Thursday, June 03, 2010


The battle for hearts and minds with respect to Conroy's Internet filter is continuing, for reasons I just can't fathom. I cannot get my head around why anyone finds it hard to decide where they stand given the arguments - namely:

  • It won't work
  • By telling people it will work when it won't, you're making people less vigilant themselves
  • It will block stuff that is legal (both on and not on the secret banned list).
  • Allowing a government to have a secret list of banned sites is the slipperiest of slopes imaginable. Tony Abbott might one day have control of that list. Think on that.
  • Child pornography is bad.
Yep, that's about it for the pro case. Of course, they're right, child pornography is bad, but the filter won't do anything about that anyway.

Sorry, that was a diversion from my point, which is that apparently many people are still swallowing Conroy's bullshit. So EFA (Electronic Frontiers Australia) decided to direct a campaign at mothers. Some people have (validly) criticised this targeting, but I'm OK with the balance of need vs sweeping generalisation in terms of the target. However, the content was abysmally sexist. In case you can't be bothered clicking through, the general gist is that mothers are technically inept and too busy looking after their families to consider the facts for themselves. Tedious at best.

This in and of itself isn't very surprising. EFA contracted an ad agency and left them to it. We shouldn't be too stunned that they used boring, sexist stereotypes - it's what the advertising industry is built on. What amazed me was the stubborn refusal by EFA to acknowledge that there was a problem with them using such a sexist campaign. Something that really struck me was that those defending the campaign kept using the word "offensive". They kept fauxpologising for people being "offended". Some people criticising used that word too, but lots more called it sexist.

There are two interesting things about this - one is that by putting the emphasis on the reaction, "offense" instead of the content, "sexism" they can dismiss the complaints as being about the people complaining instead of about the content itself. The other is that I wasn't offended. I disliked it and complained about it, but I wasn't actually offended. Lots of people never mentioned being offended. This is presumably because sexism is so common place many people, like me, read it as tedious rather than offensive. That's rather disturbing. And it also feeds into the first point. Since so many people aren't offended by this routine, pedestrian sexism, the people who mention that they are, are the objects of ridicule.

In the end the conversation was shut down because Geordie Guy decided that the comments section of their blog was no place for a discussion. Go figure. This does demonstrate one thing rather well though - if even EFA can have quite different ideas about what's appropriate on the Internet from myself and others, I really don't want politicians deciding what I'm allowed to see.


  1. Another string to the Anti bow is that the filter will block material that it is legal to possess in most parts of Australia, including educational and political material involving sex, euthanasia, and abortion. It's not a hypothetical slippery-slope that the filter will block political speech, it's a here-and-now reality.

    Totally agree with you about the tediousness of constant casual sexism, and how annoying is its stalwart defence.

  2. You are absolutely right of course, that'll learn me for writing a post in 20 minutes. I've edited the original post to reflect it, for the benefit of those who poke around here from different worlds. Thanks for pointing it out.