ISP Filtering: The Boring World of the Future

Paper never refused ink, and the Internet never refused key strokes. Until now.

The ACMA's decision to threaten Whirpool's ISP for content on the Whirlpool site is really pushing the envelope. It just goes to show how a handful of conservatives, driven by media hype and misinformation, can try to turn the greatest freedom machine into another area where the state scares citizens out of their wits about anything that they do online.

Sure, there are issues with illegal content and there needs to be a mechanism for addressing these issues. But if the Net is to remain a freedom machine, regulation needs to be ex post. You post illegal content, you get in trouble.

Ex ante regulation, where the government blacklists sites and makes ISPs filter them, is a disgrace. Compare the Advertising Standards Burea to ACMA. One asks companies to stop using offensive content, the other uses a sledge-hammer on the ISP.

Broadband Minister Stephen Conroy has suggested that opponents of the filtering scheme are involved in "patently a scare campaign [against] a policy objective we think is fair and reasonable". Given the track-record of Australian governments and their willingness to overlook the rights of citizens and well-regarded principles of liberal democracies, I wonder what 'fair and reasonableness' test has been applied to the policy?

For all the 'individual responsibility' which has been pushed on ordinary citizens over the last few years, this really is a backward step. Welcome to the boring, state-regulated world of the future!