Governance Assignment

Table of contents

Most especially affected are the children who would most likely be victims of pornography, violence and other things objectionable to their taste that could affect their emotional and psychological health. Justification internet filter is an information issue. This is an issue because government’s action to do some political and legal action by legislation or mandatory implementation of internet filter necessarily regulates the free flow information what would otherwise be available without the mandated filter.

What should be regulated and how show it be regulated becomes important because of the lack of proper determination what should constitute what is objectionable material from the internet and who determines the same. The right to information is part of implied rights of the Australian in their constitution (Parliament of Victoria, n. d. ) and a necessary requirement of right to free speech and expression, Said right is based on the international which the Australian has ratified and adopted for its governance. A denial of right to information by internet filter would amount to denial of human right.

The stakeholders of the issue. The stakeholders of the issue include the different group of users, which may be classified as the non-adults or children, non-adults, the government as regulators, the educational institutions and the society in general. The arguments for and against the issue. The arguments for the internet filter would include protecting the children from objectionable materials, which could hamper or affect their emotional and psychological health because of exposure to pornographic and violent websites. The main argument against internet filter is it prior restraint to right to information under right of freedom of expression of Australians. The restraint will thus unfairly restrict the right of Australians to access the web. The filter will also slow internet speeds and raise the price of internet access due to cost of regulation that must be covered. The filter would only have little effect on illegal internet content including pornography as file-sharing networks would be spared from coverage.

If Australia would learn from the US experience, the US Supreme Court has declared unconstitutional two federal Internet laws beginning with the Communications Decency Act of 1995. The US court has declared too protection of right to information under the First Amendment of the US Constitution (Mauro, 2003) from which Australia could use or learn.  As already introduced earlier, this part will expand the issues of internet filter by presenting alternatives using at least four thinking hats.

Summary of the Issues

Should government pursue internet filter by making it mandatory to limit websites access through the Internet Service Providers (ISP) or are there better alternatives that could be more beneficial to Australians and eventually become more popular and thus help ensure the political survival of the Senator Conroy? The Alternatives to internet filter could include the following: First, there would be no government regulation or let the parents do the regulation or filtering at home on a voluntary basis. This would mean non non-enactment of legislation or non-implementation by other means for mandatory internet filter.

This would in effect work consistent with the arguments against internet filter as described in Part A of this paper. The thinking hats that would support this position include the technology hat, heath hat, business entrepreneur hat and political hat. This would in effect be a case of voluntary filter since this would give to the parents the power to discipline their children on internet use rather than the government. Another alternative would be to have the mandatory internet filter to be of local application only and eventually makes is federal should it prove successful.

This would mean the local should pass the legislation or states governments in Australia where each state or territory may see the internet filter to fit in their environment in relation to emotional and psychological maturity of the people especially the children of each state or territory in Australia. This would require clear definition of terms of what to be considered as objectionable. The main problem however with this alternative is the need to depend still for the ISP to determine or translate their software for implementing the defined areas of objectionable source of information or internet materials.

Apparently, there is no enough evidence that would support this possibility and hence none of the hats presented later may support these alternatives. The filter concept may sound good and if the technology could be properly implemented the filter could really work great. This would mean helping the parents and governments to mold their children away from the influences of pornographic and violent websites. The time saved by parents could be used more productively for the benefit of the family and the states.

The state or government would in turn have more chances of reaping the benefits of less children exposed to said objectionable websites as compared with other countries. Budget funds that are used for rehabilitating to building the lives of those that are emotionally and psychologically abused through the abusive internet sites containing pornography and violence would rather be used for more life promoting experiences. Economically and politically, the advantages would really be immeasurable if the intended benefits materialize because of the success for the technology.

Unfortunately, empirical experiences appear to weaken the hope of attaining the desired objectives. Thus, using technology hat as thinking tool to support and contradict the internet filter, this part points out the difficulty of actually implementing an internet filter that would accomplish the desired purpose. One detrimental effect feared is in slowing of connection speeds, which will sound contradictory or ironic to government’s plans to fund massive increase in broadband speed (Kidman, 2008). Another good reason against the filter idea is the lack of clear information on just what will be blocked.

It the latter is pursued that it could amount to undue restriction to right of information (Kidman, 2008). This could be deciphered by the fact the Australian, government which is supposed to implement that plan merely, dismissed that these protestors as caring less in helping to protect children, but has not yet provided an answer to the criticisms of the proposal. Conroy’s claims that similar schemes are already in place in Europe but which have also been also extensively criticized based on EFA analysis that highlighted numerous differences in approach (Kidman, 2008).

The filter also caused over and under inclusion of internet resources. Support for both under and over inclusive hypotheses was clearly found in a study by the COPA commission about the limitations of the filter. The author simplified the result by asserting that taken all together the internet filters failed to block objectionable content twenty-five percent (25%) of the time. It could be counterargued that why not go for at least have something that must be blocked than not having blocked anything for the children.

Well, this could have some sense but the study also revealed that filters also improperly blocked twenty one percent (21%) of the benign content. Thus, the author explained that assuming the web has 800 million unique documents; filters would cause the incorrect blocking of approximately 168 million pages (COPA Commission, 2000). It is indeed appearing to be a big loss of valuable information. If translated into books, it would approximate removing from a local library incorrectly about twenty one percent (21%) of its good books while not providing any explanation for their removal (COPA Commission, 2000). Learn when the government uses censorship, it puts a limit on what?

Technology hat indeed works more against the use of filter. Given the reality of blocking some legal sites with use of the filter, much would be lost also in terms of valuable health information. A study found that the use of the filter could affect access to health information if administrators of schools and libraries would configure the computer filters to block beyond just pornography. This assertion is of course premised on the idea that the mandatory internet filter will expand what could be blocked by Internet Service Providers.

It was found in the study that one in every four sites was blocked, on the average using the most restrictive settings. The same study further found that the use of a more restrictive setting for the filters, resulted in a significant increase in blocking of health sites but the yield in term of increase in the effectiveness at blocking pornography was only marginal. This means that there are more better sites being blocked which amounts to denying relevant health information to students. To dramatize the effect, it was found that health sites blocked increased from 1. 4% to 24% while block sites for pornography increased only from 87% to 91% (Kaiser Family Foundation, 2002). From the information, it is also clear that not all pornographic sites are blocked while a greater number of information on health was denied the students.

Hat Internet filter proves to be not good to business as not many business entities in Australia support it as shown by the fact of lack of enthusiastic participants in a filter trial announced by the government. In fact, Telstra, which was supposed to be part of the trial to conduct the filter trial planned not to attend due to “customer management issues”. Although the company has not specified what are these issues, strong conclusion that could be drawn that there are bad consequences for business in implementing mandatory internet filter from the feared slowing down of the internet of up to 87% and accidental blocking of legal contents.

The internet filter also runs ironic to the government plan to speed up the process by putting funds for such purpose (SmartCompany. com, 2009). Australians like any people in the world have their political rights to free speech and right to information as way of making their government and political framework work. Doing the filter without violating these rights would appear very clear. The internet has become a good venue for many political opinions and expressions as ways of exercising these rights.

In the case of the US, rights to information were found by the Supreme Court to have been infringed the internet laws passed by US Congress. Said laws were found violative of the Constitution. Australians also enjoy almost similar rights to information, which must be protected under the circumstance. The Australian Government has ratified the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights on December 18, 1972, which means that it has adopted the part of international law as part of the law of its land.

The ratification took effect on August 13, 1980 and Australian reservations and other articles pertaining to said political rights to freedom of expression were withdrawn on November 6, 1984. Article 19 (2) of the said ICCPR properly provides for the right to freedom of expression for Australians, and said rights include the right or “freedom to seek, receive and impart information and ideals of all kinds, regardless of frontiers, either orally, in writing or in print, in the form of art or any other media” of choice.

Conclusion and Recommendation

There seems to be no issue that there must be some restraints as far as children’s access to the Internet is concerned that these children should not be allowed to have access on materials that are not good to their mental and emotional health. The problem therefore resides on whether Internet filter could effectively increase its purpose of protecting children without denying the right of many Australians of their right to information under the Constitution and international law.

The denial to right to information was found to have their effects bad using at least four thinking hats: the technology hat, the health hats, the business, and political hat. Under the technology hat a strong evidence of over-blocking and failing to block expected websites were found. This would mean that there are costs to trying to protect the children from blocking pornographic sites in terms of denying more important information and failing really to block the intended sites within a reasonable degree or level.

Under the health hat, there was denial of health information to students, which is also important to learning, growth, and further development. Under the business entrepreneur hat, the same filter could be bad to business due to many grounds such as the slowing down of the speed of computers because of the need to filter some sites, disadvantageous position in a world of business where speed in decision-making would be a great factor that would govern the conduct of business.

Under the political hat, the implementation of Internet filter could be properly categorized as denial of the rights of Australians to grow politically by having more access to information from other parts of the world that could be used in furthering their rights. Since government would be in control in the implementation of filter, the latter could impose unnecessary restrictions to freedom including possible opposition to government, which will run counter to the political rights of Australians. This paper has studied other alternatives to Internet Filter being mandated by the government.

One of these options is doing this on a state or local level not covering the whole of Australia. Evidence however is weak or nil that there are particular states or territories who would want to have the filter implemented at the local or state level. Thus, another option is to make the filter voluntary to Australians. Since the most defensible purpose of Internet filter is for the protection of the rights of children or non-adults, it would be more consistent with experience to put the responsibility of filtering to parents rather than the government.

It could be properly argued that parents do exercise responsibility over the children and giving such parents to control access to the Internet by allowing them to buy software that would attain the filtering and installing them in the computers to be used by their children, the act could at least provide some advantage if the values of these parents supports that decision. These parents are however warned of the limitation of filter software being used, which will still require their supervision of the use of computers by their children.

To make filter through legislation where it would be ISP providers that would block some sites without clear definition of which should be blocked could result to possible excessive blocking because of the fear that they will be punished for failing to block. The internet filter as contemplated would therefore become an uncertain law that will accomplish uncertain things. Since it is the children that are most vulnerable to the problem of having unlimited access to sites, this researcher recommends that instead of giving the power to ISP providers, the power should be given to parents. In many instances, the school would be responsible enough to provide filters, as they deemed necessary, of course, without affecting the rights of children to have access to information that they rightly deserve.


  1. ABC News (2007), Conroy announces mandatory internet filters to protect children, {www document} URL http://www. abc. net. au/news/stories/2007/12/31/2129471. htm, Accessed April 27, 2009
  2. COPA Commission (2000) Internet Filter Effectiveness: Testing Over and Underinclusive Blocking Decisions of Four Popular Filters, {www document} URL http://www. copacommission. org/papers/filter_effect.pdf, Accessed April 27, 2009
  3. Electronic Frontiers Australia (2009) EFA Analysis, {www document} URL http://www. efa. org. au/censorship/mandatory-isp-blocking/#SS_4, Accessed April 27, 2009
  4. Kaiser Family Foundation (2002); See No Evil: How Internet Filters Affect the Search on Online Health information, {www document} URL http://www. kff. org/entmedia/upload/See-No-Evil-How-Internet-Filters-Affect-the-Search-for-Online-Health-Information-Executive-Summary. pdf, Accessed April 27, 2009
  5. Kidman, A. (2008) Street protests planned over internet filtering, {www document} URL htm,
  6. Street protests planned over internet filtering, Accessed April 27, 2009 Libetus. net (2008), Free Speech Rights & Australian Law, {www document} URL http://libertus. net/censor/fspeechlaw. html, Accessed April 27, 2009
  7. Mauro, T. (2003), High Court Hears Arguments on Library Internet Filters, {www document} URL http://www. law. com/jsp/article. jsp? id=1046833514527, Accessed April 27, 2009
  8. Parliament of Victoria (n. d. ), Review of the Unlawful Assemblies and Processions Act 1958: Chapter 5 – Constitution and Implied Rights, {www document} URL http://www.parliament. vic. gov. au/sarc/Unlawful_Assemblies_Act/Report/UAP_Ch5. htm, Accessed April 27, 2009 SmartCompany. com (2009),
  9. Proposed internet filter takes another hit, {www document} URL http://114. 111. 138. 128/telecommunications/proposed-internet-filter-takes-another-hit. html, Accessed April 27, 2009
  10. The Herald Sun (October 29, 2008) Australia to Implement Mandatory Internet Censorship, {www document} URL http://www. dslreports. com/forum/r21341775-Australia-To-Implement-Mandatory-Internet-Censorship, Accessed April 27, 2009

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