Category Archives: freedom of speech

Why aren’t PC-level filters sufficient?

Because most people are stupid. Well, that’s the inference I get from Senator Conroy’s response to my comment on the governments website.

Some while back the government opened their pathetic excuse for a blog where people could respond to the ISP Filtering debacle [side note: there are now 768 comments on his ‘blog’, I wonder how many others Conroy responded to?) . I left two comments and Senator Conroy has responded to one of them.

Whatever happened to parents being responsible for what their children view? The government has already provided a PC based filtering system, which only about 3% of households took up. Which, to me, just goes to show most parents don’t care about filtering anyway.

Posted by OzAtheist / 10 Dec 2008 10:21am / Permalink

Conroy’s response:

The previous Government’s Protecting Australian Families Online strategy focused on providing families with PC-level filtering software. However, despite an $84.8 million government program and $15.5 million in advertising, only about two per cent of households with dependent children are using a filter. Unfortunately, many parents do not have the technical skills or knowledge to install and manage PC-level filters. ISP-level filtering could provide important protection for those families with limited technical expertise.

We understand that ISP filtering is not a ‘silver bullet’ for this purpose. However, in conjunction with the Government’s numerous other initiatives in this area, we believe it can make an important contribution to protecting children online.

Stephen Conroy

Which I think is a cop out. It is obvious that parents are just not bothered with filtering, they are too stupid or both. Either way filtering everyone is hardly an appropriate response.

The government has already spent  over $100M on previous filters that have proved a complete flop, why spend more? Are the children really in that much trouble on the net? From some reports in the media, chat programs such as messenger pose more of a threat than children just accidently stumbling upon porn on the net. From what I’ve heard Conroy’s filter won’t protect children on chat programs. Really why is he bothering?

Interesting Conroy’s own admission that the filtering is “not a ‘silver bullet’”, this is a bit of a departure from early statements he made.

Hat Tip to Sean for finding the response, and letting me know about it via twitter. What you aren’t on twitter?

 

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Filed under censorship, China, freedom of speech, internet, internet censorship, internet filter, no clean feed, paedophile, porn

Atheist Advertising too Controversial in Australia

In previous posts I’ve discussed how the Atheist Foundation of Australia (AFA) are trying in vain to place adverts on buses around Australia. Well now they have lodged a complaint with the Tasmanian Anti-discrimination Commissioner.

The Atheist Foundation of Australia Inc is to complain to the Tasmanian Anti-discrimination Commissioner following the refusal of Metro Tasmania, a State owned bus company, to display its advertisements.

President of the Foundation, David Nicholls said: “Following legal advice we have decided to lodge the complaint. It is unfortunate the AFA has to go down this path to achieve justice. However, there is no grudge involved here, just a simple matter of what is right.”

David Nicholls said atheists worldwide have an important message for humanity and one that is quite urgent. He said the denial of an opportunity to express that message on Public Transport had possibly resulted from unfounded concerns in executive decision making. Mr Nicholls said he expected a good outcome to the complaint and envisaged the slogan, “Atheism – Celebrate reason! Sleep in on Sunday mornings” to soon be on a bus near you.

Hobart lawyer James Crotty has been retained to advise on the complaint.

hat tip to Sean

In more news of discrimination against atheists and free speech comes this piece of news from Albury-Wodonga. Kieran saw a good deal for classified adverts in his local newspaper so decided he’d post an atheist message:

The Border Mail has a classifieds deal on, $1.10 a line for a Christmas greeting. I rang up, and requested the following:

Christians, There probably is no god, so stop worrying and enjoy life – Kieran.

The lady at the other end said “No”.

Surprise, surprise, they wouldn’t accept it.  If the Border Mail is anything like my local rag, The Star, it will be filled with religious adverts, so why not one tiny atheist one?

In fact page 18 of The Star, dated 17 December, is a whole page advertising feature for Christmas church services. There are two letters, one from the Catholic Bishop and one from the Anglican Bishop, and eleven (11) pictorial adverts for various churches and their Christmas services. I don’t’ have a problem with that, if they’ve paid, they are fully entitled to, I’ll just ignore that page. However if the same newspaper refuses to place an atheist (or even a hindu, muslim or other religion) advert then that is discrimination, censorship and denial of free speech.

Kieran has asked for others to try and place an atheist message in his local paper and has even offered to pay for it:

If anyone manages to sneak a good atheist message into the Border Mail’s Christmas greetings, I’ll pay for it.

Intersting idea, and hat tip to The Atheist Blogger.

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Filed under activism, atheism, atheist, censorship, freedom of speech

Why Internet Filtering is NOT a good idea

When someone decides the picture on an album cover is offensive and adds it to a black-list then everyone suffers. from Wikipedia added to child pornography blacklist

Wikipedia has been blacklisted by a British online child pornography watchdog, causing almost every internet user in Britain to be blocked from contributing to the site anonymously.

The British Government-backed Internet Watch Foundation blacklisted Wikipedia over an article on the 1976 album Virgin Killer by German heavy metal band Scorpions.

At issue was a screen shot of the album cover, published with the article, that featured a naked, young girl with her genitals obscured by a simulated tear in the photograph.

After hearing of the blacklisting, Britain’s six main internet service providers blocked their users from accessing the article.

Here in Australia our government is considering having mandatory ISP filtering, unlike the UK where it is not compulsory. But as can be seen if something is considered child pornography then most operators will also consider it such, quite likely to avoid being seen as being soft on child pornography, it then becomes a matter of self censorship. Having seen the offending picture I can see how it could be considered child pornography, but then again I thought Bell Henson‘s pictures were as well.

The problem with the ban is that now all users appear to wikipedia as one of six users (the six ISPs blocking the site), so if just one user gets banned then all users on that ISP will be banned from modifying wikipedia. This may seem a bit innocuous but think of the consequences.

One person complains to the watchdog (and in this case it was only one user), the site gets blacklisted, all users on those six ISPs (about 95% of home internet users) now appear as one of six users. Lets say six people, one on each of the six ISPs, purposefully get themselves banned by wikipedia, then just about every internet user can no longer edit anonymously. Then using an alternate ISP these nefarious gang of six edit various wikipedia sites, the rest of the populace now finds it difficult to correct these edits. These new entries come

I know I’m probably being a bit paranoid and ‘conspiracy theorist’ here, but it just shows how easy it could be, if mandatory filtering was in place, for a small group of people to wreck  havoc on the internet for everyone else. Worse still, in Australia you might not even know it had happened, as the government doesn’t have to expose which sites have been black-listed.

1984 anyone?

In more political correctness gone wrong, comes the story of the man who has been convicted of possessing child pornography, and then lost his appeal. The offending matter?  A cartoon of Homer Simpson having sex with Lisa Simpson. Yes folks a cartoon! The judge (where do they find these people?)  stated:

the word ‘person’ included fictional or imaginary characters …,”

and

“… The mere fact that the figure depicted departed from a realistic representation in some respects of a human being did not mean that such a figure was not a ‘person’.”

feckin’ genius this judge, even most four year olds know the difference between a cartoon and a person, but not our ‘learned’ judge.

There are a few other bloggers covering this and they have come up with some, at times quite funny, extrapolations of this ruling. How far could this go?

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Filed under activism, atheism, censorship, freedom of speech, internet censorship, internet filter, no clean feed, porn

Aussie Atheist Bus Campaign – an update

A couple of days ago it came to my attention that the AFA’s Atheist Bus Campaign has hit another snag. From the transcript of the Religion Report radio broadcast the other day:

… the Atheist Foundation of Australia, who have been refused permission to buy advertising space on public transport.

You might have read in recent weeks that the British Humanist Association, assisted by crusading atheist Richard Dawkins, have been raising money to put their message on London buses. The ads, planned for January, will read, ‘There’s probably no god, now stop worrying and enjoy your life.’

And in Washington, buses are already trundling around with a Christmas message from the American Humanist Association: ‘Why believe in a god? Just be good, for goodness’ sake’.

Well the Atheist Foundation of Australia wants to mount its own campaign, and says that its members and supporters have pledged $16,000 to fund advertisements on buses in Australia. So they’ve approached APN Outdoor, the company that manages public transport advertising in most Australian capitals.

According to the Atheist Foundation’s president, David Nicholls, APN Outdoor said that they had problems with the wording of the proposed message. But then after the Foundation made two sets of changes to the wording, APN Outdoor said they simply weren’t able to accommodate them.

WHY? Just because. David speculates that APN has rejected any and all atheist bus slogans because of the cultural belief that religion has some sort of privileged status. Even mild criticism of religion is shunned.

I suggest you have a read of the transcript or listen to the podcast, it’s quite interesting, After the host finsishes talking to David he contunes the discussion with Greg Clarke, Director of the Macquarie Christian Studies Institute who is open to allowing the atheist bus slogans “as long as it’s done with a level of civility”, which it was.

The radio show continues with a discussion about a new book, ‘In Your Shoes: Interfaith Education for Australian Religious Educators’, which provides advice for teaching students about different religious traditions. Some interesting comments from the author.

Back to APN censoring advertising, it appears that it’s not just atheist slogans they refuse to advertise. APN has also refused to carry the Catholic’s Respect Life Office (RLO) anti-abortion adverts which were going to display graphic pictures [to scare women into not having abortions]. Whilst I think the idea of showing graphic pictures and trying to scare women into not having an abortion is not very productive and amounts to not much more than psycological warfare against women at a time they can be very vulnerable, I’m not sure it’s really up to the advertisers to be censors? Or is it? Who should be ultimately responsible for what gets advertised?

In the article about the RLO’s advertising ban, I thought it was ironic that the RLO are worried about women’s mental health following an abortion. According to them:

Many women seeking help had experienced substance abuse, anxiety, sleep disorders, suicidal thoughts, psychiatric illness, risk-taking behaviour and relationship problems as a result of their abortion.

Well I’ve heard the same thing about women who had found out they were pregnant and didn’t want the child. I’ve also heard of womens lives that have been completely ruined because they were coerced into having a child they didn’t really want, some of these women have experienced the exact same symptoms the RLO described. So who is right and who is wrong? Should abortion be banned because some women feel bad afterwards? NO, I don’t think so, in fact I think if abortion wasn’t so stigmatised, especially by the religious, and women were provided with non-judgemental guidance before, and afterwards if required, a lot less women would have psychological problems with abortion. What do you think?

One more Bus advert banned by APN, ‘The Chasers War on Everything’ DVD release was going to carry the slogan:

“The only good thing to come out of APEC.”

with pictures of their APEC stunt. However APN has banned the advert for being “too political”.

I’m starting to wonder how APN makes any money, as they seem to not want to advertise anything even remotely political or anti-religious.

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Filed under abortion, activism, APEC, APN, atheism, atheist, Atheist Bus Campaign, billboard, Catholic, censorship, christianity, freedom of speech, politics, religion

Net Censorship – part 262

The absolutely ridiculous idea of our ‘so called’ Minister for Communications has featured in the news again. This time, Michael Malone, the managing Director of one of the largest ISPs has agreed to be involved in the trials. But there is a twist, he’s agreed to be involved, 

to provide the Government with "hard numbers" demonstrating "how stupid it is" – specifically that the filtering system would not work, would be patently simple to bypass, would not filter peer-to-peer traffic and would significantly degrade network speeds.

He’s not the only one questioning Stephen Conroy, Senator Ludlam raised the issue in question time today. Ludlam asked Conroy to retract his claims he’d made in a Senate Estimates committee, namely that

… Britain, Sweden, Canada and New Zealand had all implemented similar filtering systems.

However, in all cases, participation by ISPs was optional and the filtering was limited in scope to predominantly child pornography.

So Conroy may not of outright lied, but his obfuscation is equivalent to lying, surely? So why aren’t the government opposition and media calling him on this? I’m really over people lying to me by not quite telling me the truth, or providing a half truth, or by bullying me into just believing what they say no matter if it’s true, false or something in between.

And that’s how he’s getting away with it in the media and ‘general’ public. He indicates he’s doing this to ‘save the children from pornography and paedophilia’ so who would dare to say anything against it? Well me and many others fortunately, people who realise this is all a smoke screen. Filtering porn on the net won’t stop paedophiles, for a start they tend to use messaging and peer-to-peer services to contact children and pass media to each other. The filter wont prevent any of that, and the police already have plenty of powers and technology to investigate, find and prosecute these people (as has been evidenced with numerous prosecutions around the world recently).

So we look into this filtering further and find that Conroy wants to filter “illegal” sites (whatever illegal is), but there is already a ‘black list’ of illegal sites in service in Australia. So what’s the porn thing all about? Well, you wouldn’t know it but the government might need one or two of the Independents to vote with the bill. Guess who the Independents are? Senator Fielding – right wing religious nut job party; and Senator Xenophon – anti-gambling nutter. How these two absolutely minority Independents got into parliament is beyond me. How Australia’s Internet, freedom of speech and right to view adult entertainment are all being curtailed by a few BRAIN DEAD MORONS is  beyond belief. Democracy at its worse.

I like Malone’s conclusion:

"This is the worst Communications Minister we’ve had in the 15 years since the [internet] industry has existed."

and we’ve had some real shockers! Why has Australia had so many complete imbeciles running technology portfolios?


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Filed under censorship, christian right, democracy, freedom of speech, hypocrisy, internet censorship, paedophile, politics, porn

Free Speech? Not if you say anything against Islam.

Pat Condell’s recent video was banned from YouTube because some Muslim didn’t like what he said. Watch the video for yourself and see if you think there’s anything wrong with it.

Knowing wordpress’ problem with embed the video link above might not work. In that case go to Pat’s website or Sean’s, where I first heard about this.

Seems like every atheist blogger on the net is talking about this, so I thought I’d join the bandwagon.

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Filed under atheism, censorship, freedom of speech, islam, Muslim, Pat Condell

Teenager arrested for ‘blasphemous’ T-shirt

Blasphemy is a victimless crime.

A 16 year old was arrested, in the Gold Coast, on Monday for wearing an offensive T shirt. The T-shirt in question is a Cradle of Filth band T-shirt. The T-shirt depicts a semi-naked nun masturbating, with the words “Vestal Masturbation”, on one side and the words JESUS IS A C**T on the other.

For those of a sensitive nature the picture of the T-shirt is at the end of this post.

The story has been in several news media, but Ben Dillaway reported at goldcoast.com.au that it was blasphemous. In his article there was also the following quote from a local minister:

The Reverend Matt Hunt of the Helensvale Baptist Church said it was sad people spoke about the Lord in such a way.

“It’s fairly common language these days to express sadness, anger or hurt,” he said. “It’s a degrading word to use and Jesus is anything but that. It’s like calling white black.”

Mr Hunt said using the Lord’s name in vain was a serious sin.

I tend to agree somewhat that the C word can be considered degrading and/or offensive by some. However, the rev will have to get over the fact that a very large number of us don’t believe Jesus exists. Thus it’s no more a ‘sin’ calling Jesus a bad word than it is calling the tooth fairy a bad word.

The goldcoast.com.au article has a comments page which understandably has had a large number of comments. Over 300 at time of writing, perhaps this might beat the Unleashed article which currently has over 1180 (see my post How to get 1000+ Comments).

The comments basically fall into one of three types:

  1. The religious person who thinks it’s blasphemous and evil and the guy should have been charged
  2. The people (religious or not) who think that anything goes, freedom of speech and all that, and the guy should not have been charged.
  3. The people (religious or not) who think that the C word and/or pictures of semi-naked women masturbating is/are offensive.

Then there are all the off topic arguments.

Personally the C word is one of the few swear words I try not to use in the public arena. I have been told by several women they find it the most offensive of all the swear words. However I do use it occasionally, but if someone says to me they don’t like hearing that word, or any other swear word, I will do my best not to use it in front of them. Some call this the “Grandmother Test”, would you use the word in front of your grandmother?

I have no problem with people ‘insulting’ Jesus as a) he isn’t real and b) religion should not be above critique or criticism, just because it’s religion.

However the C word could be considered offensive, as could a picture of a, mostly naked, woman masturbating (the fact she is depicted as a nun should be immaterial).  Especially when displayed in a open public arena.

If the guy has been charged for offensive behaviour then it’s up to the courts to decide if he’s guilty (based on current acceptable standards). Any charge of blasphemy or insulting imaginary beings should be, quite rightly thrown out of court.

Do I find the T-shirt offensive? I think its funny but a bit too rude to be wearing in general public.

Do I think the police should have charged him? I think that unless the police had had complaints, and not from religious people being offended by the supposed blasphemy, they should not have charged him. Don’t the police have more important things to do? The police should not be the sole arbiter of public decency, perhaps they should have just cautioned the guy in the first instance?

Here’s the offending T-shirt,

jesus_is_a_c--t

What do you think?

Offensive? Blasphemous?

Should anyone be charged with offensive behaviour for wearing it?

Would you wear it?

Is Jesus a Cunt? (see I can say the word)

If you read through the comments watch out for the troll that goes by the name of Zac. Zac if you read this, please read FAQ 1 and FAQ 2 before even considering leaving a comment.

I had heard about this on the radio, but hat tip to Nut Watch for bringing the offensive T-shirt story to my attention again.

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Filed under atheism, atheist, blasphemy, Cradle of Filth, freedom of speech, jesus