I'm still absorbing the implications of this story , which seems to indicate a partial backdown by the federal government on the controversial web filter proposal (which, of course, I have consistently opposed).
The primary rationale for the Australian government's attempt to impose a technological filter on the internet has always been the need to restrict the online distribution of child pornography. It's unlikely that this goal would actually be achieved, since it seems to be accepted by all the experts that child pornography is not generally distributed via the web, and in any event criminals will find ways to get around the filter. What is needed to deal with child pornography is simply a more concerted and better-resourced enforcement of existing laws. This should include modifications to current laws to clarify and simplify them, to put beyond doubt that they do not catch legitimate artistic expression, and to make sure that they can't be used to waste public resources on achieving ridiculous outcomes that have nothing to do with the welfare of children.
What we don't need is any legislation that permits scope creep, making it easier for governments to interfere with more and more kinds of online speech. We need to study the proposed revisions to the policy, take part in the review that Gillard and Conroy now are talking about (and insist on public involvement), and generally hold the government's feet to the fire as the issue develops. We should not accept any outcome that restricts legitimate speech on the internet (I'm especially thinking here of such things as sites discussing euthanasia) or that will make it easier for the government to widen the scope of internet censorship going into the future. I welcome the fact that the government is now at least reconsidering and talking, but I'm not sure that any compromise is acceptable on such a fundamental issue. Even if it is, in the end, any further proposals will need to be worked out carefully, and with a genuine net gain for our liberty.
This is a start, but there's a long way to go yet in the fight to defend freedom of speech in Australia.