No Clean Feed

No Clean Feed

No Clean FeedThe Australian Federal Government is pushing forward with a plan to force Internet Service Providers [ISPs] to censor the Internet for all Australians. This plan will waste tens of millions of taxpayer dollars and slow down Internet access.

Despite being almost universally condemned by the public, ISPs, State Governments, Media and censorship experts, Communications Minister Stephen Conroy is determined to force this filter into your home.

What is the Government's plan?


Although the final details of the filtering plans have been kept under wraps, the Minister is on record as being firmly committed to a mandatory clean-feed internet to Australian homes, schools and public computers. A trial of filtering software by the ACMA has already been performed, with a "live"field pilot to follow later this year. We must act fast before millions of dollars are squandered on this technically impractical and democratically unworkable solution in search of a problem.

What do we know so far?
Filtering will be mandatory in all homes and schools across the country.1
The clean feed will censor material that is "harmful and inappropriate"for children.2
The filter will require a massive expansion of the ACMA's blacklist of prohibited content.3
The Government wants to use dynamic filters of questionable accuracy that slow the internet down by an average of 30%.4
The filtering will target legal as well as illegal material.5
$44m has been budgeted for the implementation of this scheme so far.6
The clean-feed for children will be opt-out, but a second filter will be mandatory for all Internet users.7
A live pilot deployment is going ahead in the near future.
What we don't know is just as important.
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?
All of us want to see children protected from content that could be disturbing or harmful. The clean-feed filter is not a good way to go about this, and could actually reduce the safety of children online.


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There are technical issues.
The clean-feed, if attempted, will be a technical disaster. The Internet does not work in a manner that would let a filter be effective, and the World Wide Web contains far more content than could ever be effectively rated by a Government organisation. The host of technical hurdles include:

Like asking Australia Post to filter out objectionable letters, a filter would require ISPs to examine all web traffic, causing enormous expense and technical headaches.
A filter will slow Internet access down by up to 80% according to a Government report.4
Even the most accurate software the Government has tested would incorrectly block 10,000 sites in every million.4
The ACMA would be overwhelmed with the task of maintaining a blacklist. Millions of web sites, with the list changing on a daily basis, would need to be monitored by Australian bureaucrats - an impossible task.
Only illegal material published on web sites could be targeted, completely missing other methods of distribution such as BitTorrent.
Any determined user - including children - could bypass the filter quickly using an anonymizer service, open proxy, or VPN connection.
The clean feed would be less customisable and effective than a PC-based filter.
In short, as the best experts in the country unanimously agree, Conroy's plan does not make sense technically.8


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There are free-speech concerns.
Although the initiative is intended and marketed as a tool to help protect children from the dangers of the Internet, this paternalistic scheme raises some troubling issues that affect all Australians. As a source of daily information, the Internet increases in importance every day. Do we really want the Government of the day deciding what Australian adults can and can't see? Do we want Australia to join a censorship club in which Burma, China and North Korea are the founding members?

The list of prohibited sites will probably be secret, so it will be hard to know what content the Government has effectively banned.
Filtering will be compulsory in all homes, even where there are no children.
It is unknown whether there will be any way to have content removed from the prohibited list.
How far will the list go, now and in future? Will it filter out material on sexual health, drug use, terrorism... even breastfeeding? Euthanasia and anorexia have been touted by Government MPs as topics worthy of filtering.9

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The Clean Feed is bad policy.
In short, even if it worked the filter would be terrible policy. By censoring the entire country's Internet access down to the level of a child of indeterminate age, it robs Australian adults of ability to make their own decisions about what content they view.

Most Australians don't want the filter.Support for this overly broad policy is virtually non-existent, even from child-protection organisations. A recent survey shows that 51.5% of Australian net user strongly oppose the plan, while only 2.9% strongly support it.10
One size doesn't fit all. A single filter list can't deliver results that are appropriate for all parents, teens and children, with no way to customise the filter for your household.
The protection for children is minor at best, an illusion at worst. The clean-feed does nothing to protect children from real threats like cyber-bullying, online sexual predators, viruses, or the theft of personal information. It may provide a false sense of security to parents, reducing effective monitoring of their children's online activities.
The money is better spent elsewhere. The filter will cost tens of millions of dollars to attempt. Yet the Government's own studies admit education is more effective than filtering in protecting children, and that "content risks"are less dangerous than other risks.11
No other democracy has a scheme comparable to the clean-feed. Comparable systems in Europe only filter a handful of illegal sites, and then only to prevent accidental access.

What Can I Do?
Take Action. By letting policymakers know just what we think of the "clean feed"Internet filter, we can bring about a policy change.

You can help by contacting your representatives and spreading the word about this campaign.

No Clean Feed - Stop Internet Censorship in Australia

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www.nocleanfeed.com

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