When the coalition proposed to release their costings for Saturday's election on Thursday it caused consternation. That's normal, because conservative parties are more coy about their costings than progressives. The expectation was that when the coalition did release their bona fides the day after the blackout on broadcast media political advertising, the focus would be cuts to general government services, headcount reduction in the public service and potentially the scrapping of environmentally focussed policies that would help the push towards budget surplus at the expense of green credentials where the coalition isn't really leading anyway.
The surprise came when the member for Bradfield, Paul Fletcher, confirmed to ZDNet's Josh Taylor that the coalition was announcing an on-by-default internet censorship scheme.
In that interview, Fletcher confirmed that the filter will be "opt out" for everyone, in that when you enter into an agreement with an Internet service provider the service you receive will be censored-by-default unless you explicitly take action to change the service to the type of uncensored Internet access you likely receive today. Of course this model has all the attendant problems the ALP's policy had in the mid-to-late first decade of the 21st century; who in the world wants their Internet connection to be modified according to a morals-based policy, and to then contact their service provider and explicitly ask to be exempted from the application of a policy which is meant to be for the safety and morality of everybody but specifically children?
Taylor's interview with Fletcher, who is chair of the coalition's "Online Safety Working Group" which laid the foundations early for coalition moral panic with regards to the Internet, extracted this quote;
"What we intend to do is work with the industry to arrive at an arrangement where the default is that there is a filter in the home device, the home network, that is very similar to the filters that are available today. This is very much about protecting children from inappropriate content, particularly pornography," he said."
Working with industry is exactly how the ill-fated ALP policy to censor the Internet began. It morphed into something truly horrific as it became more apparent that ISPs were either ill equipped to meet government speculative thinking about how the Internet should work or simply determined to focus on their core business of connecting their customers' computers to all the other computers on the Internet and loathe to engage in supporting government hand-wringing in support of religious interest groups.
This policy is likely fated the same way. ISPs can't or won't be moral police, despite how much governments think it'll make government look good if they compel ISPs to be so. I think the telling line is the final quote in Taylor's article;
"Quite a number of policies were announced today."
Indeed. One can't resist the temptation to speculate that you were hoping this one would be burried beneath them.
Image credit: Binaryape