No Clean Feed Mr Rudd, please consider the alternatives

Dear Mr Rudd,

I was oh so excited when you came to power. Hell I even came out of my blogging wilderness to post an albeit rather short post about it.

You immediately ratified the Kyoto Protocol for Australia, promptly set about apologising to the indigenous people of Australia, and you admitted that going to war in Iraq was wrong and committed to pulling the troops out of Iraq. You then fixed some of the most harsh industrial relations reforms from the previous Howard government and hosted the 2020 summit, which may have been little more than a PR stunt, but was none the less a very successful one.

Having done all these good and impressive things your approval rating soared to 71% – the highest ever recorded according to Neilsen.

But I must object to some things you have done in the recent past.

The opening of The Easter Island detention centre and the commitment to make a measly 5% reduction on 2000 level carbon emissions seems like the decisions the last Australian government would have made. I am no expert on these things, so excuse my ignorance if I don’t fully understand the complicated nature of these decisions and topics.

But something I do have more knowledge on is the internet. Now, the censorship of the internet your government is proposing, Mr Rudd, in my opinion, has the potential to slide towards Chinese style internet censorship.

Of course child pornography is terrible and I don’t doubt that the internet has encouraged the spread of child pornography, but the acts of a tiny minority should not impede the access to, or the performance of the internet (filtering may slow internet speeds by up to 75%), for the vast majority.

Attempting to censor the internet is just plain silly. The sheer size of the net and its ever changing nature make it unfeasible technically. You can view a list of some of the technical issues on the No Clean Feed site Learn page.

There are also a lot of questions that the proposed bill leaves unanswered, again from No Clean Feed site:

  • What age level is the country’s Internet to be made appropriate for? 15? 10? 5 years old?
  • Who decides what material is "appropriate" for Australians to see?
  • How are lists of "illegal" material compiled?
  • Who will maintain the blacklist of prohibited sites?
  • How can sites mistakenly added to the list be removed?

    If safety of the children is of paramount importance, surely there are better alternatives. The internet is ultimately a reflection of the real world. There are parts that are safe for your children and there are parts that aren’t. There are parts that you should only access as an adult and there are parts that should only be accessed by children in the presence of a responsible adult.

    I may be biased, but I think the advice offered by my employer (Microsoft) in relation to keeping your kids safe online is not bad:

    • Keep communication open

    Encourage your kids to talk to you without fear of punishment about what they read and see on the Internet. Place the computer in a common room, not a child’s bedroom.

    • Set clear rules for Internet use

    Children of any age need their parents to establish clear guidelines
    about Internet use. Establish a set of rules that you and your child can
    agree on. Then post the rules above the computer or in another common space.

    • Keep personal data private

    Teach your children not to share personal information in e-mail messages,
    chat rooms, message boards, blogs, social networking sites, or other places online.

    • Use technology to help reduce risks

    Use family safety tools as a companion to parental guidance. Internet
    filtering software can help automate limitations on content and contact.

    Should you be interested in downloading a free program to monitor and control your kids activity online that works with almost all Windows PCs – you can do so here – 

    So please Mr Rudd, consider the alternatives to wide-scale internet censorship, because if protecting children online is your objective there are other alternatives. Where will the filtering end and how much money will be required if you don’t?

    A concerned Australian who wants a healthy internet for the future.

    If you want to read more about this issue the No Clean Feed site is a good one.

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