Transparency in mandatory ISP filtering

A few weeks ago I lodged EFA’s submission on legitimacy and transparency in Mandatory ISP Filtering, written by myself, Kylie Pappalardo and Irene Graham. We received a lot of negative feedback at EFA for engaging with the DBCDE on this issue, but I think it’s very important. Stepping back from my opposition to the Labor Government’s plan to introduce mandatory filtering, the issue is theoretically quite complex.

I oppose filtering on three main grounds:

    1. it’s security theatre – it cannot, in its current form or any currently imaginable forms, provide greater security for Australians, and will certainly not help in combatting child sexual exploitation;
    2. the current plan is ludicrously ill-defined; the goals are not clear, and there is no indication of how the filter is meant to achieve those goals;
    3. there is a great risk to liberal democratic ideals when the government begins to censor material based on unaccountable procedures and criteria.

    I think it’s important to note that I am not ideologically opposed to filtering; I think that there are, at least in theory, legitimate ways in which the government can impose restrictions on the material that is available online. I am acutely opposed to the current plan, but it is important to explain why I am opposed and avoid extremist conceptions that would undesirably tie the hands of democratically elected government in regulating online speech.

    This submission addresses the third issue only. It attempts to map a framework for when mandatory filtering may be legitimately imposed. In doing so, as I said, we have received some negative feedback from those who believe it would have been better to maintain absolute opposition to any filtering scheme. I have to disagree here; the framework we set out in this paper sets very high standards of accountability in filtering that would, if reached, mean that my concerns about legitimacy would be greatly alleviated. (As a side note, in terms of the campaign, I believe that it is better to be involved in the development of policy than to maintain a strictly outsider position.)

    I think that this paper makes a strong argument in addressing the concerns about legitimacy in Labor’s ill-defined filtering scheme, and I particularly want to thank Kylie Pappalardo and Irene Graham for their crucial help in putting it together.