Net filtering got a run in senate question time again yesterday. See if you can spot the difference:
Minister Stephen Conroy on 22 December 2008:
“Technology that filters peer-to-peer and BitTorrent traffic does exist and it is anticipated that the effectiveness of this will be tested in the live pilot trial.”
Minister Stephen Conroy on 17 September 2009:
“As Senator Ludlam well knows, there has never been a suggestion by this government that peer-to-peer traffic would or could be blocked by our filter. It has never been suggested. So for you to continue to make the suggestion that we are attempting to do that just misleads the chamber and the Australian public, Senator Ludlam, and you know better than that. We are not attempting to suggest that the filter can capture peer-to-peer traffic.”
The first statement appeared late last year on Minister Conroy’s now extinct blog.
The second comment was an earnest response in Senate question time which neatly summarises the reasons people are so sceptical about the government’s zigzag intentions for mandatory net filtering.
Virtually before Senator Conroy had closed his mouth and sat down, the twitterverse (which had been watching the parliament’s online broadcast) had tracked down and tweeted the archived blog comment – which no longer even appears on the Minister’s website. Call it crowd-sourced accountability.
The reason this matters is that the vast majority of the kind of traffic the government is seeking to block (material refused classification, illegal, unwanted, or whatever the target is this week) is exchanged on peer to peer networks which the Government has just confirmed will be out of the reach of this poorly conceived policy.
“The internet interprets censorship as damage and routes around it” goes the ancient aphorism. The net filtering proposal has been likened to trying to crack down on the drug trade by setting up a fabulously expensive and highly visible blockade at one set of traffic lights. It goes to the question of what the success criteria for this policy actually is, and whether it wouldn’t just be smarter to redirect the funding back to law enforcement, education, net literacy courses at all primary and secondary schools, and direct government engagement with the online community.
I don’t know whether the Minister was trying to hide some quiet goalpost shifting on the net filtering trial yesterday, or was genuinely unaware he had contradicted himself. Maybe he just doesn’t read his blog.