Jan 292009

Traffic was horrendous this morning, taking me 70 minutes to complete a journey which I normally do in 40. There was a bright spot in the depressing crawl of the peak hour commute. I was able to catch ‘Life Matters’ on ABC Radio National.

The government’s mandatory internet filter issue was front and centre, proponents for and against being an IT network engineer and a Christian lobbyist. I put it to you, reader, who’s opinion would you most likely pay attention to? Still, the brief debate – all of 15 minutes – was amusing if nothing else with Mark Newton, Network Engineer, putting forth a fact-based case utilising relevant and current data, while Jim Wallace, Director of the Australian Christian Lobby, used six year old opinion polls and bogeyman arguments.
Clearly, it’s the argument of god-bothering conservatives that whatever government tell us is good, and what internet technologists tell us, is bad. Wallace failed to make any valid point, even down to acknowledging that kiddie porn is generally in the domain of peer-to-peer file sharing users and not in the general internet arena. He obfuscated rather clumsily and was picked up quite succinctly by Newton. The radio piece makes good listening and it’s only short, so if you missed it, have a listen on the ABC site.
It’s important that we don’t simply take the word of proponents for either side of the argument at face value. We should be doing our own research. I’ve made my own enquiries of our own provider, Netspace. Turns out that all filtering mechanisms available via the Internet Industry Association will narrow bandwidth, effectively slowing access. Some by very little and some by a lot. As with any filter on any medium, the flow is impeded. By how much your internet access will slow depends entirely on the type of filtering mechanism. If you’re okay with a drop in bandwidth, and you don’t mind being censored by government, then that’s fine, but what the proponents of the government mandatory filter won’t admit, is that responsibility for ensuring the purity of our children’s internet access is not the premise of government. It is, and has always been, the premise of parents to ensure their children are not exposed to material deemed harmful BY THOSE PARENTS. Why should government, and by logical extension, my taxes, be involved in mandatory censorship of a population quite capable of ensuring the safety of its own children? Why should I, as an adult, be censored as to what I can and cannot access on the internet, because a minority sector of society wishes to surrender its parental responsibilities?
This is the issue. Not whether the internet – which is already below par in this country – is slowed down, nor is the issue to do with negating kiddie-porn collectors and predators. The crux of the issue, and one which no-one is prepared to broach in these debates, is one of responsibility. Responsibility for upbringing of our children. Concern for and attention to what they can and cannot access from the internet. It’s not the internet itself or any of various file transfer mechanisms. It’s individual lack of care and attention to proprieties. It’s yet more evidence of individual unwillingness in current society to accept responsibility for what does and doesn’t occur in that society, preferring to simply palm off that responsibility to government.
Long past time someone stopped the patty-cake with the technological or fringe fear tactics, and stated the genuine issue. I’m betting no-one will. It’s a lot easier to not admit that society itself has dropped the ball, and find some other excuse.