The Big Picture of the Internet Filter

Last week, internet activists calling themselves “Anonymous” temporarily brought down the Australian governments’ networks and they’re threatening to do it again. Anonymous, a “hacktivist” group, formed through the subculture website 4Chan. Jon Stewart speaks to 4Chan’s founder Chris “Moot” Poole.

Interesting to note that our ‘local’ Australian issue with the proposed mandatory Internet filter caught the attention of the BBC’s Digital Plant radio show, thanks in part to the DDoS attack by the ‘Anonymous’ group. The story of the relationship between 4Chan and Anonymous was also something I hadn’t heard before. They also discuss the radical idea that, perhaps one day, a DDoS might be seen as a legitimate form of protest – at least, they argue, there are no broken windows at the end of it.

Personally, I think the filter is a waste of time for all the technical reasons people have been talking about (like private dark nets) and I hope, if the legislation is successful, that we don’t see dramatic changes to cost and speed of Internet access. However, I’m much more concerned about the risk of scope creep and the message this sends to other nations about freedom of speech.

In that respect I’m happier with Kate Lundy’s position that:

“legislating to protect the presence and availability of an open Internet service would clearly solve several of the public concerns whilst also showing the world that Australia takes freedom of speech and association very seriously.”

Kate also points to Chris Zappone’s piece in the SMH where he says:

While no one would claim the intention of Australia’s filtering is political, on a technical level it puts the country in the ranks of some unseemly company, and in the process helps legitimise a heavy-handed government approach.

In fact, industry sources say that democratic governments’ seeking of restrictions on searches and web access encourage repressive governments to ask for the same.

This isn’t a local issue. In our attempts to protect one group, we actually contribute to putting others at harm.