Wednesday, 16 December 2009

Won't Somebody *Please* Think Of The Children?

Looks like the great firewall of Australia is going to go ahead. But it's okay, it's only blocking what we don't need to see anyway. Maybe no longer would we have to face the scourge of the hidden link to meatspin or lemon party, or nervously laugh at the contents of Encyclopedia Dramatica. And when a friend links to a disturbing video, we can be safe in the knowledge that it will be a dog eating its own faeces as opposed to two girls.


There's no doubt that the internet is has some pretty disturbing content. The seedy underbelly of a liberal society on display for anyone to see. And that seems to be the problem. While most of us can get by just fine without knowing what it's like to view the most vile disgusting behaviour humanity has to offer (I for one will die happy never seeing Paris Hilton naked), there's always someone who is willing to push the limits.

While some of the content proposed to be filtered I would love to see gone, I just can't support such a proposal as what is on offer. Beyond all else it is invasive and invasive to the freedom of adults to choose what is right for them. The principle of liberty, that the freedom to swing my fist ends when it connects with your mouth, this is what is at stake.

Taking on child abuse, rape, murder - where the liberties of one is being violated by another - maybe there's a case to be had. As there may be a case for voluntary filtering to assist parents. But mandatory filtering for all? No thank you. Helping parents to prevent a child from seeing a penis penetrating a vagina is different from banning the image for all.

Maybe I'm looking at this the wrong way. A society is a society of law, and the law must be upheld to maintain society. By having products where one can subvert the law, it makes a mockery of democracy. So I hope that Mr Conroy will speak to the transport minister about implementing the same technology in motor vehicles.

Cars, trucks, motorbikes can sometimes do in excess of 200km/h! Now where on any of the roads can anyone do more than 110? What I propose is that all vehicles be fitted with devices that cut off the engine whenever a car exceeds 120km/h. It's the speed limit +10. Now I know that's risky, as it will give people the ability to drive up to 10km/h outside the law, but it's a good start.

Though it doesn't need to be only that way. With this new GPS technology around, we could stop speeding once and for all. The technology is there now to enforce the mandatory speed limit all over the country. It could stop many accidents and many lives!

After all, there's no reason why cars should go higher than the fastest that is permissible on the roads. And such measures to my mind would be much more beneficial than putting a filter on the internet. Yet why isn't such a device being proposed? Or for that matter, devices that ensure that anyone behind a wheel is sober? Maybe it's the cost of such a system.

More likely methinks is such a system is unnecessarily intrusive. And in this matter, it's actually directly relevant to the law. The internet filter is not going to do that, and any harm it does prevent is merely incidental. Instead it's just something the government can look to be doing in order to "help" in raising children. Though how blocking the internet of everyone will do that remains to be seen. If Joe-sixpack has no children or Joe-computernerd can protect his system up, then does it matter so much that they might enjoy trolling on 4chan? Or if they are into fetish porn, who am I to say they can't watch that just in case my hypothetical children might stumble across "Adam and Steve in Extreme Anal Bondage 7"

What the internet shows is an insight into humanity, and one that it seems that some can't stand the sight of. It's paradoxically simultaneously in ones home and for everyone to see. And if it turns out that society is not as "moral" as it was perceived to be, then obviously the disconnect needs to be blamed on something. And while any real evidence of the dangers of the internet or the effectiveness of a filter are lacking*, such empirical shortcomings don't stop in the way of hijacking sensationalism.

It seems odd that such a situation would be preferable to actually helping spread awareness or offering parents support. That the government is being misleading by pointing to other western countries as justification, conveniently omitting the optional nature of such filters, just goes to show that once again the group pushing for the moral high-ground are pushing moral bankruptcy. The least one should be able to expect on issues of ethical significance is openness. Cherry picking data, talking up the dangers that present to children and misleading the public about the nature of the systems are not something a liberal democracy should do.

There may be an issue to explore, there may be legitimate concerns, the interest of protection of some content in regards to the safety of individuals. But this is not playing out this way, sensationalism and the grab for morality is what is on offer; highlighting once again what an ineffective and weak opposition means in a democracy. No pressure to get this bill right, no means to keep this bill accountable - not that I expect the Australian conservatives to be any better sadly.

The paradox of the internet leaves it in a different situation from other media we consume. It's not just consuming, but also contributing. And because of the interactivity, that is reason alone to step very carefully around the technology. It does have privacy in a way that other media doesn't. It's an open forum, one that companies are spending much energies to make as safe as possible for children. Long story short, the net will give what people put into it. So much for free will...

*to my knowledge

No comments: