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How many Australians want their government to filter online content? Hint: not very many 
Posted: 12 May 2010 05:58 AM PDT

Last night in Sydney I successfully debated with some other colleagues that governments should not censor the internet. One of my co-speakers, Google’s Ross LaJeunesse, has an article in today’s Sydney Morning Herald arguing against Australia’s proposed mandatory internet filter.
I agree and it looks like many Australians do, too (via ABC Radio’s PM tonight):

ASHLEY HALL: It seems the more parents learn about the Government’s proposed internet filter, the less they like it.
That’s the finding of a survey of parents in marginal electorates commissioned by a group representing several internet companies, state school organisations and libraries.
The researchers say even though parents want to make the internet safer, they don’t think a mandatory filter is the way to do it.
Meredith Griffiths reports.
MEREDITH GRIFFITHS: Most parents worry about what their children are exposed to online.
SUE VERCOE: So they did confess that in reality, while it was their responsibility to control their child’s internet use, often they were just too busy, they didn’t really know how to go about monitoring and installing the free filters and that it was impossible to monitor everything their child was exposed to.
MEREDITH GRIFFITHS: Sue Vercoe is the chief executive of GA Research.
In January it asked 39 parents living in marginal electorates in Sydney and Brisbane what they thought about the Government’s proposed mandatory internet filter.
SUE VERCOE: They haven’t heard much about the Government’s internet filtering legislation but if you ask them whether they support or oppose it, around two thirds are supportive, because at first glance, they believe that it will help ensure their children are not exposed to inappropriate material online.
And some of them also think that it might help combat paedophilia. However, when they hear a little bit more about the proposal and they become aware that there are other filtering options available, their support drops significantly.
MEREDITH GRIFFITHS: Sue Vercoe says even though the number of respondents is small, the survey is significant.
SUE VERCOE: The findings of focus groups can be considered broadly indicative, but they are supported by quantitative research that McNair Ingenuity conducted earlier this year.
MEREDITH GRIFFITHS: She’s referring to a survey of around 1,000 people in February.
It found 80 per cent of Australian adults supported the proposed mandatory government internet filter to block access to overseas websites containing refused classification material.
But 46 per cent didn’t want the government to determine which websites would be blocked.
Sue Vercoe says GA Research asked the parents to rank four different models of filtering.
SUE VERCOE: The first three preferences that they gave were firstly more education for parents and children about how to use the internet more safely and how to install free filters. The second preference was for an optional filtering system; and where different filter could be set for adults and children within the one household.
Their third preference was for, if it was going to be mandatory filtering, for it to just be a limited range of content, primarily focused on child pornography, and the Government’s more broader mandatory filtering, was actually their last preference.
MEREDITH GRIFFITHS: The research was commissioned by the Safer Internet Group, whose members include Google, iiNet, Yahoo7, the Australian Council of State School Organisations and the Australian Library and Information Association.
But the idea of a mandatory filter still has the support of the Australian Christian Lobby.
The Lobby’s Managing Director Jim Wallace says the new research isn’t valid.
JIM WALLACE: I think it’s typical of the misinformation that’s coming from those opposed to this government proposal. If you look at the Safer Internet Group, eight of the nine people in the association are internet related people.
The McNair Ingenuity survey was done to a bona fide survey model, it surveyed 1,000 people, and 80 per cent of those specifically said that they favoured the mandatory government internet filter that would block access to overseas websites.
So, I find this is spurious. They’ve used just focus groups. You know; who were in the focus groups?
MEREDITH GRIFFITHS: A spokeswoman for the Communications Minister Stephen Conroy says the Government does not support refused classification content being available online.
She says the proposed filter would bring the internet into line with other media outlets.

What will Jews try to ban next? An anti-Zionist Jesus? 
Posted: 12 May 2010 05:52 AM PDT

In 2009 some Jewish Australian Zionist organisations complained and demanded action over a performance of the play Seven Jewish Children claiming it was anti-Semitic and should not happen. Thankfully they were ignored and the performance went ahead to great success. It’s called freedom of expression in a democracy.
One year later, I’ve now been informed that the Zionist lobby in Western Australia is once again out in force, demanding this “anti-Semitic” play be stopped:

The Town of Vincent is embroiled in a racism storm over its decision to allow a play about the history of Israel to be presented at a town hall, despite the production being branded anti-Semitic by Perth’s Jewish leaders.
Seven Jewish Children: A Play for Gaza is a 10-minute, six-page play by British playwright Caryl Churchill covering events over 70 years such as the Holocaust, Palestinian suicide attacks and the 2008 Gaza invasion.
Throughout the play Jewish adults discuss what, if anything, their children should be told of the events.
Plans by Friends of Palestine WA to have a reading at the North Perth Town Hall this Saturday have been attacked by the Jewish Community Council of WA, which is petitioning the local council to cancel the booking.
Council president Tony Tate, who yesterday admitted he had not read the play, said it was offensive and in parts based on the libel that Jewish people killed children in order to use their blood for religious rituals.
Mr Tate said it was “not a way to start a conversation about peace in the Middle East”.
But Friends of Palestine WA convenor Alex Whisson and director Vivienne Glance disagreed the play was racially vilifying, saying attempts to block the play were an attack on free speech and artistic liberty.
A previous attempt by Amnesty International to stage the play was knocked back by Perth arts group Kulcha, which yesterday declined to comment.
Town of Vincent chief executive John Giorgi, who said he had received threatening phone calls over the matter, said the production met booking requirements and it was not the role of local government to act as a censor.
He said that after an “incorrect cancellation” he reinstated the booking last month with conditions for security – based on the strong likelihood of protests – and banning any political banners.
Arts Minister John Day said it was not appropriate to prevent the play being performed unless any laws were being breached.
Shadow arts minister and Perth MLA John Hyde said if anyone believed a public work incited racial hatred they should make a complaint to the Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission.
Mr Tate said a petition with about 600 signatures would be presented to the council at its meeting tonight.

What real democracies should do; take responsibility for war crimes 
Posted: 11 May 2010 10:17 PM PDT

Colombo’s crimes against the Tamils are not forgotten even if many in the country would like the international community to celebrate their “war against terror.” Fat chance:

A new project established for the purposes of gathering evidence of war crimes in Sri Lanka has been launched by the International Commission of Jurists (ICJ) and the NSW Young Lawyers today.
A collaborative effort between the two organisations, the project aims to gather statements from witnesses to the long-running civil conflict between Sri Lankan Government forces and the Tamil Tigers.
It is hoped the evidence will eventually be used in a war crimes tribunal, the establishment of which is currently under consideration by the Secretary-General of the United Nations.
Alternatively, it is anticipated that any cogent evidence of war crimes which emerges from the project might persuade the Australian Government to prosecute individuals under the principle of universal jurisdiction.
“Australia has a long history of taking Sri Lankan refugees, and it does often happen that the perpetrators are in amongst the refugees,” said project leader Dr Robert Dubler SC at a press conference today.
“Where there are war crimes, genocide or crimes against humanity … the Australian Government could commence a prosecution for those offences committed in Sri Lanka. [The project] … might provide an incentive for the Australian Government to launch a prosecution, if the evidence is there.”
John Dowd AO QC, president of ICJ Australia, said another aim of the project is to deter perpetrators from committing future atrocities, particularly in relation to the 90,000 Sri Lankans still held captive by government forces.
“[This] is an offence in international law. If [the captives] are being treated without proper dignity …it is an offence,” said Dowd.
“There is a series of offences occurring now. These people should be allowed out. They should be allowed to go back to their homes … we will inevitably find evidence of such crimes.”
Much of the ground work will be carried out by a team of around 60 volunteer young lawyers, who will work at different phases of the project depending on their training and level of experience.
“Young lawyers are very interested in this [project] and we have had a phenomenal response,” said Anne-Marie Doueihy, lawyer Young Lawyers International Law Committee. and former vice-chair of the
“We are hoping this will be a precedent. We are interested in having a process in place that can be easily followed for other war crimes,” she added.
“If we can save lives, that is the aim, and I think that is why young lawyers are really involved in this project.”
And while it is anticipated that the Australian Government may not be entirely supportive of the project, it does not faze the project’s leaders.
“The Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT) is not necessarily concerned with the administration of justice,” said Dowd.
“They are concerned with inter-government relations. Australia is helping the government of Sri Lanka, so there will inevitably be a conflict with DFAT and some other departments. That is not our concern. Our concern is the rule of law and the administration of justice.”

Latest news on the Sydney screening of Norman Finkelstein documentary 
Posted: 11 May 2010 09:03 PM PDT

Interview with the New Zealand Listener 
Posted: 11 May 2010 08:54 PM PDT

New Zealand’s Listener magazine is that country’s only national current affairs magazine.
I am interviewed in the latest edition, in preparation for my upcoming appearance at the Auckland Writer’s Festival and a national tour, on speaking truths over Israel/Palestine, West Bank and Gaza occupation, the role of journalism and shit-stirring:
Loewenstein Listener May 15 (PDF)

We’re Jews and we love other Jews being close to us 
Posted: 11 May 2010 07:46 PM PDT

Here’s a classic clip from the “shooting yourself in the foot” department.
A bunch of Israelis shoot a video called “I’m a Jew” but instead of celebrating the country’s racial diversity – namely, that not only Jews live in Israel – they talk about serving in the military (something Palestinians are unable to do).
The clip may have received more than 50,000 hits on YouTube but how is advertising Israel as a Jewish state help the country’s dwindling global image as a racist nation?

See: www.antonyloewenstein.com

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