Call to new PM on net censorship

By Legal Eagle

Heath Gibson reminded me in a post this morning that we have a renewed opportunity to persuade the Labor party to drop its ridiculous bid to impose net censorship. As he notes, because of the change in leadership, the party can now back away from previous policies without losing so much face (as it has with the mining tax).

I’ve just been reading Robert Cialdini’s book Influence on the advice of Jacques Chester (thanks, Jacques, a great book). And the following paragraph leaped out at me.

…from a purely psychological point of view, those favoring strict censorship may wish to examine closely the results of a study done on Purdue University undergraduates. The students were shown some advertisements for a novel. For half the students, the advertising copy included the statement, “a book for adults only, restricted to those 21 years and over”; the other half of the students read about no such age restriction on the book. When researchers later asked the students to indicate their feelings toward the book, they discovered the same pair of reactions we have noted with the other bans: Those who learned of the age restriction (1) wanted to read the book more and (2) believed that they would like the book more than did those who thought their access to the book was unlimited.

(Robert B Cialdini, Influence (Collins Business, revised ed, 2007) pgs 252-3)

Please, Ms Gillard, consider the statement of Robert Cialdini above. The effect of attempting to censor young people from accessing certain material may have the paradoxical effect of turning it into an exciting “forbidden fruit”, because the evidence is that the filter can be bypassed reasonably easily anyway. Ditch this stupid law, and support freedom of speech instead.


  1. Posted June 25, 2010 at 11:42 am | Permalink

    It won’t happen. Gillard’s knife squad were from the Catholic Right who’re the ones responsible. My view is that if you want this law recinded the ALP will have to be returned because Abbott won’t take it down either. If he gets in, the fence will stay up and it will become a transpartisan policy. If he gets defeated the Liberals will be able to use a policy of removing the fence at the following election.

    I don’t like the law but I can understand the reasons for it. What I don’t understand are the reasons the govt are attempting to get IPCs to record browsing habits for them. It’s Nazi stuff.
    At the moment both sides of the house are quite illiberal.

    If Abbott gets trounced tho’ the Liberals will have an incentive to be liberal. Which would be nice.

  2. Posted June 25, 2010 at 1:27 pm | Permalink

    Whoah!! I could be wrong. Gillard made a point of ommitting God at her swear-in. Made the cover of m/X as OMG!!!

    I wonder how many more surprises we’re in store for.

  3. Posted June 25, 2010 at 6:00 pm | Permalink

    Two facebook groups for fb tragics:
    Julia Gillard: Please replace Stephen Conroy
    Make Kate Lundy Minister for BCDE

    I’d note that NOTHING encourages naughty little schoolboys to learn latin than, in a book of Catullus translations, leaving a few (ok, more than a few) untranslated. I remember coming across one vol where the /really/ naughty bits had been translated from latin to greek to make them even more obscure.

  4. Posted June 26, 2010 at 5:44 am | Permalink

    You Might make it more attractive to some LE but not to all.
    I think that we should not lose sight of the fact that any any filtering regime stands or falls on how it is administered and how much people feel that it is OK or excessive.
    My feelings about it are ambivalent because I know that there is some rather vile crap out there, some slanderous and libellous content that is essentially immune to any redress through the courts and it would be a step forward if such sites could be shut down or their content blocked. So to my mind If we were to insist that the owner’s or authors of all sites had to be knowable (fro legal purposes) then such filters would in fact be unnecessary.

  5. Posted June 26, 2010 at 7:20 am | Permalink

    I tend to think that what you say about the rationale for the filter being flawed is correct. and as I have children who use the net myself I make very effort to ensure that they use it safely (our only Internet accessible PC is in the living room ect) However I think that we do need to look at all of the implications of any proposals.
    I tend to think that many of the contentious matters that lose the Labor Party votes will be put aside and the Net Filter may well be one of them

  6. Posted June 26, 2010 at 3:37 pm | Permalink

    LE said the stated purpose of the filter “is that this will stop children from accessing adult material.” – no, it’s to stop access to unclassifiable and criminal material – or at least that is the statement. (Never mind it makes it harder to discover and therefore halt the noxious activities in the real world associated with the more toxic stuff).

    There has /always/ been a way of removing most of the non-criminal adult R-rated stuff from access by children – and the geeks have pushed it for years. It’s simply like zoning laws for brothels, keeping them away from kindergartens.

    You simply create an “.xxx” top-level domain (TLD – like “.com” or “.edu”) and say “normal R-rated stuff in that zone is ok – elsewhere no”. Even a technophobe can put a rule in a router saying “block anything from *.xxx”. Simple, and should make everybody safe while not stepping on the toes of libertarians and fans of the R-rated stuff.

  7. Posted June 26, 2010 at 3:40 pm | Permalink

    Next newsitem in my reader? “ICANN approves .XXX”

    It’s too easy, legislatively, administratively, and easy to implement by grandparents.

    It’s too easy for politicians.

  8. Posted June 27, 2010 at 11:38 am | Permalink

    What I’d like to know is what the 1/3 of proscribed URLs labelled ‘other’ actually entail.

  9. Posted June 28, 2010 at 2:50 am | Permalink

    You’re welcome. It came in handy in some of my casual work as a car rental punk and classifieds ad line operator. I made a policy to never lie or stretch the truth, but after that I found it lucrative (though somewhat depressing and soul-corroding) to use some of the principles.

    Now at least, through the miracle of division of labour, exploiting bugs in neural architectures is the job of a marketing department. My job is the honest, noble toil of bitching about impossible schedules and feature requests thrown over the wall.

  10. Peter Patton
    Posted July 5, 2010 at 11:27 am | Permalink

    This one will cause fire to pour from Adrien’s ears.

  11. HeathG
    Posted July 5, 2010 at 3:53 pm | Permalink


    .xxx isn’t necessarily the answer, not is it one universally supported by “geeks”. Even if you create a .xxx domain… who gets to decide what goes in there? what are the sanctions for not complying? Does Lolita (the novel) have to sit in the .xxx domain or just the movie (which was rated R)? What do you do about all the existing sites in .com etc?

    I’d have said the geeks’ answer is client-side filtering. The internet security package on my PC has a filtering component, which I have enabled on my 5year old’s account.

    Thing is… even when the government gave the filters away for free – people just weren’t that interested in them, just as the majority aren’t (I suspect) much interested in the ISP filtering debate either way.

    Iain’s initial post, IMHO, neatly wraps up the views of the average person on the street… there’s some vile crap out there so why don’t we filter it.

    That’s about the level of interest I think most people have in the issue and hence tend (generally) to tune out the technological or more complex legal, ethical and civil liberties issues. It’s only when the government badly screws up (govt blocks dentist web site, euthanasia site) that they take an interest. I imagine it’s also why Conroy continues to harp about blocking child porn, even though the RC category involves blocking a whole lot of other material, much of which is not actually illegal to possess.

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