of children, and towards effective community-based education strategies that give children and parents the skills to protect themselves.

"Further, PC-level filtering software should be promoted to and provided to parents that wish to protect their children from inappropriate internet content."

This really is bad news for an initiative that was justified, originally, on the grounds that it would contribute towards child protection.

This statement accompanied the launch of Get Up!’s "Censordyne" campaign, combining a highly professional TV ad with a website, promoting “ "Good, clean internet censorship".

The fact that it manages to put across a strong anti-government line in a way that is both witty and hard-hitting has clearly stung the Communications Minister. Responding to the campaign last week, his office accused Get Up! of misrepresenting the government’s position.

"For its last campaign on the issue, GetUp! falsely claimed that any form of filtering would slow internet speeds by 87 per cent," it said. "Now it resorts to spurious claims about the future expansion of the list of content that may be filtered.

"The Government regards freedom of speech as very important and the Government’s cyber-safety policy is in no way designed to curtail this."

This comes on top of that pesky ISPA award, which we reported on last week, naming Conroy and the Australian government internet villain of the year for their persistent promotion of internet filtering software. No one was there from Australia to pick up the award, so no doubt it is slowly wending its way southward, even as we speak.

The great Australian Firewall may not be downed, but its foundations are beginning to look increasingly insecure. Do not be surprised if it suffers an attack of terminal subsidence over the next few months, before being quietly forgotten by all those involved. ®

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