Wednesday, January 2, 2008

Rudd's Clean Feed (Internet Filtering) Policy

As a part of the recent election campaign, the Labor party promised to protect Australian children whilst online. The Labor policy is here:

One important part of this policy is the promise of a "mandatory ‘clean feed’ internet service for all homes, schools and public computers that are used by Australian children". This filtering will be done at the Internet Service Provider (ISP) level NOT on the user's PC.

In light of the detail of the Labor policy (ie. ISP NOT PC Filtering) it is interesting that the NSW Council for Civil Liberties says that a computer saavy child will be able to get around the filters. Hmmm. Unlikely. To do that they would need access into the ISP's computer systems to tamper with the filtering software. The majority of children would not be capable of hacking their ISP. In fact if you read Labor's policy (as linked above) it is clear that the reason they have selected the 'clean feed' approach is that they understand that filtering inside the home IS simple to get around.

I rather think that this comment by the NSW Council for Civil Liberties is just a distracting tactic. I think later comments reflect more what their objection is, "adults would be restricted by the filters" and "Will there be some database of people who want to access adult pornography, which is legal in most democratic countries?" and "It has serious implications for freedom of expression. When you start filtering material on political grounds - even if the material is objectionable or quite awful - we're heading in the same direction as China and Singapore."

OK so there are really two points here, firstly adults will also be restricted in their access of pornographic material, which is seen to be undesirable because it "is legal in most democratic countries" and has "serious implications for freedom of expression".

There are some an interesting assumptions in this:
  1. Legality in democratic countries is a measure of what is moral or good
  2. Freedom of expression is an absolute ethic

The first statement is quite obviously false. There is of course the extreme example of Nazi Germany; where murder of Jews was legal and yet obviously not moral or good. Another less extreme example would be the way laws regarding smoking have been changing over the last 20 years. 20 years ago you could smoke anywhere, anytime pretty much. The laws have subsequently changed to protect others from passive smoking, such that now it is not legal to smoke in restaurants and pubs. One cannot say that at the time that smoking in restaurants and pubs was legal that it was GOOD. The law has changed, because that original law that allowed smoking in restaurants and pubs was not beneficial or constructive. I would say that it equally follows that just because it is legal for adults to view pornographic material that it is necessarily good.

The second statement that makes freedom of expression an absolute is naive. Freedom is good. It is wonderful to live in a country that allows me choice and freedom. But there is obviously a level of restriction that is good for us. For instance, one could view road laws as inflicting an unecessary level of restriction of freedom. However, I for one am GLAD that when I cross the road when the green man is blinking, that the freedom of drivers is restricted so that I may get to the other side without being run over. I am equally glad to have MY freedom restricted by not crossing the road until the green man blinks, because I know that it is for my good. The NSW Council for Civil Liberties comment that this moves us closer to China or Singapore is a scare tactic. It is common sense that our freedom can and should be restricted at times, and that this is good.

The other side of this is that what is ok for me is not necessarily ok for others. Even if one buys the argument that adults can safely view pornography without harming themselves, it does not necessarily follow that adults SHOULD view pornography knowing that having it accessible means that children may be exposed to it. In 1 Cor 10:23-24, Paul writes that everything is permissible, but not everything is beneficial or constructive, and that we should seek the good of others not ourselves. We live in community. As much as our individualistic society tells us that each of us individually are the centre of the universe, the fact is that none of us are. We are responsible not just for feeding our own appetites but also for looking out for one another.

For this reason, even if instituting the clean feed policy means that adults are also restricted from viewing pornographic material, it should most definitely be implemented to protect the children in our community. Actually, I believe this policy is beneficial for adults as well. I think it will mean that fewer adolescents fall into sexual addictions. I think that it will mean less adults will develop unrealistic expectations about sex, and thus will be freed up to better enjoy what sex really IS rather than they imagine it is. I think it will also have a positive impact on women having realistic and positive body images. If the image of women that men desire is not distorted by pornography then the pressure to be a barbie-doll will diminish, and real beauty will be rediscovered.

So personally, I am EXCITED about the clean feed policy! It will protect our children, but also will provide an opportunity for us to rediscover real sex and real beauty. The real is always better than what is imagined, fantasies dry out and get boring with time. True contentment can only be found in appreciating what is real and true.

God bless,

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

you argue well Bec. A good article.