The Australian Rudd Government will soon be attempting to pass laws imposing a compulsory net filter on all Australian users. The ostensible reason, touted by both the media and Rudd himself, is that this filter is to prevent child-pornography. As is always the case, the mere mention of child porn has been enough to rile up the loony left, with opponents being labelled as paedophiles. So why should we, as homeschoolers, be concerned? After all, we all want our children to be safe, right?
There are several reasons why the Australian public in general, and homeschoolers in particular, should be concerned about these laws.
1/ Paedophilia could increase
Yes, you read right. Rather than helping to prevent paedophilia, this filter could, instead, make it worse. Think about it. We are talking about guys who are experts on hiding their activities. They know how to get through filters. They know how to get around blocks. Blacklisting will only drive them deeper underground. Which leads us to a related problem.
How do police crack paedophile rings? There are several ways the good guys catch the bad guys, but here is a major one. Computers. That’s right, cops catch rock-spiders by logging into websites and pretending to be rock-spiders themselves, or young teenage girls. Either way, if this filter is introduced, this avenue will be denied them, making their job that much harder and putting more little children at risk.
This may sound a little paranoid, but bare with me. These laws are frighteningly close to those in China, in that we are not allowed to know which sites are blocked. Revealing the names of blacklisted sites will be illegal. When the current list was leaked earlier this year, there were several clearly innocent sites listed (including the popular LOL Cats). Secret blacklists open up a huge can of worms. The lack of accountability has a big potential for mistakes and abuse.
4/Stifling political debate
As we all know, internet filters work by blocking sites that use certain keywords. This has the potential of stifling political debate. For example, we all know that euthanasia is illegal, and as such any site that tells you how to assist a suicide is therefore illegal. However, there are many people who believe euthanasia ought to be legalised. Will sites that argue the case for legalisation, or even sites that argue the case for why it is wrong, be blocked because the keyword euthanasia has been added to the filter?
As homeschoolers, we obviously believe in the freedom of children and adults to engage in lifelong learning, and many of us rely heavily on the internet for information. However, as has been pointed out, internet filters rely on keywords to determine what content will and will not be blocked. Thus, our ability to access information
will be curtailed.
Since the reason given for this filter is child porn, I think we can assume that flagged keywords will include words such as naked, nude and nudist. So lets say your child wanted to study medieval attitudes to nudity, or the statue of David, or nudity in christian art. Where would you go to find information on these subjects?
6/Marginalisation of non-christians
Again, I may be accused of being paranoid here, but I find it concerning that Mr Rudd has shown the results of his trial to the Christian Lobby before he has even revealed it to parliament. Will the secret blacklist grow to include pagan sites, Islamic sites and anything that doesn’t agree with the philosophy of the Christian ethos?
7/State interference in parenting
Lets face it. Many of us chose to pull our children out of school because we were unhappy not just with how they were being taught, but the content as well. Some worried about the potential for indoctrination. Well, here it is folks. If the government starts dictating which sites we can and cannot access, their indoctrination is reaching into our homes.
Additionally, there are many Net Nanny type programs available for parents who wish to limit what their children access online. By introducing mandatory internet filtering the government is, in effect, making a statement. They are saying that we, as parents, cannot be trusted to decide what our children should and should not read.
Many computer experts have expressed the view that the internet filter proposed by the Rudd government will drastically reduce speed. For homeschoolers this means less electronic lessons will be able to be fit into one day. For business, this means we will be at a disadvantage on the world stage.
Prime Minister Kevin Rudd has stated that he intends the implementation of this plan to fall squarely on the shoulders of Internet Providers. This will mean extra business costs to them. As we all know, when business costs increase, the cost to the consumer rises. With many households already struggling to make ends meet, this could lead to a greater gap between the haves and have-nots.
Finally, Australia is supposed to be a democracy. Democratic nations do not impose unreasonable restrictions on free speech. If allowed to implement this filter, Rudd will put Australia in the same boat as his beloved China.
So fight back, people! Attend protests, blog, tweet, write (politely!) to your local member, send letters to the editor, comment on parliamentary members’ blogs, facebook and myspace accounts. Check out No Clean Feed for more information. Participate in The Great Australian Internet Blackout.
Utilise your right to dissent while it still exists!
- Iceland Considering Banning Online Porn, Critics Fear Web Censorship & More Surveillance (leaksource.wordpress.com)
- Kansas Senate Debating Internet Filtering Bill (kake.com)
- censorship and the Internet (cyberleague.wordpress.com)
- Homeschooling Gifted Children (education.com)
- Pakistan: The “Access Is My Right” Campaign (advocacy.globalvoicesonline.org)