If you visit the main page of packetlife.net frequently you may have noticed something new in the top right corner.
For those who have shielded themselves from all IT news over the last three months, Cleanfeed refers to a web content filtering system in place in the UK and and planned to be deployed in Australia soon. While the filter operated in the UK is supposedly limited to blocking only child pornography, the initiative put forth by Senator Stephen Conroy in Australia is much more ambitious.
Nocleanfeed.com lists the disturbing details of the plan known to date (references available at the link):
- Filtering will be mandatory in all homes and schools across the country.
- The clean feed will censor material that is "harmful and inappropriate" for children.
- The filter will require a massive expansion of the ACMA's blacklist of prohibited content.
- The Government wants to use dynamic filters of questionable accuracy that slow the internet down by an average of 30%.
- The filtering will target legal as well as illegal material.
- $44m has been budgeted for the implementation of this scheme so far.
- The clean-feed for children will be opt-out, but a second filter will be mandatory for all Internet users.
- A live pilot deployment is going ahead in the near future.
Setting aside the myriad of technical barriers to implementing such a system, the most obvious question is, "who decides what gets blocked?" When a corporation implements a web filter, it does so in accordance with corporate policy -- policy that is set by the owner of the network. But the Internet doesn't belong to any one entity, be it governmental or commercial, so such an authority simply doesn't exist at this scale. In a very Orwellian sense, this filtering initiative appears to want to create that authority out of thin air.
- I was able to bypass content filters at age 14, and it is not any more difficult today.
- It can't be all bad, right? Countries like China, Saudi Arabia, and Pakistan have content filters in place, and everyone loves them.
- Child pornography, sadly, is not a new market on the Internet, and those participating have little trouble doing so even with the filtering technology in place at service providers today (see #1).
- $44 million would go a long way in expanding Australia's infrastructure so that its citizens might no longer be burdened by miserly transfer caps.
Nocleanfeed.com has some good suggestions for Australians wishing to voice their opinions. Good luck, mates!