The language needed by #nocleanfeed to succeed in the “real world”.

The comments on my post Why the language of #nocleanfeed dooms the movement to failure. were overwhelming, and has prompted me to write a second post in the series on the language surrounding the #nocleanfeed debate. Josh Mehlman’s post over on The Drum Filter opponents: change tactics or fail mirrored many of my sentiments in my original post but raised an interesting issue.

These arguments have also failed to convince the public because the anti-filter groups have allowed their opponents to set the terms and language of the debate. Senator Conroy has consistently framed the filter in terms of protecting children from online nasties such as child pornography. The mainstream media has almost without exception taken this line uncritically when reporting on the filter.

This is an important roadblock to taking the language currently used online into the offline space. By making arguments based on censorship, you immediately are on the back foot against the Government, as by opposing the filter, you are automatically labeled as being in support of child pornography. Once you are tarred with that brush, whatever arguments you make from that point, no matter how technically correct, will be tainted by the belief that you aren’t interested in saving the children.

As we all know, this isn’t the reality, but it is the perception of the issue by Joe Public and Government alike. The language of the debate has been dictated to the #nocleanfeed campaigners by supporters of the filter. By this stage it is too late to re-frame the debate in our own language, we must use language that is compatible with the debate as it currently stands.

This needs to take the form of:

a) We want to protect the children as much as you do

b) The current plan for a filter will not achieve this

c) Here is a viable alternative

Simply opposing the filter with no viable alternative undermines our argument that we want to protect the children as much as the Government does. What form the viable alternative takes, I’m looking for suggestions, but a viable alternative needs to be established in order to overcome the public perception that we do not support the protection of children by opposing the filter.

9 thoughts on “The language needed by #nocleanfeed to succeed in the “real world”.”

  1. The alternative is obvious, it’s what Labor’s policy used to be. Help ISPs implement OPTIONAL filtering and/or reintroduce the subsidy for client-side filters. Fund education for kids and parents. Increase funding for law enforcement against child pornographers.

    Not sure I agree about abandoning the censorship argument if it’s framed in the right way. It’s an argument worth taking up because Conroy’s responses are obvious lies or distortions, whereas technical feasibility and speed are now debatable, in the public mind, thanks to that shonky Enex report.

    It’s about the Government controlling what you see on the internet. It’s about the Government lying about the type of content it wants to block. It’s about the Government having more control over the internet than it has over what you can see on TV or buy in a bookshop. It’s about Australia being the only democracy in the world to have mandatory censorship.

    If these could be narrowed down to three really strong, emotive, popular appeals, that would be getting somewhere…

  2. Made a similar point on your last post.

    The alternatives are exceedingly simple, and much more powerful. Most of them have been in place for a long time already.

    1) take the money – put it into the cybercrimes division of the AFP.

    The only way to protect children, is to take the criminals off the intertubes, and put them behind bars.

    2) make it easy for parents and schools to limit access to social networking.

    The real issues surrounding children online have to do with bullying, not exposure to RC material. It needs to be exceedingly simple for parents and teachers to block access to facebook/myspace/twitter/bebo, etc. etc. etc.

    For schools, on-site filters already achieve this, but for parents it’s damn near impossible. They should be able to logon to their ISP page, and tickbox their way to a filter customised for their needs.

    An opt-in filter.

    Any child found to be bullying others, or indeed any child suffering excessive online bullying should be removed from the sphere — for their own good, or the good of others — in such a way as to not limit their ability to wikipedia their homework.

    3) Enforcing morality

    Parents should have the tools to stop their children bringing into the home that which is deemed by the parent, to be inappropriate.

    As Kate Lundy said on her blog, it’s important for policy to engage parents actively – so an additional step to this, would be a mandatory question at ISP signup, like: “Are there any children under 18 in your home?” if yes “do you wish us to enable filtering on your account?”

    This engages the parent directly — a cornerstone of Labor’s policy. It ‘mandates’ a question – also a cornerstone of Labor policy, and forces the parent to make a decision, instead of being blissfully unaware of their options. ISPs should allow parents to customise their filtering needs with a baseline of RC content, all the way to porn, social networking sites, and indeed peer networking if so desired.

    Today’s devices allow this, albeit with a certain level of customer-interface which would need to be developed.

    If the goal is to protect children and ensure only appropriate content is delivered to them, this is the only way.

    The active decision making process involved in point 3 is essential. We don’t see it as necessary because we’re clued up internet types, but Bruce and Chezza Average wouldn’t recognise a coffee filter, let alone an internet one. They need to be asked and reminded that the internet isn’t just flash games and email.

  3. In reading this back, I’m thinking that giving parents the tools means allowing them to be as restrictive as possible — if they want to be.

    The whole “PC in the living room” deal is made obsolete by the PSP and iPod touch.

    It should also be possible for parents to block everything – and allow only certain sites. Easily explained on the ISPs “what to filter” page, should be an option to “Allow only:”

    – Online research sites (eg Wikipedia,, etc)
    – Australain online news sites
    – Popular kid-friendly fora (yahoo answers, etc)

    and so on and so forth. Making a really restrictive kid-friendly filter with on it would be something I’d like to pay for as a tax payer. I’d let my 6 year old nephew on that with no problem.

  4. Milorad – I agree with your first point. It’s exactly what the “Cops, Not Blocks” catchphrase, brand, hashtag, tshirt slogan, bumpersticker is all about.

    As for points 2 and 3, the tech already exists and is relatively simple to implement in the form of OpenDNS. Their instructions are Bruce & Chezza-friendly: Implementing on router handles PSP and iPod Touch and any other internet-capable device connecting through that router.

  5. Good post. Suggesting alternatives is definitely needed; just complaining about a proposal without giving other options isn’t helpful – and turns people away from you.

    As already said, it’s actually social change that’s really needed to keep children safe. That’s hard, long-term, and not a winner for politicians. The opt-in filters discussed – including Milorad’s point about the ability to be as restricitve as one wants: to “allow only…” – would in my opinion be an excellent alternative to Conroy’s ludicrous proposal.

  6. Why not simply use #protectthechildren – and present a positive case on how to protect them through education and enforcement with the support of a opt-in filter for families (made mandatory for ISPs to offer)?

    Let’s take the high ground on this discussion. We want to see children protected effectively, the government’s approach won’t be effective.

    The side benefit of allowing ongoing online political discussion is a bonus.

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