But there were planes to catch and bills to pay… and so we needed a web filter to protect your children

Okay, the title of the post is a lie but it’s a frequently heard lie.

It amazes me that I most often hear this lie from opponents of the web filter. The argument appears to run like this:

1. They’re bringing a web filter to protect the children.

2. The web filter won’t protect the children.

C. Therefore, we shouldn’t have a web filter.

In our insatiable desire to be the United States in the Southern Hemisphere, opponents of the web filter have been screaming incoherently about their rights to access anything and everything through the internet — especially the stuff they don’t want to access. One friend of mine said that the web filter was an incompetent impingement on her rights because the filter could be circumvented. Another friend cited the Sydney Morning Herald which incoherently compared the web filter to speed humps on a highway.

It turns out that — hold on to your hats, folks — there’s a huge trade involved in getting illegal items through Customs. I know. You’re completely shocked that the drug industry imports drugs from overseas. Customs catches a great deal of it but, given that there are imported drugs in Australia, they’re can be evaded.

I don’t think there are too many people around who would argue with a straight face that Customs is an incompetent inpingement on their rights. Yet when we have what is essentially the internet equivalent of Customs, people cry foul.

The filter takes out the huge grey area with issues such as pornography. It might be that I’m a huge misanthrope but I can fairly easily imagine the AFP busting a pornography ring and people using as their defence that they did not know that the stuff they were accessing was illegal.

But if they have to deliberately go out of their way to circumvent a filter to access illegal material, it’s obvious that they know what they’re doing is illegal. They are deliberately setting out to commit a crime. There’s no grey area here and I think that’s a good thing.

This material is already illegal. If you’re caught with this stuff by Customs, it’s game over for you.

An interesting case emerges with the assisted suicide material being blocked. You are already forbidden to import the material through Customs. The filter reflects the existing law which says that assisted suicide materials are illegal. Instead of complaining that the assisted suicide laws should be changed, opponents of the filter attack the filter for accurately reflecting the current legal framework.

Why is there such an uproar? The only charitable interpretations I have are based on general daddy issues and a romantic view of the internet.

There are some people who really cannot stand being told that they can’t do something. Even if they didn’t already want to do it, they just want to be able to do it. It’s almost pathological in its stupidity. Most of the people whinging about the filter don’t want to access the stuff that’s being blocked. When the filter comes in, most of the people whinging about the filter will never encounter the filter. They’re complaining because they don’t like authorities telling them that they can’t do things.

Somewhat related to the first, there is a commonly held romantic view of the internet: the internet is free, unrestrained, egalitarian, &c., &c. It’s basically a utopia for libertarians. Unfortunately, it’s never been the case and people who end up the victims of online evils — such as unfunny identity theft and hilarious ‘cyber-bullying’ — are usually those who bought into that romantic ideal. If the government sets up a blacklist, then the internet is no longer the unfettered playground of their imagination.

The filter is a good idea. The only objections to it are infantile and it treats the internet consistently with other means of information exchange.

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12 thoughts on “But there were planes to catch and bills to pay… and so we needed a web filter to protect your children

  1. My objection is that you can’t filter URLs without checking every single packet that gets sent, i.e. without slowing down the connection, and I don’t want slow internet.

    (Ok, not my only objection, but the main one).

  2. Two things.

    “The network deterioration will be negligible.” Yes, if you’re viewing a static webpage. I’ve heard 1/17th of a second quoted, which is approximately 60ms. Current latency to the US is approximately 200ms (the speed of light sets a theoretical minimum of about 70ms, I think).

    This hampers rapid fire au everywhere else (but mostly the States) comms. So, Skype, really.

    I also understand it hasn’t been load tested. I don’t think this will scale – which is to say – I don’t think they really know what’s going to happen when all of Australia starts having to be filtered. As legislators don’t really care about internet performance unless farmers are involved, I’m not sure they’ll fix it if it breaks in this way.

    Also, google have performed their own tests when tracking user stats and found that adding a mere 100ms to a page response time would measurably reduce user interaction and engagement. They didn’t perform these tests as a response to the filter, they performed them trying to work out how much attention they should be paying to server performance.

    1/16th of a second matters to the internet.

    Also, yes, you’re arguing on semantics and legalities – what is illegal and what isn’t, what rights we supposedly have vs what we don’t – which is mainly because that’s what you /like/ to argue about, because you’re very good at it.

    We can argue that maybe I should have access to that content anyway. I see, however, that you already addressed that in “They’re complaining because they don’t like authorities telling them that they can’t do things.” You’re letting your faith in authority and control shine through.

    Next time, compare it to gun control in the states.

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