I’m not ashamed to admit it. I’ve always been a supporter of ‘opt-out’ internet filtering because I genuinely believe it’s the only effective way to prevent children from accessing adult content on the web. But I also acknowledge that most Australians are opposed to any restrictions being placed on internet access.
The Coalition’s Policy to Enhance Online Safety for Children was amended overnight, deleting all references to the controversial ‘opt-out’ internet filter.
For some people, calling up their ISP to opt-out of an internet filter which blocks access to pornography, is just too embarrassing. However, as I learned from the debate around the Rudd-Gillard Government’s proposal for a mandatory internet filter, what drives most of the criticism and outrage about internet filtering is fear and mistrust.
I recall those opposed to internet filtering were quick to add the old ‘slippery slope’ argument to their arsenal of defensive weapons. On more than one occasion there was a suggestion that Australian internet users would eventually be subject to the same internet restrictions as China. This was a blatant exaggeration but many people believed it and they still do. Why? Apparently many Australians have a deep-seeded mistrust of governments, including those in western democracies. Those of us who argued in the affirmative during the debate had no idea just how deeply ingrained this ‘American style’ of mistrust of western governments had become in our country, until our fellow Australians began vocalising their opposition to an internet filter.
The fear is that once internet filtering starts, the government would use it to block internet access to a much broader range of material without our prior knowledge. Which is a ridiculous notion and one which is planted firmly in the ‘conspiracy theorists’ camp. Australia is still a democracy and no ‘opt-out’ internet filter is going to change that.
Many western democracies have internet filtering in some form including the United Kingdom, who has adopted the same ‘opt-out’ internet filter policy hastily dumped by the Coalition last night. So what are you afraid of Australia?
In place of the ‘opt-out’ internet filter the Coalition is proposing a plan to ‘encourage’ internet service providers to make available software which can be installed on computer modems and mobile devices to protect children from adult-content such as porn. This means children will no longer have to prove they are over 18 to get unrestricted access to the web. Yeah sure, that’s really going to work…NOT.
At this stage we have no idea what the Coalition means when they say ‘encourage’ ISPs to make filtering software available. But anything less than the Coalition’s original plan won’t work.
In a perfect world all parents would be vigilant and supervise their children on the internet. But this is not a perfect world and some parents can’t or won’t take the necessary steps to monitor their children’s activities online. What do we say to the child who develops an internet porn addiction? Too bad, you should have been born with different parents?
I’m a firm believer in the old adage that ‘it takes a village to raise a child’ but in this age of individualism, I have to acknowledge that I am in the minority and in a democracy, majority rules.
You can download The Coalition’s policy to Enhance Online Safety for Children from the Liberal Party’s website at: www.liberal.org.au/our-policies
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