fake news The Federal Government today confirmed plans to upgrade its controversial mandatory Internet filtering scheme with the new Stop Online Piracy Act module released in the United States this week, with Communications Minister Stephen Conroy confirming the new functionality would be ready ahead of the next Federal Election.
The Internet filtering technology only stops Australians from being able to access content which has been refused classification locally — such as child pornography or detailed instruction in crime. However, version 2.0 of the system, released in the US this week to great interest from the technology sector, also allows the Government to automatically block materials which infringe copyright, a feature long requested by the film, television and music industries.
In a statement this afternoon, Conroy noted the agreement for Australia to license the module had been one of the key items on the agenda in talks between Prime Minister Julia Gillard and Barack Obama, during the US President’s whirlwind visit to Australia this week. Conroy noted the implementation of the SOPA module would unify the systems of the two nations.
“There’s a staggering number of Australians being in having their computers infected at the moment, up to 20,000 … can regularly be getting infected by these spams or scams, that come through the portal,” Conroy said. “They have exactly the same problem in the US with the series of tubes.”
“Ten movies streaming across that, that Internet, and what happens to your own personal Internet?” asked Conroy. “I just the other day got … an Internet was sent by my staff at 10 o’clock in the morning on Friday. I got it yesterday. Why? Because it got tangled up with all these things going on the Internet commercially.”
“They want to deliver vast amounts of information over the Internet. And again, the Internet is not something that you just dump something on. It’s not a big truck. It’s a series of tubes. And if you don’t understand, those tubes can be filled and if they are filled, when you put your message in, it gets in line and it’s going to be delayed by anyone that puts into that tube enormous amounts of material, enormous amounts of material.”
In the statement, Conroy noted the SOPA module would cost slightly more in Australia than it did in the US, despite it being the exact same technology used in both countries.
The Motion Picture Association of America, which manufactures the SOPA module and sells it on a software as a service basis, stressed that it wasn’t responsible for setting local prices for the technology. In Australia, the SOPA module will be distributed through local reseller the Australian Federation Against Copyright Theft.
“While the MPAA provides guidance on recommended retail pricing, the company itself does not set the final ‘to-the-customer’ price,” the company said. “The market, in the form of its channel and value-added partners who deliver those products to customers, ultimately determines retail pricing.”
However, Conroy’s announcement has already met with criticism from some sections of the industry and the Opposition.
Internode managing director Simon Hackett described the SOPA module’s pricing model as “insane” for small internet service providers, warning that none would survive their walk through the “valley of death” transition from the current Internet filter system to the SOPA upgrade which the Federal Government is seeking to introduce. “At 10,000 customers, it’s insane to connect to this module, as a national provider,” he said. “I just gave you insane.”
Optus chief executive Paul O’Sullivan said the SOPA module didn’t go far enough, arguing it needed to deal with other areas of content available on the Internet.
O’Sullivan noted that companies like Google and eBay had over the past decade achieved a “winner take all” dominance over the internet. He suggested that the SOPA module could be extended so that “hyperlinks” could be placed on the websites of companies like Google and eBay, linking to competitors – or even that the traffic for such sites could be auctioned to provide access for “others who might bid to hold that auction, or for providing that search at a better price”.
His chief political opponent, Shadow Communications Minister Malcolm Turnbull issued a statement slamming Conroy’s plan as not taking advantage of current technologies such as China’s Internet firewall system. Use of China’s system was growing much faster than the SOPA module, the former Liberal leader said. “Everyone who has had even a cursory look at the business case has acknowledged this threat,” said Turnbull. “Perhaps now Senator Conroy can also acknowledge this threat rather than simply accusing every rational telco analyst of not understanding the laws of physics.”
The last word came from maverick Exetel CEO John Linton.
“I have never heard of this proposal,” said Linton in an emailed statement this afternoon. “My personal view is that it is an insanely difficult and expensive process to implement that serves exactly no purpose whatsoever — in other words a nanny state gone totally insane one more time by the current government.”
Note: The above is satire written to keep the author entertained in an extremely slow news week, upon urging from some mischievous readers.