It has occurred to me that the Australian Internet Filter is being debated at such a high level that the average person will not understand what the fuss is about. After all, child pornography is bad and the filter will stop that badness (so they've been told), which means people are either pro-filter or child pornographers1. This is not the fault of the average person. By keeping actual intelligent discourse at bay via whinging and bluster, both the pro-filter and anti-filter camps are doing all parties2 a disservice. Time to change the game by framing the argument how true, thoughtful, engaged, REAL Australians will understand. By comparing it to booze.

Unless it was being syndicated on prime time television via "20-1 Worst Vehicular Homicides", the Australian public disapproves of the National road toll higher than the football scores. Since there are elections at some point in the future, and the easiest way of 'representing the people' is to find a set of figures and skew them, the Australian Government decided to tackle road-related deaths as an election platform. One solution that worked acceptably in individual boozer trials was found to be filtering the shopping process. The logic was extensible and sound - acquisition of the stronger and more left-of-center alcoholic beverage could be directly related3 to blood-alcohol level induced road incidents. Time for the government to swing into action with a Filter™.

The "Filter™" - Fluid Imbibing Limitation by Teetotalesque Enjoyment Restrictions

This Filter™ was a small box that attached itself to the shoulders of anyone trying to purchase items from any shop in Australia. This friendly little device watched everything the shopper did and compared it to a list of Refused Cashification (RC) booze-related items, including but not limited to hard liquor, anything with more than five syllables, and anything made overseas that isn't paying a large tithe to the government. This list was maintained by a shadowy oversight committee - possibly in dark robes in buildings with far too many archways, possibly not. The filter looked at everything a microscopic fraction of a second before the person did and, when it matched anything in the list of RC items, blindfolded shoppers until they looked elsewhere. Parents were given free access to people who would install these Filter™ objects so when anyone in their house went shopping (specifically children), the blinkers would activate automatically. Famously, mere days after it was announced at least one school-age child got around his Filter™ within hours. The government decided a more centralised implementation was in order.

Prior to winning office, the current government made a promise to create an opt-in system whereby this Filter™ would be installed into every shop in Australia. This opt-in system will block everyone's access to the liquor cabinets, but if you have a valid reason (research, showing the government cares about alternate fuel sources, wanting to go to the shops without being slowed down by the filter asking you if you are currently trying to buy liquor when all you want is some milk) you can turn off the Filter™. So adults could ensure children wouldn't get access to alcohol (to a point, see later) and adults who really were annoyed by seeing the liquor cabinet and alcohol ads every time they went shopping could browse in a happy, delusional bubble. This all changed when the election was over and the current government gained power.

After all, choice and options are just other words for anarchy.

2008 AD (Advanced Deception)

The first thing to go was the optional nature. Every person, every time they went to the shop, would have a Filter™ attached to their shoulder to make sure they weren't getting into the hard stuff. Secondly, an additional Filter™ was created4, this one prevented any alcohol whatsoever from being viewed. This was sold to the public as a GoingCleanFeed that made shopping a safer and child-safe experience. After all, it was a right since the dawn of man for children to go into any shop and expect nothing but kittens and lollies. The government, understanding they had had a brainstorm nobody else in the civilized world had5, proudly announced it.

This meant people looked at it. And people noted problems.

A Flair Trial

The list of banned booze was maintained by a Shadowy Cabal, and was a closely guarded secret6. During the first test, Bunderburg Ginger Beer suddenly found their bottom line bottoming out. Apparently the "Beer" in ginger beer tweaked off the Cabal and was axed. Not only that but Schwapps' Lemonade suddenly vanished - research showed that someone had changed a label to Lemonale and reported them to the Cabal, who duly added them to the RC list7. Regardless the trial pushed ahead, amidst cries by consumer bodies, beverage companies, interested people world-wide, and a secretive group called Secret.

After the trial published data gained by running the Filter™ through a number of participating shopping chains8, the results showed some people actually shopped faster while blindfolded. This logical inconsistency was addressed promptly, the document had a sentance added directing the reader to ignore the silly data - because all the data that did not undermine the Filter™ supporters' viewpoint supported their viewpoint9. Alcohol Consumer groups also brought to light massive holes in the governments arguments. The Filter™, they claimed, only worked on aisles at eye level, anyone who used a mirror so they could look up but still see the objects of their desire would have no problems acquiring hard-hooch whatsoever10. The government's own documentation on the Filter™ (and emailed responses to questions11) mention that anyone with enough alcohol desire could bypass the Filter™ by a variety of methods. The argument that such a bypass is very easily distributed by the boozily savvy to the boozily deficient was ignored. In the interests of round figures, the Effective Fluid Acquisition (EFA) group reduced their challenges to a round ten so as not to go on and on and on and on 12.

The government decided they needed some facts to back up rhetoric, they ran an Australia wide poll and they proudly announced the populace was 80% in favour of the Filter™. This poll was entitled "Do you want the government to prevent more people dying in car crashes: y/n" 13. They were less keen in advertising that 91% of people didn't like the filter as it was presented: secretly controlled by possible teetotalling cabals. The cabals being robed or not did not affect this statistic.

We Know Better

Further points were raised. The Australian Accident Victim Protection agency said the idea was flawed, wouldn't protect people, and may even make the problem worse than the original proposal of speed bumps on all highways every 100 meters14. Academia experts in the fields pointed out numerous flaws, using the governmentally decried methods of 'research' and 'statistics'.15. The arguments by the Alcohol Consumer group included that most people who bought booze don't even use the supermarkets, it was supported by home-grown stills or a trade of alcohol between friends. Recognised world experts in brewing pointed out the flaws based on their own experience in International booze-banning bombasisms16. To answer the question, the government smugly stated that they're only interested in eye-level shelves as people do not understand the shelving concept enough to look up and down, that stopping people from drinking isn't really their goal, and since they spoke with some nice ~~voting blocks~~ chaps with a really important invisible friend before-hand that they know it's the right thing to do[^14] 17. And China liked it18. Even if everyone else worldwide doesn't19 20.

Footnotes

Imported comments

  1. [Chris Mountford, 2009-11-14 12:53:54] Hmm.. I think I'm going to need something *even* *simpler* than this.

    Maybe you could explain this with puppets?

  2. [chris, 2010-03-17 23:16:54] problem is most people are in that part of the bell curve where they can't grasp the issues and still have a say. Pollies only listen to polls and therefore 70% won't get the point and be led by what ever ACA says.
  3. [Chris Sylvester, 2010-03-17 23:52:16] Oh, I do hope this article goes viral. It deserves to, it's brilliantly put together.

    Thanks!

  4. [David J, 2010-03-18 13:19:42] Very good way of explaining the governments tom foolery. I particularly like the comment about the current structure preventing the government from getting their part. Isn't that why they legalized prostitution in Australia?
  5. [Professor von Explaino, 2010-03-18 14:17:19] @Chris: The perils of democracy

    @ChrisSylvester: Thank you!

    @DavidJ: It is an interesting one; beyond just prostitution it's amazing what you can stroll into stores in Canberra and purchase that you cannot purchase elsewhere in Australia.

  6. [Toejam, 2010-03-18 15:36:04] Aren't most of the laws pertaining to sale/distribution/possession of material (based on its classification) actually STATE laws?

    My understanding is that the only FEDERAL legislation that says, eg, "it's illegal to possess this material because it's X-rated" is the Northern Territory Intervention Act. Even the prohibitions against selling RC material are State laws, AFAIK.

    Which would make Rudd's censorship system an attempt to enforce State laws at a Federal level.

  7. [Glen Turner, 2011-06-24 22:51:41] Toejam, the censorship laws are state laws, because the commonwealth lacks the constitutional power. However, the states agreed to mostly harmonise their laws, and the commonwealth does a lot of the grunt work of actual classification (to avoid the duplication of each state rating Left for Dead 2 and to avoid the inconsistencies of it being G in Adelaide but RC in Melbourne).

    However, the post and the telegraph are commonwealth responsibilities. Two hundred years later, that includes the Internet as well. So the Commonwealth Parliament can pass laws censoring material using those media.


  1. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/False_dilemma ↩︎

  2. Save for the party Conroy will throw once it goes ahead, given that approval of this plan allows him to achieve nothing with millions of dollars. ↩︎

  3. OK, anecdotally, but it totally sounds right. ↩︎

  4. Resembling the "Good" and "Evil" shoulder angels from cartoon mythology - only this time it's the "Good" and "Gooder" angel. ↩︎

  5. ahem ↩︎

  6. You didn't get this from me. ↩︎

  7. Search for "dentist". ↩︎

  8. Long after ↩︎

  9. Pilot results ↩︎

  10. http://www.lifehacker.com.au/2009/12/ways-to-bypass-the-internet-filter/ ↩︎

  11. http://vonexplaino.com/images/Internet%20censorship/ ↩︎

  12. http://www.efa.org.au/2010/01/20/the-top-10-filtering-questions/ ↩︎

  13. http://www.zdnet.com.au/80-of-aussies-support-filter-339300949.htm ↩︎

  14. http://www.computerworld.com.au/article/330087/child_groups_slam_conroy_isp_filtering_plans/ ↩︎

  15. (PDF) ↩︎

  16. http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/technology/8517829.stm [^14]:http://www.smh.com.au/opinion/politics/conroy-will-be-censoring-people-not-the-internet-20091217-kzxl.html ↩︎

  17. http://www.itnews.com.au/News/161533,christian-lobby-buoyant-on-filtering-after-meeting-conroy.aspx ↩︎

  18. http://openinternet.com.au/2010/03/11/oz-internet-censorship-gets-noticed-in-china/ ↩︎

  19. http://opennet.net/blog/2009/07/australias-conroy-named-internet-villain-year ↩︎

  20. http://www.smh.com.au/technology/technology-news/australia-on-internet-watchlist-with-iran-north-korea-20100312-q23p.html ↩︎