Why is the Rudd Government persisting with the clean feed?

Senator Conroy’s pet – the Australian Broadband filter or ‘clean feed’ – is something that despite making him and the government look more inept each day is still being pushed through. Despite reading virtually everything I can find on the topic I am yet to understand why.

The vast vast majority of Australian’s must surely agree that the sort of crimes (such as child pornography) being carried out and shared amongst groups of individuals are horrible and despicable things. But isn’t it about time that the Government, and Senator Conroy who are carrying the line ‘the clean feed will prevent it from being seen and distributed’ admit that the clean feed will do no such thing and any serious argument otherwise is pretty close to nonsense?

The government are trying to appease a group of people who either fail to understand the technical aspects behind the filter or, they understand the situation perfectly and are turning a blind eye. If the latter is the case – and I’m not asserting that it is, I’m merely asking the question – then this is more murky, more insidious and more destructive than anyone thinks right now.

Yesterday an interview by James Frost with iinet’s CEO Michael Malone was published on Business Spectator.
Here’s what iinet Chief Executive Michael Malone had to say:

JF: Your criticism of the government’s plan for a clean feed was quite strident and you also made it quite clear that iinet was happy to participate in the trial. Were you surprised when you weren’t included?

MM: No, not surprised although we found out from a press release as did Optus, so I mean that was a bit rude. We continue to work with the Department and the Department’s message to us is they’ll include us if we can get over a few last minute technical hurdles.

JF: Have the parameters of the trial changed from when you first spoke?

MM: Not really. They just don’t want it to be mandatory. We only wanted to put a portion of them on there, but it was going to be mandatory and they don’t want their mandatory testing to be done on a mandatory basis. They want customers to be able to opt in which I think is just blatantly hilarious to be honest.

JF: Exactly how much a clean feed will affect internet speed is up for debate. What about the costs?

MM: Our issue is more philosophical. Firstly, you don’t put a solution up unless you clearly define your problem and if your problem is we want to stop the worst kinds of porn on the internet this is an utterly ineffective solution for it. It doesn’t live on internet URLs. It lives in P2P networks and chat channels where it’s shared privately and the only way to deal with that effectively is not a technical one. So again, we keep coming back to a government that says their objective is to block this material, but the solution they provided is completely irrelevant, so what is their objective? And I guess I’m more worried about the public policy issues that this implies.”

So, what I take from Michael’s comments, as someone who was clearly interested in being involved in the the trial, is the Government didn’t define it’s goals and they don’t have a system, and/or aren’t proposing one, that will help them achieve the aspirational goals they did set. And, going on Michael’s insights in the process the government ignored two of Australia’s largest ISP’s that were virtually begging to be included.

Talk about taking your bat and ball and going home in a sulking huff.

I mentioned above that the government and Senator Conroy are looking more inept each day – and after reading Michael’s comments I hope it’s hard to argue isn’t it? If the Government doesn’t understand how people are accessing the kind of information they’re seeking to stop, how can it make sense to put up, essentially, an unbelievably ineffective and very expensive ‘strawman’.

Further to all of this of course is the dire economic situation of pretty much the entire planet. Why, in the face of one of the most precarious economic situations the world has seen and when Australia is about to follow the world into a recession are we wasting time and money on a project that won’t work?

Finally, if nothing I’ve written has convinced you that this is a bad idea let me tell you this story:

A castle and its townsfolk are about to be invaded by a legion of knights on horse back.
The King likes roofs. Big impressive roofs. The King thinks a roof will protect the townspeople.

He takes on advice from a group of experts, some agree with him (possibly for their own interests) but most of the warfare experts do not. They propose building bigger walls, rather than a roof to prevent the known threat and known entry path. The experts suggest that beefing up efforts that are already known to work will be more effective.

The King decides he wants to go with his roof idea, even though the roof will block some sunlight and limit crop growth.

The townspeople dutifully go ahead and build a roof over the whole town. The justification the King gives them is that the roof will protect them from archer attack because a knight or two may sling an arrow in their direction while they gallop towards the townsfolk.

But, and here’s the kicker, the King knows that the roof won’t do much to stop the knights. But the roof looks good and everyone can see it all day and his name is on it so he feels good and the townsfolk say they feel a bit more protected.

Now, what do you suppose the townsfolk think of the King when the knights get through the towns perimeter, and the roof which they were taxed for didn’t stop the knights?

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