PRESSURE mounting on Australia's new Internet censorship legislationgreenspun.com : LUSENET : TimeBomb 2000 (Y2000) : One Thread
Censorship should be in users' domain
By IAN GRAYSON
PRESSURE is mounting on Australia's new Internet censorship legislation, which came into force on January 1.
Under the new rules, Internet service providers are responsible for content displayed on sites hosted on their servers. Should a complaint be received and particular content be deemed offensive by the Australian Broadcasting Authority, the ISP hosting that content is required to remove it within 24 hours. Failure to do so can result in fines of up to $27,500 per day.
Already a number of take-down notices have been issued, but the ABA is refusing to confirm which sites have been involved.
Once the complaint mechanisms become more widely known, the number of take-down notices is expected to rise dramatically.
The legislation also requires ISPs to provide filtering software to customers to enable them to block access to sites deemed offensive.
The rationale for the restrictions is that they will protect young Internet users from viewing unsuitable content.
The Federal Government is convinced the new regulations will make a difference. But will they? It's doubtful.
There is nothing to stop any Australian-based site issued with a take-down order simply moving the content to a server in another country. It is then outside the reach of the ABA but just as easily accessible to Australian Internet users.
It is difficult to see how any amount of regulation can change this situation, and it makes the new laws toothless.
The censorship legislation is also under mounting pressure from a high-profile lobby group, the Eros Foundation, which plans to test the law's validity in the High Court.
The Eros Foundation argues that the legislation restricts the availability of content on the Internet where there is no restriction on its distribution in other forms, such as magazines.
You have to admit the group has a point.
The crux of the Internet censorship debate is simple: should the Government be responsible for policing what Australians can and cannot view on the Internet? The answer is no.
Responsibility has to be put in the hands of end users. It is they alone who should decide what is viewed and what is not.
For parents concerned that their Internet-smart children may stumble across inappropriate sites, filtering software should be installed.
That the legislation requires ISPs to provide such software should be applauded, but that is where government intervention should end.
Removing content from Australian sites is a pointless exercise and filtering content from other countries is technically out of the question.
The government should devote its efforts to educating Australians about the filtering options available to end users.
Anything else cannot work, and could well tarnish this country's reputation within the global Internet community.
Editor, The Australian IT
Submitted for discussion only, & to table my opinion that Senator (Mr Censorship) Alston and the Liberal Government will have some trouble getting re-elected.
Regards from the nanny state of OZ (This is not a furphy!)
-- Pieter (firstname.lastname@example.org), January 25, 2000
Now that you've given up your gun rights, what do you expect? Your gov't to become MORE benevolent and LESS regulatory?
Tip o the iceberg,
-- Someone (ChimingIn@twocents.com), January 25, 2000.
Another view: STORY LINK
Censor to face High Court test
By SIMON HAYES and JAMES RILEY
OPPONENTS of Australia's Internet censorship law will mount a High Court challenge to test its validity, as the Australian Broadcasting Authority begins issuing take-down orders to remove offensive content.
The National Adult Industry Association, also known as the Eros Foundation, has confirmed it is preparing for a $250,000 High Court challenge to the legislation. The action is being been backed by the Australian Council for Civil Liberties. The ABA has confirmed it issued an unspecified number of interim take- down notices last week, acting on complaints about Internet material received through its online content hotline.
An ABA take-down notice requires that material deemed offensive be removed from the Internet within 24 hours, under Internet censorship amendments to the Broadcasting Services Act, which came into effect on January 1.
The ABA would not reveal which sites had been ordered to take down content. Interim notices remain in effect until the material is assessed by the Office of Film and Literature Classification (OFLC), an ABA spokesman said. If the material was refused classification, a final take-down notice then would be issued.
A spokesman for the Eros Foundation said yesterday it had engaged two Canberra barristers to prepare preliminary advice and hoped to lodge a formal challenge to the new laws in the High Court in February.
"On advice so far received, we are pretty confident of our position," Eros Foundation president Fiona Patten said. "At this stage the adult products industry is happy to run with this. There is a real feeling that this is a thin-end-of-the-wedge issue."
With the cost of mounting the High Court challenge expected to top $250,000, Ms Patten said the foundation would approach other Internet- based organisations to seek help.
It is understood some US-based free speech advocates, such as the Free Speech Coalition, may help fund the High Court challenge.
Opponents of the Internet censorship law could also expect strong support from the Australian Council for Civil Liberties (ACCL) -- even though the body was strangely quiet about the bill before it went to Parliament last year -- vice-president Kevin O'Rourke said.
The NSW Civil Liberties Union, of which he is president, voted overwhelmingly at a meeting lest week to treat the Internet as the group's most urgent issue.
Though the civil liberties bodies were not in a position to offer cash support, he said, they may be able to provide "in kind" legal expertise for a High Court challenge.
Other free-speech advocates slammed the implementation of the legislation, warning Internet content regulation was "a shambles".
Electronic Frontiers Australia (EFA) chairman Kimberly Heitman said the ABA had targeted commercial pornography sites, which found it easy to relocate their activities offshore.
"This crackdown doesn't worry the commercial pornographers particularly, because it's cheaper for them to host it overseas," he said.
Comment: This is about Internet censorship - not guns!
Regards from Down Under
-- Pieter (email@example.com), January 25, 2000.
Can the Internet change the way we select our politicians?
Netting the votes
By SELINA MITCHELL
Can the Internet change the way we select our politicians?
THE world's top Net-using nation, the United States, is in presidential election mode, and the Internet has emerged as a campaign tool, a strong policy topic, and even a voting aid. The early stages of the year-long presidential campaign already have been marked by e-mail duels between candidates, comments on ineffectual election Web sites, and the growth of Internet campaign companies.
The campaign also heralds the world's first legally binding online vote, which will take place during the primaries.
The US already uses electronic voting and vote tallying in some areas, so the step to the Internet may not be a great one technically speaking. But getting Congress to approve its use for the final two- horse race may prove more difficult.
Late last year US President Bill Clinton announced the National Science Foundation would conduct a year-long study into digital voting and that Congress might consider online voting proposals this year.
Advocates say the option could increase democratic participation, as the US's non-compulsory voting system is noted for its low voter turnouts.
It could also increase the speed and efficiency of determining results and cut infrastructure costs.
Others are concerned Internet voting could not guarantee universal access to voters, privacy, or security.
Australian electoral administrators say they are closely monitoring developments, and note the inevitability of a final move to the Net, once a few major technological issues, such as security, are resolved.
Others are not so certain.
"This is very much the technocrat's mind-set," Monash University political scientist Nick Economou says. "I predict there will be a battle. I detect a resistance to the move, people are comfortable with the system now.
"What could be simpler than a bit of paper with names on it and filling in the numbers?" He questions whether Australia should be following the US lead in this matter.
"We may be just a scaled-down version of the US in terms of popular culture, but in political terms the US is a completely different place and far more amenable to online voting.
"Their first-past-the-post system means they can just go in and press a button or pull a lever once.
"Our preferential system requires a fair degree of numeracy. It would be a technological nightmare to figure out all of the possible permutations of casting a vote for a Senate candidate."
He says the US also doesn't have a compulsory system like Australia, so perhaps equal access to computers to be able to vote is not such an issue.
In Australia, most behind-the-scenes election operations already make use of technology such as the maintenance of electoral rolls and election management systems. Probably the most low-tech aspects of the electoral process are the actual voting and counting, and that may be a good thing, ACT electoral commissioner Phil Green said in a December conference paper.
"Adoption of new technology often carries with it considerable risks," Green says.
Parliamentary elections are crucial events in the functioning of democratic societies and they need to function smoothly, with minimal risk, he says.
"There is a lot to be said for caution when new technology is being considered."
But the practice of online voting has already begun, albeit on a smaller scale, within Australia's business community.
Last November, Coles Myer became the first Australian company to offer shareholders an online proxy voting option in the lead up to its Net-broadcast annual general meeting.
It plans to use the same PIN-based system this year and representatives say they have been speaking to other companies intending to follow their lead.
The move was designed to reduce costs and increase automation and integration, and a few hundred shareholders took up the paperless option.
While Federal Government officials say the issue is not high on the agenda, the Australian Electoral Commission (AEC) is closely looking into the possibility of online voting it has to.
A spokesperson says the Electronic Transactions Act 1999 requires all agencies to allow the public to deal with government electronically if they choose to do so. The AEC must seek an exemption under the Act if it cannot conduct such business as voting electronically before the legislation applies to it in July 2001.
But she also says a 1996 Parliamentary committee found it would be astronomically expensive to set up and less secure than traditional polling booths.
A more recent report from the International Institute for Democracy and Electoral Assistance (IIDEA) notes the possibility for almost instantaneous election results due to faster collection and transmission of votes, cost savings, and increased convenience and flexibility for voters.
IIDEA notes Internet voting is already prolific, but warns there is a big difference between voting for your favourite band or brand of baked beans and deciding on a government.
Current Net voting lacks integrity, but IIDEA predicts that once the demands for equal security are met, the "ancillary advantages of moving to an Internet voting system may outweigh current voting methods".
But even then progress will be slow, as Internet voting would probably only complement traditional polling, it predicted.
But back to 2000.
In March this year what is regarded as the world's first legally binding public online election will take place in the US.
Registered Arizona Democrats will be able to cast votes in the presidential primary from home or work via the Internet for four days leading up the more traditional election day, when polling booths will be open. All 50 polling places will include Internet terminals.
Prior to the Internet voting period, a PIN and voting instructions will be mailed to each registered Democrat, which will then entitle them to a digital certificate.
Election organiser Vocation.
com, which has conducted numerous legally binding online votes for companies and associations, will run the voting process.
It is hoped the initiative will broaden and boost voter participation, which slumped during the 1996 ballot.
Whether the process provides the promised watershed for digital democracy will become clearer in March.
Commentators and administrators in Australia are agreed that the time is not right to move parliamentary elections to the Internet.
"Despite the impression that everyone is online and owns a computer, Net usage is still not that high, especially for political information," Economou says.
"During the 1998 federal elections just 2 per cent of Australian voters used the Internet for political reasons."
Australia's electoral administrators see many other hurdles.
Few are satisfied that the security against election fraud is up to scratch, and privacy cannot be assured: "We have a compulsory system, but it is also a secret ballot voters need to be able to vote and verify their ID, but we would need a way to link IDs with votes," an AEC spokesperson says.
"There are all kinds of accessibility issues. We are talking about the usual polling stations supplying voting via Net-enabled computers, which would be a logistical nightmare, or voting from home or work because not everyone has computers," she says.
"No-one has developed an acceptable system for Queensland's use yet," that state's electoral commissioner, Trudy Aurich, says. "People are comfortable with ballot papers; we have to make sure they could trust the new system and that it was user friendly."
WA electoral commissioner Ken Evans agrees a few generations will need to go by before people are comfortable voting in this way.
A spokesman for the NSW commissioner says just changing the legislation, which is geared toward paper-based votes, will take years, but once one state starts using online votes the others will have to follow quite quickly.
The ACT's Green adds a few more questions: "What happens if the line drops out? At least with paper you have a backup, and what happens to polling booths do you cut them out, cut them back?
"Do you have a polling day or a polling week you couldn't restrict a Net vote to one day because
it would melt down the system.
"You could change the political dynamics and process of voting completely. The whole community really needs to think this through."
The ACT government, which was considering online voting from home or work for its next election, has now put the idea on the backburner.
The main problem was supplying a unique identifier to all voters, Green says.
"You can't do a mail-out people move. Five to 10 per cent of people wouldn't get their PIN, and someone else would. It is likely that, long-term, we will piggyback on a smart-card initiative, like drivers licenses."
For the next election Green would like to see a smarter voting process that replaces manually counting votes, but that again creates problems.
An electronic voting system based at booths is a possibility, but the required infrastructure on even the small scale of the ACT would be enormous.
Electronic scanning of votes is another, but there are still questions regarding the accuracy of character recognition, he says.
So ticking or numbering the boxes at home during election an election week may not happen tomorrow, but when it finally does, electoral administrators want it to be fraud-free and user-friendly.
But some political analysts and commentators wonder if Internet voting will ever provide the democratic requirements of fairness, privacy and equal access.
Even if the technology does meet these requirements, there would still be something missing, Economou warns.
"I speak in defence to the ritual of going out and turning up to a polling booth to participate. It is one of the few things that involves the whole community doing the same thing at the same time," he says.
"The political and social values of physically voting at a central location on a Saturday and waiting for the results shouldn't be lost.
"We are already starting to miss the ritual.
"Perhaps, like some European countries, we will receive our ballot paper, mark it electronically and physically lodge it, so we can enjoy the benefits of computer counting and accuracy, but also the art of voting."
In these articles American influences events in Australia. In every cynical regard I am a skeptic, but now I am getting fidgety, and following this forum's debates over the past 13 months makes for contortionist thinking. Hmmmm. There's something wrong in all of this....Sheesh!
PS. The ex- Premier of Victoria ran an Internet campaign election that reminded every bush and provincial dweller how many difference there are between a serviced town and the country with less services. He lost the poll. Interesting times.
Regards from OZ
-- Pieter (firstname.lastname@example.org), January 25, 2000.
You are so right! As long as Aussies accept this lying down, then we'll see it in California. That appears to be the pattern, huh?
-- Hokie (Hokie_@hotmail.com), January 25, 2000.
Hokie and Frank,
I posted these three articles that at first view seem innocuous and unworthy of this forum. Then on closer look the apparent divergency brings a common thread. We are manipulated to get even further away from our representatives, and those same politicians who we used to know personally are now so distant, digitally distant, a digital tyranny.
This means what might be visited upon us in Australia will be also done to you by stealth without anyone having the age-old right of touching a representative.
A subtle thread in these articles is the way financing is happening. American finance.
Things that go hmmmmm in the twilight!
Regards from OZ
-- Pieter (email@example.com), January 25, 2000.
Looks like Australia has become again a penal colony.
-- A (A@AisA.com), January 26, 2000.
I would tend to agree with Frank. When you start giving up your fundamental rights without so much as a whimper, you stand to lose every bit of Freedom there is. Soon, rights become privileges, to be allowed only when it suits an oppressive government. One of the founders of this country, Benjamin Franklin, said (paraphrased), "those who would give up liberty for security, deserve neither".
We are facing the same struggle here. The government and it's cronies have put out the message for so many years that guns are so bad, a lot of the population starts to believe it. Those who think that gun control is of no consequence, would be better served by taking an important lesson from Australia. (And Cambodia, Nazi Germany, Kosovo, Indonesia, etc., etc., etc.)
-- Powder (Powder47keg@aol.com), January 26, 2000.
Powder, A, Hokie and Frank,
The crux of the Internet censorship debate is simple: should the Government be responsible for policing what Australians can and cannot view on the Internet?
This debate spills over into one of the people versus the Government, who with its bureaucracy, is ever more distant and removed, even to the pencil point at the voting booth.
I've spend too many years on Government consultancy meetings etc. to not be suspicious of it all. There's an awful lot of manoeuvring going on - to what end I wonder.
Thanks for the discussion, I'm from the European theatre. This has happened to my mob once before. Deja Vu, anyone?
Regards from OZ
-- Pieter (firstname.lastname@example.org), January 26, 2000.
Well, that's the current debate. I brought the guns issue up to make the point that the *real* issue (IMO) is people are being told they can't make their own decisions and that .gov should make them *for* them.
"Breaking News" in Los Angeles this eve, a L.A. police officer (Raphael Perez I believe) has confessed to falsifying (sp?) evidence in NINETY-NINE cases resulting in false arrests.
When you give up your rights, especially for self defense, you are at the mercy of those who are now to look after you. Do you really think the people you turned your life over to care about *you* more than they care about themselves?
-- Someone (ChimingIn@twocents.com), January 26, 2000.
This thread is caput now I think. You have a valid point that's not lost on me.
The first Internet censorship closures have happened already. The underlying import of that isn't lost on me either. The playing field isn't level anymore. It's another thread I started that sort of explores our distant perceptions on how the rest of the world plays to other rules. I'm just insignificant, and sorry to hear about the bad cop. Sheesh, we've got a few of those too, and the others sickos we call politicians.
-- Pieter (email@example.com), January 27, 2000.