Some time ago, I posted a list of what were either complete misunderstandings, misrepresentations, or out and out lies presented by Stephen Conroy in regards to his utterly flawed proposal to introduce legislation to compulsorily censor the internet in Australia.
I thought it might be time to revisit my list – especially since almost two months have passed, and the good senator has continued on his merry way lying and trying to misleading the Australian public.
Here are the “fresh lies” as presented by the minister – while reading this list, remember that Kevin Rudd demoted Peter Garrett over the home insulation debacle, after only a couple of obvious stuff-ups by Garrett and his department. Also remember that Mr Conroy repeatedly accuses online action groups such as the EFA and GetUp! of trying to “mislead Australians”:
- In what has been labelled an “out and out” lie, Mr Conroy stated over the weekend that “We are still consulting on the final details of the scheme. But this policy has been approved by 85 per cent of Australian internet service providers, who have said they would welcome the filter, including Telstra, Optus, iPrimus and iinet. In actual fact, iiNet has been staunchly against the filter all along, as they stated categorically to the media following the minister’s latest misrepresentation/lie.
- In the same recent Fairfax Limited news item, Senator Conroy made the puzzling statement that “blocking material is not considered to be censorship”. Exactly what IS censorship if it is not the blocking of access to certain material?
- In what appeared to be nothing more than an attempt to misdirect the media away from continuing to criticise his policies, the senator launched a scathing attack on Facebook in regards to questions about the privacy of user data on the massively popular social networking site. Notice how that one has died down as quickly as it was blown out of all proportion by the minister?
- During a recent Senate Estimates hearing, he describes what he believes was a deliberate attempt by Google to collect personal user data during the collection of data for Google’s Street View service – and which was utterly refuted by Google, who apologised for the incident – the minister says “Yes, I’m saying they wrote a piece of code designed to do it“. How exactly does Mr Conroy know what code is and is not written in-house by Google? Where is any shread of evidence to back up this potentially libelous statement? A clear abuse of ministerial privilege within a Senate Estimates hearing.
- One of the minister’s favourite retorts when trying to justify his stance on the filter is the tired old line “you can’t watch this material on television”. However, as a recent incident regarding the Nine Network drama Underbelly demonstrates, it is in fact very possible to see the kind of material Mr Conroy is at pains to say “you can’t watch on television” – on television. Another demonstration of his own misunderstanding of the classification system(s) he is trying to enforce on the internet. Interestingly, the original news article highlighting the greyness of the situation was mysteriously removed from the internet the following day, prompting obvious questions about who decided that it needed to be removed. I never received a reply to my request to Fairfax as to why it was taken down. It was initially cached by Mr Conroy’s friends at Google, but even that seems to be gone too.
Following is a complete relisting of the lies I highlighted in my original article:
- Minister Conroy said in a Punch article he wrote – “Unless the URL’s requested are on the RC Content list, the web traffic will not pass through a ‘filter’.” — Exactly how will he/anyone know if the requested URL is or is not on the RC Content list, if he doesn’t pass it through a filter? Clearly, a lie or a complete misunderstanding of the concept. His OWN concept.
- In the same article, Minister Conroy said – “We have never said ISP-level filtering alone would help fight child pornography or keep children safe online.” — Yet on the Channel Ten program “The 7PM Project”, the minister clearly said at the 3:07 mark of his appearance that “this filter is only designed to block webpages that are defined under the classification processes as “refused classification” – that’s child pornography, pro-bestiality sites, pro-rape websites, and material like that”. So even though he says in one breath, it is ONLY about BLOCKING these sites, he says in another that there is more to it?
- One of the minister’s favourite lines is – “You cannot buy this material on DVD, etc” — however, as pointed out by Simon Hackett, the CEO of ISP Internode you quite clearly CAN get it on DVD in Australia. Yet another lie or complete misunderstanding.
- Heading back over to the minister’s appearance on “The 7PM Project”, it was clearly stated with reference to the 4:57 mark of the interview that – “it’s banned on Australian hosted ISPs today, it’s not banned because we can’t ban international websites, we can’t ban material hosted in foreign countries” — meaning that if it is in Australia, he can have the content taken down, but if it’s overseas, he has to block it. So there should be no Australian sites on the list, right? So how did the sites of a Queensland dentist, dog kennel, and tuckshop end up on the blacklist? Why was it just not taken down? Is the minister lying again, or is the system he wants to introduce administered in a completely inept fashion?
- In his appearance on the ABC Radio National program “Australia Talks”, with reference to the 00:36 mark of this excerpted version of the interview, the minister quite clearly said – “the government’s plan is to require ISPs to block a very defined list of URLs of material that is described under Australian laws as “refused classification”” — yet when he appeared on ABC Radio National’s Breakfast program, he said “you can’t regulate the internet”. While in the context of the possibility of Australian content requirements for IPTV services, it’s curious that he says ISPs will be required to block a specific list of URLs under the banner of “refused classification”, yet “you can’t regulate the internet” in terms of IPTV? Aren’t IPTV services accessed via URLs? Can’t he just add those URLs to the list if they don’t serve minimum Australian content purposes? Wouldn’t this be the possibility for the broadening of the scope of the filter we fear? More misunderstanding.
- The minister also regularly and clearly demonstrates a complete lack of knowledge of the industry his ministerial portfolio has the most direct influence over. Referring back to the minister’s appearance on the “Australia Talks” program and the 2:25 mark of this excerpted version of the program, he referred to the founder of Google – “Mr Schmidt said, if you have something you don’t want anyone to know, maybe you shouldn’t be doing it in the first place, this is the founder of Google!” — if the minister has any right to inflict an unwanted filter upon the people of Australia, if he has any right to think he has the position to even comment on the industry, should not he know who the founders of Google are? Perhaps he should have used Google to find the real answer?
- The minister clearly does not appreciate the damage this policy is doing to Australia’s international reputation. Google themselves have expressed great concerns, as have Yahoo! and others. Noted podcaster Leo Laporte and regular contributor and media commentator Jeff Jarvis have also had their say, along with the US State Department. International agency Reporters Without Borders has also placed Australia on its watchlist of countries with the potential to infringe freedom of speech on the internet.
Who is misleading Australians? You be the judge.