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Title Four Corners: Access Denied
Published Australia : ABC, 2010
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Description 1 online resource (streaming video file) (44 min. 23 sec.) ; 267832235 bytes
Summary Quentin McDermott looks at the potential impact of the Government's mandatory filtering system.A story that reveals how an apparently well meaning attempt by government to protect children from video nasties on the net turned into a policy that critics say promotes censorship and reduces personal freedom.Twenty one years after the world-wide web was born it's hard to know how we'd live without it. But for all its benefits there are dangers too, especially for children. Child pornography, bestiality and other forms of extreme and illegal sexual material are freely available for anyone to view. Central to the Federal Government's policy on cyber safety is the introduction of a mandatory filtering system, aimed at protecting children from the worst excesses in cyber space. Now reporter Quentin McDermott looks at the potential impact of the Government's plan.In a town hall somewhere in suburban Australia a group of people, all over 70 years of age, are attending classes to learn how to by-pass internet filters. The reason they are doing this is simple. All of them want information relating to euthanasia. All of them know that in the very near future a new government law might make any attempt to find that information on the web difficult, if not impossible.The question is, how did a promise to protect children from porn on the web evolve into a policy that stops ordinary citizens getting access to information on a wide range of topics?"No responsible government can sit there and do nothing if there's 355 child abuse websites on the public internet." Stephen Conroy, Minister for Broadband, Communications and the Digital Economy.In 2007 the then Federal Labor Opposition made a big election promise: if elected it would oversee the introduction of a system that would filter out porn and other nasty video material to protect kids. The move drew praise from many people, including the former head of the Australia Institute, Clive Hamilton, who'd been warning for some time the web was not child friendly:"Any curious 14 year old can go from a site that shows men and women having sex in all sorts of different ways to a woman being penetrated in every orifice... to sites which show incest and promote incest, to sites that show bestiality, explicit pictures of say women having sex with animals."Labor's pre-election policy promised to require Internet Service Providers (ISPs) to offer a 'clean feed' internet service to all homes, schools and public internet points accessible by children, such as libraries. It also said that Australian children would be prevented from accessing any content that has been prohibited by the Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA), including sites such as those containing child pornography and X-rated material.Fast forward two and half years and the Government's plans have substantially changed. The idea of an internet 'clean feed' is gone, dismissed as technically unfeasible. The idea of filtering a collection of blacklisted sites is still alive, but the scope has been limited to material known as 'refused classification', leaving most pornographic sites accessible to children."A lot of the content that families really are concerned about for their children, things like violent material, racial hatred material, material which promotes race hate, maybe even just adult content that you wouldn't want your children to see, none of that will be picked up by this filtering solution." Peter Coroneos, Internet Industry Association.Some critics say that the changes signal a climb-down, but others are worried that the mandatory nature of the filter to be imposed means that all Australians are now subject to censorship and not just children.The Government defends what has to be seen as a major policy change:"We said we would take an evidence based approach and we commissioned a report to look at a whole range of options and that report came back and said that if you target individual addresses as we're doing, you can be 100 per cent successful in targeting individual web pages." Stephen ConroyThere are other complications in Labor's new approach too. 'Refused Classification' material doesn't just target extreme pornography but much greyer areas, such as sites that instruct in crime. The latter could include information on euthanasia, safe injecting procedures or other sensitive political topics. For some this is a potential attack on free speech."It's not self evident what is refused classification and what is not... Any regime that attempts to impose this sort of broad and relatively nebulous concept upon something like the internet, will inevitably block material which is valuable as well as material that other people generally consider to be harmful." Dr David Lindsay, Technology Law expert, Monash UniversityAs the senior citizens in the town hall show us, it is very easy to circumvent the filter with limited technical experience, using proxy sites and virtual private networks. It is an issue the Government acknowledges but ultimately dismisses as an argument against filtering:"It's relatively easy to get around the underage drinking laws. It's relatively easy to get around the underage smoking laws. It's relatively easy to speed. It's relatively easy to drink and drive, but that's not an argument for not having those laws." Stephen ConroyWhile the battle over the question of filtering goes on, one thing is clear: more than two years after Kevin Rudd promised parents he would protect their children on the net, Australians still don't know what the new net filtering laws will look like and what material they will block or approve
Notes Closed captioning in English
Event Broadcast 2010-05-10 at 20:30:00
Notes Classification: NC
Subject Child welfare.
Computers -- Access control.
Elections -- Political aspects.
Federal government -- Planning.
Internet -- Censorship.
Form Streaming video
Author Ashcroft, Jocelyn, contributor
Booyar, Olya, contributor
Campbell, David, contributor
Conroy, Stephen, contributor
Coroneos, Peter, contributor
Fenton, Jeremy, contributor
Flanagan, Karen, contributor
Flynn, Iarla, contributor
Grace, Trevor, contributor
Hamilton, Clive, contributor
Jacobs, Colin, contributor
Katz, Justin, contributor
Koeber, Alex, contributor
Leigh, Sue, contributor
Lindsay, David, contributor
McDermott, Quentin, reporter
McMenamin, Bernadette, contributor
Newton, Mark, contributor
Nitschke, Philip, contributor
Patten, Fiona, contributor
Peters, Betty, contributor
Sheikh, Simon, contributor
Smith, Boaz, contributor
Thompson, Mozelle, contributor
Wallace, Jim, contributor
Wood, Tom, contributor