Jan 20
Hate speech on Youtube
Posted by Colin in Internet, Media on 01 20th, 2015| | No Comments »

I gave some quotes to the Project yesterday about hate speech on Youtube. As an online civil libertarian I’m always very, very skeptical of any attempts at the censorship of the internet, but it doesn’t necessarily follow that I would have a go at Youtube for censoring jihadi videos. In this case, I was talking about the impracticality of policing all the content that is uploaded to Youtube, but I did say it’s their right as a business to decide where to set the balance between neutral platform provider and curators of content. When government wants to step in and set the rules, there I take issue (sometimes after having a chuckle); but I’m not about to tell any business, even Google, that they must be forced to pay for the bandwidth and storage space for ISIL. (I actually think they should, within reason; but I respect their decision.)

One of the many dilemmas for any operator of a site with user-generated content (or any site with users, really) is that the more policing you do – removing ads, spam, copyright infringements – the more responsibility you are forced to take for everything else, whether it slips through the net or was simply not dreamed up when the terms of service were written. This is a real headache for Google’s search business. Since they have demonstrated that they can and do take links down in certain circumstances, it’s getting harder and harder for them to make the case to law enforcement and courts in dozens of countries around the world that PageRank is king and not to be interfered with on a case-by-case basis. I can only imagine that there are lots of resources, human and lines of code, policing the search results in dozens of jurisdictions around the world already. Many would argue that the power to remove content from a site or index implies endorsement of content that remains – a sort of Google theodicy.

As always, my conclusion is this: free communication on the internet brings with it benefits so enormous that it’s changed every aspect of our lives. We can’t keep those benefits and at the same time stop horrible people using it to say evil things. The price of admission for the internet we enjoy and take for granted is that sometimes these things are going to happen.

Dec 18
Pirates and scammers, oh my!
Posted by Colin in Media on 12 18th, 2014| | Comments Off

I’ve had another appearances on The Project recently, talking about scammers who use news events to lure people in. I do like talking about scams, but there’s often very little practical advice you can give someone.




Oct 30
Movie piracy crackdown
Posted by Colin in Media on 10 30th, 2014| | Comments Off

I was on the Project earlier in the week talking about Dallas Buyers’ Club “crackdown” on Australian torrenters. Check it out below.



Aug 27
Is the NBN value for money?
Posted by Colin in Internet, Media, Opinion, Politics on 08 27th, 2014| | 2 Comments »

Today the Abbot government released their cost-benefit analysis of the NBN and their own, mixed-technology model. Not surprisingly (for a report commissioned by the Government), the analysis finds that the Coalition’s fibre-to-the-node NBN is more cost-effective than Labor’s fibre-to-the-premises (FTTP) model. The case for FTTP isn’t good, according to this document. The mixed-technology model comes out $16b ahead in terms of value for money.

I discussed this report on the The Project in the evening. Have a watch below.

Setting aside the issue of the impartiality of the study, one can assume they have the costs in the ball-park at least. But what about the benefits? This is where the debate will be, because some of the assumptions about the value to the country of faster broadband are highly questionable.

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Mar 1
ATMs glitch
Posted by Colin in Media on 03 1st, 2011| | Comments Off

Today’s glitch with Commonwealth Bank ATMs raised some questions about the reliability of our bank’s IT systems, and our dependence on technology. I made another appearance chatting on 2UE’s evening program about the issue. Have a listen here.

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Feb 17
Clinton gets preachy on net freedom
Posted by Colin in Media, Opinion on 02 17th, 2011| | 2 Comments »

In January last year, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton gave a landmark speech entitled “Remarks on Internet Freedom“. The speech was noteworthy for its clear and unambiguous rejection of all forms of censorship and network control. Coming on the heels of Iran’s presidential elections and Chinese cyber-attacks, it seemed the U.S. was drawing a principled line in the sand. They put their money where there mouths were, allocating millions in funding for projects to help the citizens of the world to circumvent government controls on freedom of speech.

(Me on News 24 discussing the speech and the revolutions in the Middle East)

Yesterday Secretary Clinton revisited that theme, announcing the creation of an Office of the Coordinator for Cyber Issues and pledging a further $25 million for tools to combat censorship. However, while we heard another eloquent defence of the principle of freedom of speech in the online world, this foray is receiving a markedly cooler reception.

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Dec 10
Debating the ACL on R-18 Games
Posted by Colin in Media on 12 10th, 2010| | Comments Off

It’s been an interesting week but it ended on a low note, with the meeting of the Standing Committee of Attorneys General not agreeing on implementing an R-18+ rating for games. EFA have campaigned for this for a long time, and with Home Affairs Minister Brendan O’Connor thoroughly behind it, a lot of people were optimistic we would finally see it happen. It appears that there were one or two holdouts amongst the states, so we’re going to have to push for this next year.

Tonight I debated the issue with the Australian Christian Lobby’s Jim Wallace. You can count on Jim to be on the opposing side to just about any free speech issue, and he represents a tiny minority of Australians, but it’s amusing to hear how quickly he devolves into rants about the horrors of war – which are certainly real, but not particularly germaine to a discussion on classification reform.

Have a listen below.

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Dec 8
Discussing Wikileaks on 3RRR
Posted by Colin in Media on 12 8th, 2010| | 1 Comment »

Tonight I was a guest on RRR’s Byte Into It program to discuss Wikileaks. Visit RRR’s website or listen below.

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Dec 7
R-18+ Games on their way?
Posted by Colin in Media, Politics on 12 7th, 2010| | Comments Off

Over the last few days I’ve been dealing with a flurry of media on the (missing) R-18+ games category, and I’m just catching my breath. The news on this front is that the Commonwealth government has come out strongly for amending the national classification code to allow R-18+ games. They released research which shows  that the links between games and childhood aggression are tenuous, at best; performed a survey which shows that the move is overwhelmingly popular; and made an official statement backing the reform. (I put some more info up at EFA.)

Apart from the fact that this ridiculous hole in the law is about to be fixed, what I find most interesting here is the very shrewd way that the Home Affairs Minister, Brendan O’Connor, has framed the debate. Rather than discuss the measure as an overdue liberalising of the censorship regime to allow broader entertainment choices for adults, it has been presented as a new ban on selling games to kids. It’s worked; the news on Sunday reported it as a new ban and even went so far as to show teenagers outraged at the patronising new policy, rather than happy (as they should be) that formerly banned games will now be available for sale, at least to those over 18.

I did a few news spots, which demonstrate the slightly confused but highly effective messaging. I also did an interview for ABC News 24 which you can see below.

With elections, report-writing and speaking engagements over for the time being, expect to see a few more updates here in the near future.

Nov 13
Online reputation
Posted by Colin in Media on 11 13th, 2010| | Comments Off

On Friday I was a guest on ABC Radio National’s Life Matters discussing online reputation. This has close ties with the privacy concerns that are getting more and more attention in the media these days. There seems to be a lot of concern and a growing realisation that once the genie is out of the bottle it’s hard to put him back in. It was an interesting discussion, though I wonder if I’m becoming a harbinger of doom on these matters.

You can catch the show here or listen below.

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