Our vote is in: Kirby for net filter blacklist inspector

If the filter must be put in, at least make it accountable

Communications minister, Senator Stephen Conroy, has tried countless ways to appease the more skeptical of us that mandatory ISP-level filtering is a good idea.

He refuses to publish the blacklist collated by the Australia Communications and Media Authority (ACMA) and used as a reference list for the filter, even though its opponents have decried the loosely defined topics included on the list.

Conroy has even said that, should a future government attempt in any way to expand the range of classification relevant to the filter, he would be one of the masses standing up and crying out. Of course, as most know and as Greens Senator, Scott Ludlam, already pointed out, Australians and the world are already standing up and crying out.

Except, as Conroy put it this morning, those people are just part of a contingent attempting to "mislead the Australian public". Ha!

Instead, Conroy proposes round-a-bout ways to appease we "unruly lot". The Classification Board - which ultimately decides what is and isn't on the blacklist - may attempt to classify all previously "refused classification" or RC content under contention with ACMA. The authority may identify and contact website owners whose content may appear on the blacklist, and users might be greeted with a standardised block page that will allow them to notify ACMA of potential mis-classification.

One last potential measure - and the one Conroy pushed in a recent, unopposed interview with Channel 7 - was to initiate a "review of processes by an independent expert and a report to Parliament" every six to 12 months.

Of course, that independent reviewer would have to be someone of high social standing or, as Conroy put it, "a retired judge".

When we at Computerworld Australia think of potential, retired judges to fill such a role, we can think of no one better than the former High Court judge, the Hon Michael Kirby.

As a patron of the Internet Industry Association (IIA) and a champion of human rights, we think Kirby would be better than any other retired judges. That is if the filter does go ahead despite all of our protests and this measure is included.

Kirby kindly refused to speculate on the hypothetical subject, as well as anything about the Internet filter. In talking to Computerworld Australia, he said he had not been approached in such regard, but his plate was too full anyway to consider adding yet another position on his increasing list for speeches, functions and legal program launches.

Nevertheless, Kirby did say it was a gesture "in the right direction", and we stand behind him.

While the filter debate doesn't look like it's going away any time too soon, the accountability measures proposed by Conroy might, at the very least, ensure that your local primary school's canteen website doesn't inadvertently make it on the list. And then again it might not, but having someone of Kirby's standing involved in the process would surely be a good thing.

Don't get us wrong - the Internet filter is likely to cause more headaches than it cures and we don't support it - but surely, the more layers of bureaucracy that are added, the more time it takes for anything to be implemented in the real word, by real ISPs.