Thursday 23rd of January 2020

keeping us safe .....

keeping us safe .....

The Federal Government is attempting to silence critics of its controversial plan to censor the internet, which experts say will break the internet while doing little to stop people from accessing illegal material such as child pornography. 

Internet providers and the government's own tests have found that presently available filters are not capable of adequately distinguishing between legal and illegal content and can degrade internet speeds by up to 86 per cent. 

Documents obtained by us show the office of the Communications Minister, Stephen Conroy, tried to bully ISP staff into suppressing their criticisms of the plan. 

Senator Conroy has since last year's election victory remained tight-lipped on the specifics of his $44.2 million policy but, grilled by a Senate Estimates committee this week, he said the Government was looking at forcing ISPs to implement a two-tiered filtering system. 

The first tier, which internet users would not be able to opt out of, would block all "illegal material". Senator Conroy has previously said Australians would be able to opt out of any filters to obtain "uncensored access to the internet". 

The second tier, which is optional, would filter out content deemed inappropriate for children, such as pornography. 

But neither filter tier will be capable of censoring content obtained over peer-to-peer file sharing networks, which account for an estimated 60 per cent of internet traffic. 

Filtering Out The Fury: How Government Tried To Gag Web Censor Critics

dangerous idealogues .....

from Crikey ….. 

Conroy a fearless combatant in the war against free speech 

Canberra correspondent Bernard Keane writes: 

Estimates isn’t what it used to be. Way back when, sessions could go all night and public servants would frequently be waiting until 3am to have the likes of Bronwyn Bishop bully and insult them.  

Sometime in the Keating years, they reduced the annual number of sessions from 4 to 3. In more recent times, they ended sessions at 11pm, adding a faint sense of civilization to proceedings. Then, in the last years of the Howard Government, as part of its manic determination to curtail any accountability, Estimates was made shorter, so that politicians had to rush through their questions or place them on notice. Labor has not been inclined to restore the more languorous approach of previous years. 

To make things worse, there aren’t that many Coalition senators interested in taking a patient, forensic approach. Simon Birmingham is one, but then he has a brain and uses it, which puts him way ahead of a lot of his colleagues. The likes of George Brandis and Michael Ronaldson fancy themselves as inquisitors but don’t measure up. But the Greens senators do, because accountability is their bread and butter and Estimates is their chance to shine. 

Which makes the exchange between Senator Scott Ludlam and Minister for Delaying Things Stephen Conroy and his officials on internet filtering last week especially interesting. Asher Moses has written about the exchange for the Herald, as has the estimable Stilgherrian here. Ludlam was conducting his first Estimates hearings and impressed immediately. Old head, young shoulders, that sort of thing. Hopefully he will spend much of the next six years making life most difficult for the Government. 

The Ludlam-Conroy exchange is worth examining in detail because in it Conroy showed all of the reasons why he and his Department are not to be trusted on the internet filtering issue. 

You could tell Ludlam got under Conroy’s skin pretty quickly because the Minister, who normally enjoys Estimates and is never short of some banter, rapidly defaulted to his now-standard suggestion that anyone quibbling with the Government policy on regulating the internet is a paedophile.  

The immediate cause was Ludlam’s insistence on asking what other countries had mandatory ISP-level internet filtering. The answer, among democracies, is zero, but clearly Conroy and his officials didn’t want to admit that. Several times Ludlam tried and each time he got the runaround. First he was disingenuously told by an official that the UK, Canada, New Zealand and the Netherlands had ISP-level filtering, which prompted Conroy to say "this is not some one-off excursion," about his own policy.

But Ludlam homed in. What countries had mandatory filtering? That’s when Conroy suggested Ludlam might like child pornography. He wasn’t deterred. What countries had mandatory filtering? "We are looking at the opt-out provision," Conroy immediately replied, as if making a bid for non sequitur of the week. Perhaps aware that it was also complete rubbish, he continued "it depends on which way you are looking at it."  

Presumably, as in, looked at another way, it’s not "opt-out" at all.  

"It can mean the opposite of what it sounds like, so it does get a little confusing," he continued. That indeed confused Ludlam, so much so that he momentarily forgot that Conroy had entirely ignored the question. But eventually he backtracked to it. Which countries had mandatory filtering? "The situation across the countries actually varies quite considerably," averred Deputy Secretary Abul Rivzi. Actually, that’s not true about mandatory filtering. Actually, no one else has mandatory filtering. Actually, Conroy wasn’t telling the truth when he said "this is not some one-off excursion." Rivzi explained the UK situation in some detail, before eventually adding that, um, it was voluntary. Actually. 

Senators 1, Public Servants 0, to use a sporting analogy the Minister would understand. 

Of course the real score is about Government 6, Free Speech Zilch, because Conroy is well advanced in plans to impose a filtering scheme that is not, despite Conroy’s claims, just intended to block material of the sort currently banned by the Australian Communications and Media Authorities’s wholly useless blacklist of websites. 

Conroy keeps asserting that any claims he wants to censor the internet are hysterical misreporting. But when pressed, he and his officials start dancing around the issue. When Ludlam tried to tease out what specifically would be blocked under mandatory ISP filtering, Conroy first tried to head him off by claiming that everything was still up in the air. "You are jumping ahead of where we are actually at in the development of it." "We are just at the very early stages. You are actually jumping ahead." "We are actually only in the early stages..." 


When that doesn’t help, Conroy goes to his default position: he’s just trying to block what’s illegal anyway. "We would be enforcing existing laws," Conroy told Ludlam. And "I am not looking to blanket-ban some of the material that it is being claimed I want to blanket-ban, but some material online, such as child pornography, is illegal," he told The Age today. 

Well that’s OK then. Who can object to blocking what’s already illegal? 

Do you know what’s illegal on the internet under Australian law? It’s not just child pornography or bomb-making manuals. Any material classified RC or X18+ by the Classification Board is outright banned – which includes non-simulated sex (and even simulated sex, and for that matter anything dealing with "intense adult themes" is banned if access isn’t restricted).

This means material that is available in bagged magazines in newsagents across the country is illegal online. Makes sense huh? Despite the claims of Conroy’s officials, the UK doesn’t have such a nonsensical online restriction. 

Don’t like porn? Well, gambling is banned too. Australian sites, that is – we haven’t yet moved to an outright ban on access to overseas gambling sites, but Nick Xenophon wants us to. 

If you’re still relaxed, are you aware that, under changes introduced by Phillip Ruddock, "counselling suicide" on the internet is a criminal offence? Despite claims to the contrary from the Howard Government, this was directly aimed at stifling debate about euthanasia and the work of euthanasia support groups and campaigners. And despite the fact that, as Electronic Frontiers Australia has pointed out, the suicide rate has fallen since the internet became widely available. 

To say nothing of Australia’s reflexive support for music and film multinationals’ draconian attempts to prosecute file-sharing. 

And under Conroy’s filtering scheme, all of these restrictions have to be interpreted by a bureaucrat when deciding whether to ban a website, or perhaps ban whole ranges of content based on keyword searches.  

But Conroy refused to even discuss how much "overblocking" of content he would regard as inappropriate. Too early to say, actually. 

The real worry here is that there is no science or evidence-based policy for what is blocked online in Australia. The Howard Government’s decisions on stifling free speech online were based on moral panics, not well-considered policy. The Rudd Government will be no different. The role of Nick Xenophon and Steve Fielding, who wants to impose his own warped sexual morality on the rest of us, will be important to a Government that relies on their votes in the Senate.  

But they’re not the main problem – the Government itself is. And Conroy is working overtime to keep the Government’s assault on free speech out of sight as much as possible.

big bruvver .....

Web users have slammed a Federal government plan to filter Net content, with a poll showing major opposition to the soon-to-be-trialled proposal. 

Internet service providers will test a blacklist of about 1000 illegal websites for the Rudd Government's bid to protect Australians from viewing obscene material. 

Within days, Communications Minister Stephen Conroy will ask internet service providers such as BigPond and iiNet to participate in a live pilot trial to test internet filters. 

The blacklists would probably apply to "real depictions of actual sexual activity:, child pornography, bestiality, material containing excessive violence or sexual violence, detailed instruction in crime, violence or drug use and material which advocated the commission of a terrorist act. 

But the filtering plan has infuriated net users, because it could slow internet speeds by 30 per cent even though it will do little to block illegal content. 

That's the warning from technical experts, who also say the plan could expose users' financial details during online banking sessions and see popular websites including Facebook and YouTube banned. 

Internet Filter To Cause World Wide Wait for Aussies

a hegemony of hysterics .....

from Crikey ….. 

ISP filtering: who's exploiting the kids? 

Canberra correspondent Bernard Keane writes: 

The drive to impose unprecedented internet censorship by the Federal Government is being backed by an otherwise-disparate group of family, left-wing and Christian groups and campaigners. 

The serious push for ISP-level filtering began in the last months of the Howard Government when it backflipped on a long-standing opposition to it, having hitherto preferred to support PC-based filtering. In response to Labor’s "clean-feed" policy announced by Kim Beazley, Howard announced in August 2007 that the Coalition was committing to optional ISP-level filtering in a webcast to religious groups organised by the Australian Christian Lobby, a sex-obsessed Christian lobbying group. In response, the Rudd Opposition strengthened its own plans for mandatory filtering. The ACL remains a strong supporter of mandatory filtering and applauded the Government’s renewed blocking of ACT plans for same-s-x civil unions. 

You know about the political pressures for filtering. The Howard Government and its Communications Minister Helen Coonan had come under repeated, and frequently hysterical, attack from Christian fundamentalist Senator Steve Fielding, who boasted of using his Parliament House PM to find pornography "two clicks away". Fielding continues to demand mandatory filtering and a ban on internet alcohol advertising, but he is by no means alone. Tasmanian Liberal and anti-abortion Christian Guy Barnett is equally vociferous in his calls for censorship, having told Parliament, improbably, in 2005 "even in our own homes, you go home, turn on your home computer and bingo-out come the pornographic sites." Nick Xenophon wants a ban on overseas gambling websites. 

Family and child abuse groups are also strong supporters. The Courier Mail reported last week that the Australian Childhood Foundation backed ISP-level filtering, because "a link existed between children viewing sexual images on the net and engaging in inappropriate sexualised behaviour." The ACF is receiving over a million dollars in support from the Federal Government between 2004-09, with CEO Dr Joe Tucci a favourite of ministers eager to get some family protection credibility. 

The Courier Mail also aired the views of child psychologist and media tart Michael Carr-Gregg, self-described as "one of Australia's highest profile psychologists" and perhaps even "Australia’s own Dr Phil". Carr-Gregg, a fellow Sunrise alumnus of Kevin Rudd, is a long-term moral panic merchant on youth issues such as binge drinking and internet use. Carr-Gregg told the Courier Mail that internet porn had made "oral and anal sex" "almost normalised among 13-year-olds". 

Bernadette McMenamin, CEO of Childwise, also supported ISP-level filtering in January but has since suggested she does not support the Federal Government’s proposal. 

The Australia Institute has also supported mandatory filtering for several years. In 2006, Clive Hamilton accused the Howard Government of putting “the interests of the internet industry ahead of those of parents who are deeply concerned about this problem". 

And as Stilgherrian pointed out yesterday in Crikey, Australian Women Online "is not opposed to the concept of mandatory ISP filtering" and complained of being "hounded", "harassed" and "bullied" by mandatory filtering opponents. The concerned mother cited in the Courier Mail, Bernice Watson, who supports mandatory filtering, has been an officer for the Queensland Office for Women. 

The campaign for internet censorship seems to have reunited some of the element of the campaign against pornography, which brought normally hostile feminist, left-wing and Christian groups together to attack free speech. However, the elevation of children as the justification for censorship will make this campaign harder to stop. 

Who’s exploiting the kids here? 

and Bernard Keane also writes ….. 

Core arguments of the internet blockers explained 

When it comes to pinning down censorship advocates on exactly why they want to regulate the internet, it can be a little difficult. The words "child pornography" appear fairly quickly, along with "exploitation" and "disgusting". But we’ve had a go at trying to delineate the core arguments made by people who want to block you from accessing certain, unspecified but obviously "disgusting" internet content. 

1. Child pornography is available on the internet 

Indeed. And it is illegal and law enforcement in many countries work hard to track down the perpetrators, making it more difficult to access. ACMA maintains a blacklist of sites which are currently blocked by ISPs, although that is a tiny fraction of the illegal material available. No one who accesses online child pornography, or any other illegal material, does so accidentally, and no one who wants to access it will be stopped by a filter. 

2. Pornography is easily accessible to kids, even by accident 

The biggest and oldest myth on the internet, up there with the Neiman-Marcus cookies recipe and the exploding whale story. The way censorship advocates tell it, the mere act of turning on a PC causes it to spew pornography into the room in an unstoppable fountain of filth. "You have only got to press P on the Internet and all this stuff appears free of charge in front of you," said Senator Paul Calvert in 1999 (what did he mean free of charge? Gimme that URL!). "Even though I monitor [my son’s] internet use, sometimes when I am cooking anything could flash up," concerned parent Bernice Watson told the Courier Mail last week. One wonders what sort of weird ISPs these people have. The only children who have ever "stumbled across" pornography are those who have looked for it. As with other types of material unsuitable for children, whether it’s the nightly news, medicines or movies for mature audiences, it is a parent’s job to regulate access, not society’s. 

3. The internet sexualises children 

Where’s the evidence, and specifically in relation to the internet? Aren’t other media -- not to mention major retailers -- responsible for sexualisation as well? And how does one define “sexualisation” in a society in which the average age of the onset of puberty is falling? And why aren’t parents regulating access to sexualising content? 

4. The internet encourages suicide amongst teenagers 

Michael Carr-Gregg used the suicides of two Victorian girls last year to claim the internet acted "as a virtual petri dish for the suicide virus". ABS statistics show suicides in 15-19 year olds have almost halved since peaking in 1997, and in 2005 stood at 6.6 deaths per 100,000. It was 12.0 in 1997, before most people had an internet connection. 

5. The internet should be regulated like other media 

There are two fundamentals in the way we regulate the media: we regulate different media differently, and in no circumstance do we let governments vet content. Mandatory ISP-level filtering would hand both politicians and the media regulator the power to determine which online content was blocked, with no opportunity for the public to even determine if content has been blocked, as the regulator does not reveal what sites it prevents access to. The only comparable regime is for films, and in the rare cases when films are outright refused classification, there is a transparent process of consideration by an independent body. 

6. Are you some kind of sicko? 

Much debate, Conroy style, defaults to this: if you oppose internet censorship you must like child pornography, or at least be the sort of libertarian nut job who puts some nebulous right to free speech above the rights of kids to be free of exploitation and sexualisation. 

Internet censorship isn’t just about pornography. Australia bans gambling sites, bans discussion of euthanasia and suicide, supports multinational companies prosecuting per-to-peer file sharing under a plain silly copyright law, in addition to its draconian defamation laws and absurd sedition laws that remain unreformed under the Rudd Government.  

The Federal Government’s proposal would hand the media regulator the power to implement those restrictions as it saw fit, with no one the wiser about how it was being done, and politicians able to extend the restrictions when the next Big Brother­-style moral panic happens along.  

Anyone, even die-hard protectors of children, comfortable with that?

still digging .....

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Support for the Government's plan to censor the internet has hit rock bottom, with even some children's welfare groups now saying that that the mandatory filters, aimed squarely at protecting kids, are ineffective and a waste of money.

Live trials of the filters, which will block "illegal" content for all Australian internet users and "inappropriate" adult content on an opt-in basis, are slated to begin by Christmas, despite harsh opposition from the Greens, Opposition, the internet industry, consumers and online rights groups.

Holly Doel-Mackaway, adviser with Save the Children, the largest independent children's rights agency in the world, said educating kids and parents was the way to empower young people to be safe internet users.

She said the filter scheme was "fundamentally flawed" because it failed to tackle the problem at the source and would inadvertently block legitimate resources.

plan b .....


The Government's plan to censor the internet is in tatters, with Australia's largest ISP saying it will not take part in live trials of the system and the second largest committing only to a scaled-back trial.

And the Communications Minister, Stephen Conroy, has written to critics saying that the so-called "live" trials would be "a closed network test and will not involve actual customers". Greens Senator Scott Ludlam said this was a sign the Government was slowly backing away from the heavily criticised policy.


The live trials, scheduled to kick off before Christmas, were supposed to provide a definitive picture of whether the filters could work in the real world, after lab tests released by the Australian Communications and Media Authority in June found available ISP filters frequently let through content that should be blocked, incorrectly blocked harmless content and slowed down network speeds by up to 87 per cent.

But now Telstra and Internode have said they would not take part in the trials. iiNet has said it would take part only to prove to the Government that its plan would not work, while Optus will test a heavily cut-down filtering model.

The Government plans to introduce a two-tiered censorship system of filtering from the ISPs' end. The first tier would be compulsory for all Australians and would block all "illegal material", as determined by a blacklist of 10,000 sites administered by ACMA.

Delayed, but broadened

It seems that the start date for the ISP filtering trial has been pushed back to some time in January. However, the scope has been widened to include peer-to-peer traffic, such as Bit Torrent. The catch is, protocols like Bit Torrent were created to enable sites offering large downloads to spread the load. For instance Open Office, Ubuntu Linux, and others which require you to download 100MB+ use Bit Torrent to cope with the influxes of users when new releases occur.

And of course, there is no way to discriminate between legal an illegal downloads, much as it isn't really possible to, automatically, determine legal from illegal websites, without a large amount of human input.

Of course, collateral damage seems to be acceptable to the Government. If only it wasn't for an ill-conceived stunt, pandering to Howard's conservatives.

Sign the Get Up petition.


the threat of transparency .....

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from Crikey …..

The world smirks at Conroy's censorship plan

Vice Chair of Electronic Frontiers Australia Colin Jacobs writes:

The rest of the world has been smirking at Stephen Conroy's ill-conceived plan to censor Australia's Internet for a while now, but a new study published by Brooklyn Law School entitled "Filtering in Oz: Australia's Foray Into Internet Censorship" is a serious embarrassment.

This report is important. Not only is it authored by a reputable and neutral foreign observer but it also focuses more on the legitimacy of the scheme than the technical concerns, and it finds some serious problems. Despite the sober language, phrases like "troubling", "worrisome", "politically motivated" and "unaccountable" are common.

Contrary to persistent claims by the Minister, the study finds that Australia "will likely become the first Western democracy to block access to on-line material through legislative mandate."

But is it a legitimate experiment? The study's author applies a process-based methodology to determining censorship’s legitimacy by asking four questions. Is the country open about its censorship plans and the reason behind them? Is it transparent about what is to be restricted? How narrow is the filtering? And finally, are the processes and decision makers behind the scheme accountable? While the Government earns praise for openness (Internet filtering was a central campaign promise), serious issues are highlighted in the other three areas.

Commentators, industry groups like Electronic Frontiers Australia and opposition political parties have consistently called for clarity on both the aims of the censorship scheme and the range of material to be targeted. Yet phrases like "other unwanted material" still represent the best information we have received from the Government. Whether or not this is a deliberate attempt to hobble debate we cannot say, but the situation was not lost on Bambauer:

To date, Australia’s transparency regarding its filtering has been poor. The country has vacillated on what material it will target for blocking. This uncertainty makes it difficult for citizens to assess whether the scope of material blocked is appropriate, and whether the set of targeted sites comports with the underlying rationales for censorship. The Labor government is opaque about the types of sites that will be blocked, how a site will be evaluated for filtering, and how those decisions map to larger social and political goals.

Indeed, in another part of the study the author examines the hypothetical 10,000-site blacklist floated by the Government, and wonders whether this proves they have an idea of the scope or are merely guessing. "The latter seems more likely," he concludes.

This confusion has the net effect of robbing Australians of the ability to make decisions about the merits of the scheme, but also makes it hard to measure the scheme against its stated goal -- protecting children. If the target of the filter is now primarily websites accessed by adults, this suggests that the rationale for Net censorship has changed since the election promises were made. Bambauer agrees.


"In short, the Rudd government’s inability, or unwillingness, to elucidate a consistent set of content categories that will be off-limits, either to all Australians or to minors, undermines citizens’ ability to compare concrete plans for filtering to the reasons for implementing it initially."

On the issue of narrowness, the author examines the state of dynamic filters as tested by the Government, and comes to the same conclusions as the rest of the world -- that such filters come with inherent under -- and over-blocking. Furthermore, since commercial software products are developed and administered by third-parties, discretion for what is blocked may be lost to the potentially inaccurate built-in lists provided by independent software vendors:

If the country’s filtering employs vendor-supplied block lists, or allows ISPs to choose which product to implement ... then Australia’s controls will inevitably be both under --and overbroad, with implications for access to legitimate information, transparency, and accountability.

Finally, the study looked at the accountability issues surrounding expanded internet censorship powers, and -- no surprise -- accountability is clearly not a centrepiece of the cyber-safety platform.

For a start, lack of clarity on who controls the blacklist undermines the ability of the citizenry to ensure the scheme is fairly administered. The planned outsourcing of filtering decisions to unaccountable and overseas third parties such as the Internet Watch Foundation also raises severe issues and may in some instances contravene existing laws by bypassing the ACMA's complaints-based mechanism. The implications of replacing human judgement with mandated software are plain:

If filtering is implemented based on software vendors’ decisions about whether content is sexually explicit, rather than on the Classification Board’s judgements, this will decrease the Australian citizens’ ability to have a voice in what they can access on-line.

Some of these concerns could be remedied, perhaps, if the Government could lay out their plans in sufficient detail. Instead, we are left waiting for clarity until after the "live" ISP trial. (What end is served by a trial conducted in such a policy vacuum I cannot say.)

The study’s author even picks up on Conroy’s odious habit of tarring opponents as supporters of illegal material: "While hyperbolic rhetoric is common in democracies, attempts to silence dissenters or to conflate policy differences with support for unlawful behavior undermine accountability."

Overall, the study concludes that:

Accountability problems are inherent in censorship achieved through computer technology. These challenges increase when some voices are magnified, and others silenced, in policy debates, and when content categorization is done by unaccountable (and perhaps foreign) entities.

The report is quite comprehensive and the Ministry would be well served to study it. The study does err, perhaps, in the amount of power it ascribes to Senator Steve Fielding of Family First in driving the policy. Nevertheless, it reinforces the position of the many stakeholders in Australia who have opposed the filter, not solely on technical grounds or from some misguided sense of cyber-anarchism, but from solid and fundamental policy/democratic principles. We are not the only ones who question the ability of our Government to anticipate, understand and manage the many complex issues surrounding such a radical internet policy.

In his conclusion, the study's author makes the following observation:

Filtering looks easy and cheap, and calls to block access to material that is almost universally condemned – such as child pornography, extreme violence, or incitements to terrorism – are hard to resist. But this focus confuses means with ends.

It’s hard to disagree. The Government cannot claim a mandate for such a poorly-defined policy. If it is to have any legitimacy, the public and industry must be informed well in advance of the next stages.

The study can be downloaded here.

Apparently there are more pressing issues

"A task force created by 49 state attorneys general to look into the problem of sexual solicitation of children online has concluded that there really is not a significant problem.


But the report concluded that the problem of bullying among children, both online and offline, poses a far more serious challenge than the sexual solicitation of minors by adults."

Who would have thought.

Full article

the conroy con .....

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from Crikey …..

So Conroy's Internet filter won't block political speech, eh?

Stilgherrian writes:

"Freedom of speech is fundamentally important in a democratic society and there has never been any suggestion that the Australian Government would seek to block political content," intoned Senator Stephen Conroy on Tuesday.

Yet the very next day, ACMA added a page from what's arguably a political website to its secret blacklist of Internet nasties.

The page is part of an anti-abortion website which claims to include "everything schools, government, and abortion clinics are afraid to tell or show you". Yes, photos of dismembered fetuses designed to scare women out of having an abortion. Before you click through, be warned: it is confronting. Here's the blacklisted page.

Mandatory Internet filtering, says Senator Conroy, is only about blocking the ACMA blacklist. The blacklist, he repeatedly insists, is "mainly" child-abuse and ultra-violent material. He's protecting us from ped-philes, stopping terrorists, that sort of thing. It's like the regulation we have for TV, films and books. Except it's not. It's not even close.

As always, Irene Graham's meticulously-researched explains how Internet censorship actually works now and what the Rudd government has been planning.

This pro-life nasty may not be suitable for children. You may or may not agree with the website creators' political views or their tactics. However, it does represent their sincere political beliefs and, no doubt, derives from their strong moral beliefs. It's perfectly legal material for adults to view. These pictures could be shown on TV news, just like the all-too-frequent photos of war casualties, provided we were warned "some viewers may find these images disturbing". You can decide for yourself whether to avert your eyes or hustle the kids out of the living room.

Because it's The Big Bad Internet, though, things are different.

This content is hosted outside Australia, outside ACMA's jurisdiction, so they can't demand it be taken down or guarded by an age-verification mechanism. They can only add it to the blacklist -- and under Conroy's plan, everything on the blacklist is blocked, secretly, for all Australians. No choice.

"The Government does not view this debate as an argument about freedom of speech," says Senator Conroy.

But that's precisely what it is. Internet filtering is about what information may or may not flow through the public internet. This case highlights some of the flaws in the Rudd government’s plan.

Just where does political speech begin and end? Scholars and judges have wrestled with the boundaries of political speech for centuries, from John Milton to Alexander Meikeljohn. Has the Rudd government suddenly found the magic answer?

Peter Black, who lectures in internet law at QUT, reckons it's probable this website does indeed constitute prohibited content or potential prohibited content under the Broadcasting Services Act.

"But that is only because the definitions in the Act inevitably treat all content in the same way; the same standard applies to political and non-political content," he says.

"Ultimately the fate of this website is an illustrative example of the dangers inherent in any Government censorship scheme. Issues of political speech, classification and accountability are without doubt both complex and important, and any notion that they can be adequately addressed and balanced by a Government regulator engaging in prior restraint is somewhere between being unbelievably naive and downright dangerous."