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Privacy and verification



The headline only mentions porn, but the proposal is also about gambling (and the scope will probably expand if implemented). I guess I’ve just learned not to trust politicians. Too often, they’ve pretended to do one thing while intending something else entirely.

From the article, in reference to similar legislation in the UK:

Our legislation won’t have similar shortcomings, of course. Perish the thought! :roll_eyes:


Oh god here we go again …

That “inquiry” (rubberstamp?) would be

You think? :slight_smile:


If one wishes more information on children’s use of the internet, it can be found here:

What is concerning is the point ‘Nearly half of children between the ages of 9-16 experience regular exposure to sexual images.’ Is this acceptable and concerning? I would say it isn’t acceptable and it is very concerning.

Whilst parents have a role in educating and monitoring their children’s internet use, there are many parents who provide their children with connected devices who have no interest in doing such.

Should the government take an active role in ensuring that children are protected by socially accepted adult content or activities on the internet? It could be easily argued that it should, as it online content should be treated no differently to its role in regulating the age limits for gambling or adult content (restricted movies, publications or performances).

What is worth noting that only adults can purchase restricted materials (those restricted to censorship laws) from a newsagent, or allowed to gamble in a casino or purchase entry to lottery, but online, there are no checks in relation to the age of the viewer/purchaser.

It is unlikely to prevent all children accessing such online content…but it possibly might prevent some from experiencing adult concepts or activities at an age that is deemed socially inappropriate.

A a parent, providing that any such laws are effective, they have my support. Access to such materials is also often discussed between parents…so I expect there would be many other parents who would also support action being taken.


Why not focus the law on those parents then?

The real question though is: does anyone believe that the government’s motivation is protecting children?

We’ve been down this road before. “Somebody think of the children” is just too cliche to be credible.


Because even if the parents who do try to prevent access to adult content and activities have problems with restricting such access.

If focus was to say make every parent responsible for their child access such content, the government would be making almost all parents criminals.

There was even an incident at our local school which has every child safety, filter, parent controls, website blockers etc imaginable, a child in the school accessing adult content in class time using a classroom computer. Many parents are also in the same boat…try every imaginable tool available but it is still near impossible to restrict such access.

If the government introduces an age verification process, then this is another tool along with many others to try and prevent early acess to adult content. Alone it may not be effective, but with other controls available, it may assist those parents who take such responsibilities.

Unless we move to an area without nbn connection, mobile phone reception ot even prohibit use computers/any device with the potential to connect, the challenges to restrict adult content to children still exists.


Is anyone that silly? I’m probably not alone in my scepticism whenever government asserts that it’s “protecting children” (or protecting welfare recipients from drugs or any number of potential Trojan Horses). This is one of the reasons we need Choice and similar public advocates.


Not really. The goal would be to make the parent responsible for trying, not responsible for succeeding or failing.

And yet the government will try to add yet another.

The reality is that if the child has bypassed all of those existing tools then age restriction will be irrelevant - to those web sites who simply choose to ignore the Australian government (and I would guess that most of the 200 million porn sites on the internet are based overseas, since Australian law is already very unfriendly).


If only it was a case of doing the wrong thing. I suspect that they know exactly what they’re doing and how it will further their agenda (whatever that may be).


How would this be determined? It possible would be something like ‘take all reasonable and practicable measures’ which exists in other legislation such as in safety and environment. If this is the case, which is highly likely as there is a precedence for such, it will still entrap most parents. Most parents are not IT or cyber security experts and it is likely, through no fault of their own, that what they do will be seen as deficient in the eyes of the law if a/their child access such materials.

How will they measure parents, it is likely through access by a child of such information. How is this determined…how does the government know access is not from an adult, but a child? The only way is for government to become big brother and know who is doing what at all times (extend the government filter to monitor each and every individual, including children, at all times). The practicalities of becoming a real big brother would be far more dangerous for online privacy and overstep than mandating age verification for adult online content.

In any case with the status quo and some parents implementing some form of access controls, it still doesn’t prevent children accessing content as they will have friends with lax parents (or friends who can bypass rudimentary controls implemented by their own parents) who will still beable to access the content and share it with others. Unfortunately this is a fact of life (as seen with sexting and haring of photos which hasbeen raised by child safety advocates).

Having a locked gate (age verification) rather than a removable blindfold (existing parent device controls) is likely to have more success as it sits at the front end of the content irrespective of the user or individual controls adopted.

At the end of the day, the community needs to decide if it wants its children to consume adult content, when such content historically has been restricted to children. If the answer is no, then the community and government needs to determine what strategies best restrictthe available of such content to children when online.


The government could define, by regulation, what are considered to be acceptable / best practice measures. If a parent is doing that (or more) then the parent has no risk at law.

A parent who is not an “IT expert” should consult someone who is. If you have a problem with your car, you take it to a mechanic, you don’t just start removing bits of the engine. If you have a problem with your health, you go to a health professional, you don’t just take a scalpel to yourself. If you aren’t up to the job of organising your computer / network / network access, you consult with someone who is.

Providing that overseas content providers don’t simply ignore the Australian government, which they are legally allowed to do.

Or does a parent decide that? This isn’t after all “one size fits all”. A child of 16 is legally allowed to have sex so it is a bit ridiculous to say that that child is legally not allowed to access porn.

After (let’s say) deciding “no” (to your question), the next question is … should government do anything about it?

This is not a silly question but is one that is often glossed over in the rush to be seen to be “doing something”. It takes courage for a government to say “no” to the ever present demands to “do something”.


Knowing government, by the time they make a decision on what solutions are mandated, the solutions will be out of date.

What happens if the only accepted or best solution is a proprietary software which comes at some cost to the user. I expect that many multinational software companies would be lobbying government for their software to be mandated as it would be a cash cow for them.

So government mandates an increase in the cost of living to those who possibly can least afford it. Government also pushing the cost onto consumers when it would be easier and cheaper to push the cost onto businesses. I think I know what I would rather see.

I suspect that this is one of the reasons why the Australian government is considering the approach. If the UK had adopted such a regime, Australia then does, it is likely that many other countries will also follow. There will also be some recalcitrants, but these could be dealt with as a mass bloocking if the government chose to do so.

16+ isn’t the issue. it is very young children access adult content. The above school incident involved a 8 year old (grade three student). The school response after consulting with the education department IT experts was to prohibit the student using any connected devices at the school. The experts said that once a student knows how to bypass the existing controls, it is unlikely that any tightening of the controls will prevent future non-compliances.

Yes they should has they have the power to do so. They also have a role to protect the community and the vulnerable, especially those who can’t protect themselves or other have the ability to satisfactorily protect them (such as children).

It would go far broader than parents, it would be anyone who owns or responsible for a device that has the potential to be accessed by children. This means possibly all family members, businesses (where children may be allowed to enter the businesses) and a wide range of other institutions. The impact and the cost to the community through pushing the responsibility solely to the community could be significant and may not achieve the desired outcomes.


That probably isn’t practical. There are just too many sites.

It also doesn’t work. If an 8-year-old can bypass all the measures that are already in place then they can likely bypass mass blocking. I would go further: if an 8-year-old has bypassed all the measures that are already in place, it could easily be that any mass blocking would automatically be bypassed by virtue of what the 8-year-old had already done in order to get to that point.

That isn’t a compelling argument to me. You should do something because you can do something?

It isn’t clear that the government does have the power to do so anyway. While the constitution theoretically gives the Commonwealth government power over foreign corporations, clearly no government in Australia has any legal authority over foreign corporations. Foreign corporations with a local presence or a high profile might comply anyway because it is legally or politically sensible for them to do so (your Facebooks, your Apples). Noname companies headquartered in the Bahamas (if they are still standing) might have other ideas.


Once you get past questions about the government’s true motivation and whether the government should do anything … what is a workable and reasonable age verification technique?

I think I read the other day about a company who thinks that asking a child a maths question is age verification. I would guess that our 8-year-old who has already bypassed all the existing IT blocking measures might be pretty good at maths.

Hands up all those who like CAPTCHAs? I find them quite annoying. Do we really want the Adult equivalent of that popping up on web sites?


From one of the many links in the article in the OP:

What could possibly go wrong?


Apart from the obvious identity theft risks - and the fact that a child could use a parent’s or older sibling’s details - how can some random company overseas verify that e.g. an Australian passport is legitimate? Oh, the Australian government is going to put all our passport details up on the internet for use by random overseas web sites? They wouldn’t, would they?


Agreed and why would an overseas site even bother about age verification unless their Country requires it, and how to verify that age/ID with a different Country’s ID documentation. Then there are the sites that use anonymity to hide their content. I personally think the legislation is being brought by conservative “Religious” groups of people who want all to be subject to their requirements. I don’t agree with porn, gambling, illicit or recreational drug use (including alcohol) and some lifestyles but I allow others to choose these as a freedom of choice, I also expect them to wear the consequences of their choices.

More importantly to getting a reducition (no hope of removing) these problems is educating & getting the parents to use parental controls on browsers and other media devices/software eg TVs, parents being put in a legislated responsibility for the protection of their children (they are already but reviewing those laws to take up any slack is worthwhile), the imposition of penalties for gross failure of that responsibility (some penalties already exist but strengthen where needed), these are the things that need improving. Any of these are steps we can and should take now. Let me say that the average TV station roundup of shows includes plenty of sexual content so let’s get all prohibitionist and enforce the removal of sexual content on media eg TV (that opens a huge can of worms I think), magazines, newspapers, library books, cartoons, material on display in newsagencies, on billboards and other advertising media… I hope you see my sarcasm on display about what I think of the steps the Govt is trying to push onto us.

Some will perhaps say how will parents do this, I have to say the parents of our current young generation have had significant exposure to use of this tech and most who don’t really understand it come from generations that precede this. We are having those who don’t understand trying to tell those who do, how to do it. VPN, Tor, and similar identity and location avoidance tools will circumvent most if not all the Govt’s tactics. Do we think that those who are 9, 10 or above don’t already use these tools to seek content that mainstream adult Australia tells them they can’t access. Example of use by children now includes sexting and passing images within their groups.

Best way to protect children is to educate them about what is acceptable and what isn’t and then hope the lessons stick, this requires good parenting. Those who aren’t good parents are not going to protect their children from using workarounds and so the problem in those cases will never be resolved unless you impose draconian levels of control on the entire populace. I also know Australia has many sites already being blocked by RSPs but these blocks again are routinely avoided even by children.


Except that in order to stop kiddies accessing porn (which itself won’t work) the government will want to see details of everyone who does access porn - information that could be very useful in the wrong hands.

How would a law stop sexting? How would it block VPNs? How would it stop politicians from looking up their favourite porn sites from the comfort of their taxpayer-furnished office?

A panopticon. Knowing everything you do, when where why how and with whom.

The reality is that this will not (just) be about kids accessing porn. That’s like the claim that ‘we need this because terrorists/paedophiles’. It will be about using the existing metadata laws and other internal spy powers in new an terrifying ways.

I’m guessing that there will be a government-mandated ISP-level block that would require you to enter those details. That way no ‘scary private company’ will be harvesting them - it’ll be our nice friendly government that knows what you’ve been watching.

Thanks, but no thanks. While I can appreciate that parents might see government oversight as a way of protecting their children I suggest that such thinking is extremely short term given the powers our government keeps taking upon itself.


In fact both the ISP and the government might know. The ISP might end up collecting your identity theft details and passing those details to the government for verification.

As far as I know, no ISP has the infrastructure to implement that - and if they did, it would be readily bypassed.

However nothing about that process would verify that the person entering those identity theft details was actually the identified person.


In fact, you can filter your own internet service with a company like OpenDNS who offers a couple of packages that are free. If the government says that that is an acceptable option then they are not imposing an increase in the cost of living.

Even so, if you can afford to buy the device that you are using to access the internet, and you can afford the periodical payments to have an ongoing internet access service, it is a bad argument that you should somehow be able to push any other costs onto someone else.

But then you should provide data that matches the age range that is the issue.

Let’s be real here. Children who “experience regular exposure to” porn are doing so because they are actively choosing and seeking to do so. They aren’t accidentally experiencing “regular exposure”. The days when you could blame a malicious web site for popping up dozens of porn windows are long gone. Parental supervision is likely to be more effective than an age verification mechanism that either is or isn’t implemented. An unsupervised child has all the time in the world to chip away at bypassing an age verification mechanism if one is actually implemented.

(You can definitely pick up valid D/L or passport details from any number of massive data breaches.)


See the link in this post…a summary of what was quoted is also included in the post.


In a ideal world, yes, parental supervision would be the solution. But unfortunately, the world is very different place.

Many schools require students to have internect connected devices at school, on the way home and at home. There is free wifi either publically, at a friends house or available elsewhere (e.g. hotspotting off a friends phone). A significant proportion of school work and assessment is moving to connected devices. Children have a high requirement for connected access and it is not possible for parents to supervise each access (unless a parent commits themselves to shadowing their child full time to check and see everything they do).

What happens when a family has multiple children? Is access restricted to one child at a time or do multiple mature and responsible adults need to be present from the end of school hours to bed time to ensure that every child is supervised. What happens if there is insufficient time for each child to complete their after school tasks in an alloted time?

Whilst pushing parents to take full responsibility of their children’s internet access seems a logical solution, in practice it is impossible.

The only way to achieve a high parent supervision outcome, would be to prevent anyone other than parents purchasing of and controlling the use of any potentially contented device in their attendence. This possibly means rewriting the existing curriculum/education program and going back in effect to pre-computer days. Such would have enormous ramifications for our children’s development and opportunities in the computer enabled world and economies.

I don’t know the answer, but doing noting is not a solution…neither is blaming parents for poor supervision when inappropriate content is accessed. I wish it was that easy.