Senator Kate Lundy proposes “Internet Filter Lite”

Senator Kate Lundy has continued her trend of bucking Labor Party policy and has published her opinion that the government’s unpopular mandatory internet censorship scheme should be dramatically modified.

Senator Lundy was the shadow communication minister before the Rudd Labor party won government and placed Stephen Conroy into the role. She now serves as Chair of the Joint Standing Committee for the National Capital and External Territories and a long-standing active member of the Senate Environment Communications and the Arts Committee.

In a blog post titled “My thoughts on the Safer Internet Group statement” Lundy reflects on a proposal that has been created by Yahoo Google Australian Librarian and Information Association (ALIA) and the Inspire Foundation.

The consortium had suggested the government should:

1. reduce the scope of filtering from “refused classification” content to child pornography only and

2. That adults can choose whether they have Internet filtering or not

Lundy goes on to argue “The choice of an opt-out in the Safer Internet Group forms the substance of the proposal however the paper focussed on the reducing the filter from RC rather than on the case for opting out. I have heard the arguments that limiting the scope of a mandatory filter to child pornographic material and understand that for many this change would remediate their concerns about a RC filter but in effect the ability to opt out resolves this core complaint anyway.”

“The bottom line is that for many people a (generally silently applied) mandatory filter with a secret blacklist would always be concerning regardless of the filter scope. It still wouldn’t engage or educate all Internet subscribers in better online safety practices it wouldn’t deal with business concerns and it wouldn’t deal with concerns around a secret blacklist: only the direct engagement of Internet subscribers and the ability to legitimately opt out resolves these fundamental objections.”

Lundy then proposes that the government should abandon its existing strategy and instead adopt a new one which:

1. requires all internet users to make an active choice (a “mandatory option”) about what level of filtering they want and if they don’t make the choice within a reasonable time they get defaulted to the government’s blacklist

2. makes it a requirement of ISPs that they allow consumers to opt-out and get a fully unfiltered internet feed. (A ‘requirement’ which no ISP would be likely to object to since that’s what they offer now.)

“I think mandating the provision of an Open Internet service in legislation for all ISPs also protects the civil libertarian principles of freedom of information and speech whilst not diminishing the ability of the authorities to tackle illegal content such as child pornography where is found” Lundy said in her post.

“I think that legislating to protect the presence and availability of an open Internet service would clearly solve several of the public concerns whilst also showing the world that Australia takes freedom of speech and association very seriously.”

The Pirate Party of Australia rejected Lundy’s proposals arguing that the only acceptable option was no internet filter at all.

“Senator Lundy’s proposal for a ‘mandatory option’ for the internet filter is a bit of a hollow response to concerns of the wider community. It is basically opt-out wrapped in double speak” said Rodney Serkowski Party Secretary.

“People opting out will run the risk of increased surveillance as the government continues its attempts to enforce conservative social norms and suppress fundamental freedoms” he continued.

“There is still nothing to prevent a future government from simply terminating the ‘opt-out’
option and returning us to the blindness of a government imposed and controlled internet
censorship infrastructure. There is still nothing to protect from an expansion of what is
censored by the scheme.”

David Crafti Pirate Party President said that “the issue is that all these filtering plans establish a framework that can be abused in the future. When you look at how either opt-in or opt-out mechanisms would work they are effectively the same as the mandatory option except that there is extra processing involved to determine who makes each request and whether they are opted in. It actually requires more invasion of privacy as requests for censored material then have to be linked directly to the requestor.”

“This really is not the time for compromise — Internet users will unduly bear the costs for the proposed censorship infrastructure both through misallocated government spending which would be better spent adequately funding and improving law enforcement capability and through higher service charges for costs incurred through the implementation of the regime by ISPs” he concluded.