Here is a copy of a letter I have just submitted to Internode, the internet service provider I used in Sydney, with my objection to the development and introduction of the so-called Clean Feed (ISP-level internet censorship) proposed by the current Australian Labor Government.
Originally addressed to Internode support with copies to Mark Newton and the Electronic Frontier Foundation, the support address bounced, so I forwarded the original message to some other published Internode addresses. Two separate autoreply messages tell me I’m now in the system…
Yes, there are typos and at least a couple of sentences that went astray somewhere in the middle. And if you do read as far as the postscript, yes, I do miss my old connection, and my apartment with the view over Darling Harbour. It’s getting cold here in London.
To: Internode Management,
I’m hoping whoever in support receives this can direct it to the appropriate department or manager within Internode; that the other published addresses are for residential and business sales or accounts, none of which seem entirely appropriate.
As a prior Internode account holder, currently living in London and likely to be using Internode again when I return to Australia, I want to express my concern and dismay over recent news in the Australian and international media about the so-called Clean Feed that the government wishes to strangle Australia’s internet networks with.
If Australia was ever considered an internet backwater (and to be sure, it has), that was nothing compared to the ridicule and sheer disbelief that the rest of the (western, at least) world is now showing for this draconian attempt to censor the internet.
The example, I think in Finland, of a similar scheme being trialled being used to block access to an anti-censorship site is a perfect example of exactly how this system will, both unintentionally and worse yet intentionally, fail and be abused.
I have thus far read only a few articles on the subject, and a search for “clean feed” on the Department of Broadband, Communications and the Digital Economy site (http://www.dbcde.gov.au) appallingly returns only a solitary relevant result – a speech by Helen Coonan in June 2006 at http://www.dbcde.gov.au/newsroom/speeches/protecting_families_online – but it seems odd that no-one mentions the obvious that this policy is almost certainly primarily about something other than “protecting the children”, which that referenced speech indicates wasn’t really possible in 2006.
I am aware that “the Mark Newton letter” of 20 October 2008 addressed to Kate Ellis is not the word of Internode, but to me it is vindication of my choice of ISP, that it is staffed by technically competent, thinking individuals who are willing to say what they believe in defence of their own rights and the rights of the community. I am horrified to hear that Stephen Conroy (or his office) made moves to have him silenced – the disturbing element of the system already rears is ugly head. Point blank: the Clean Feed is about censorship, not protecting the public. It is there to give a reason for the government (pressure groups, et al) a convenient mechanism to stifle dissent. Once the system is in place, it won’t stop the things it is “supposed to” stop, but it will stop the casual user – the greater community, if you will – from finding news and being able to have their own “democratic” voice. I am totally opposed to this and other similar criminal imbalances in the network, which in our information age is as fundamental and essential as water and electricity have been in previous times.
This does raise an interesting parallel, though, and that is of the artificial introduction of fluoride compounds into the water supply at a state or federal level: hazardous toxic waste that has never been proven safe to administer to people, which costs the community financially to implement, has no demonstrable benefits and a whole raft of negative long term consequences, all, supposedly, in the name of “saving the children” (from having bad teeth, in the fluoride case).
It is my current understanding that government is about to start (or perhaps already has started) a trial, seeking participation from ISPs. If some 80% of poll respondents are against the Clean Feed but the government blindly (or should I say determinedly, since the real agenda is to control the population’s ability to dissent, not to give the population what they want) pushes on, the “people”, including businesses, should push back – and if all it takes is _not_ investing time, money and other resources on developing a police-state-enabling technology _for_ the government, then I say do that; and make a loud public statement to say why. You don’t need to go into detailed studies and analysis of cost and effectiveness; you can simply look at the big picture and see that censorship marks the road to tyranny and object purely on ethical and moral grounds.
I may be living in London, but I will be returning home soon enough, and I want to make my voice heard.I don’t want to return to find my beloved internet, freedom of choice and freedom of publishing, chopped off at the knees.
PS: With regards to the earlier internet backwater comment, I miss the great ADSL2+ Internode connection I had in Sydney; much faster than most broadband services available here in London; certainly the one I’m using now.