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Australia: No opt-out of filtered Internet

Darren Pauli, Computerworld
Australians will be unable to opt-out of the government’s pending Internet content filtering scheme, and will instead be placed on a watered-down blacklist, experts say. Under the government’s $125.8 million Plan for Cyber-Safety, users can switch between two blacklists which block content inappropriate for children, and a separate list which blocks illegal material.

Pundits say consumers have been lulled into believing the opt-out proviso would remove content filtering altogether.

… Internet Service Providers (ISPs) contacted by Computerworld say blanket content filtering will cripple Internet speeds because the technology is not up to scratch.

Online libertarians claim the blacklists could be expanded to censor material such as euthanasia, drugs and protest.

Internode network engineer Mark Newton said many users falsely believe the opt-out proviso will remove content filtering.
(3 October 2008)
Pointed out by Big Gav, who writes at Peak Energy:
While Rudd has done some good things I think Labor’s plan to institute mandatory censoring of the internet (regardless of how they spin it) is enough for me to recommend “vote anyone but Labor” at the next election.

The Electronic Activist

Joan Hamilton, Orion magazine
Can digital organizing work in the real world?

THE MESSAGE on my screen says, “Welcome to the human network. When we’re all connected, great things happen.” On a sunny day in May, I am sitting in a large windowless conference room in Silicon Valley, eager to hobnob with the most computer-literate do-gooders you can imagine. About three hundred individuals from nonprofits, tech firms, and foundations have gathered at round tables. Most of them have plugged a laptop into one of the tables’ power-strip centerpieces and are tapping away. The balding business-suited man on my right looks too engrossed to be bothered with chitchat, as does the artsy woman with big black glasses on my left. Even when speeches begin at the podium, they keep heads bowed, fingers tapping. We are in the room, and we are not. Have I entered a society of cyborgs? This is the annual gathering of NetSquared, and we are all wired—not wired for fun or profit; we’re wired for good.

As a former editor of Sierra magazine and longtime environmental reporter, I once would have been skeptical that Silicon Valley could teach me much about how to make a difference. But today you have to know your way around cyberspace to cover (or practice) environmental politics, because that’s where a good share of the action is. In his book Assault on Reason, Al Gore called the Internet “perhaps the greatest source of hope for re-establishing an open communications environment in which the conversation of democracy can flourish.” That’s expecting a lot from what is, after all, just another communications medium. But some activists have even higher hopes. They see electronic tools as a way to rouse people from their civic slumbers to participate in that democracy. Up until now the Internet has been a Platte River of political organizing in the United States, nurturing human connections a mile wide and an inch deep. What I and many others at NetSquared wanted to know was what would it really take—electronically or otherwise—to strengthen those connections?

THE POPULARITY of the latest “Web 2.0” social-networking sites, where people can do more than just read or listen, has inspired new thinking.
(September/October 2008 issue)

Corporate Curriculum: Teaching the ‘Science of Death’

John F. Borowski, Common Dreams
For more than a decade, writing for numerous newspapers, magazines and websites, I have attempted to cast a light on “industrial strength” science curriculum: “that curriculum of the corporation, by the corporation and for a corporation’s profits…shall indeed hasten the rate of destruction of the earth’s resources and indeed, people may perish from the earth.” I have been an utter failure at convincing many in the environmental community of the importance of reaching out to these 55 million students as future voting citizens that must be ecologically literate and that power of ecological knowledge: in generating a “love of place,” while igniting a genuine, passionate and active response to the looming ecological crisis of species extinction, deforestation and climate change. Never has such a large group of humans’ gone untapped and ignored in the process of creating change in the name of social good.

… From timber funded “Project Learning Tree” to the charade of energy education by the cartel of oil pimps better known as the “American Petroleum Institute,” teachers are unwittingly and tragically “teaching” concepts that students may embrace that encourage more oil consumption, more clear cutting and greater avoidance of ecological tenets that clearly state that the earth as a sustainable system is on “life support.”

Last week (I will admit that I am a television news junkie) I watched in stunned horror as a Conoco-Philips’ commercial touted its “energy educational materials” for teachers. Is this the same Conoco-Philips that wants to exploit wildlife rich Amazon jungle habitat and their native cultures for black gold? Is this the same Conoco-Philips that touts “clean coal” technology: an oxymoron that ranks in its hypocrisy with phrases like “sustainable development” and “smart growth?” You know, the Conoco-Philips who had their director of corporate communications, Bill Tanner, state to the Times of Trenton, “The oil and gas industry has lost touch with the public.” No problem, let’s take a sliver of our huge oil profits to lie to teachers — and their students.

Sitting in front of me I have “Project Learning Tree” curriculum, which like an educational malignancy has spread falsehoods, half-truths and obfuscations about forest ecology in classrooms around the nation, now embraces working with the American Petroleum Institute on energy issues: rife with more corporate friendly “science” at the expense of substantive ecological truths. In their “energy module” (that is a laugh): there is no substantive discussion on climate change, acidification of the oceans or peak oil. For years, I have toiled to inform teachers that Project Learning Tree, funded by timber dollars and given cover by some so-called “green groups” is the poster child for the ultimate “guilty of the worst sin — omission” curriculum I have ever thumbed through. Yes, detractors will whine, “But, John, it has some good materials.” Yes, it does, yet, does that provide cover and forgiveness for not thoroughly explaining that tree farms are not forests? That clear cutting old growth and soon-to-be old growth forests is a climate change debacle (all recent data show these forests as carbon reservoirs)? Those years of forest fragmentation have caused large predators to decline, watersheds to dry and erosion to eradicate thousands of years of soil building. Project Learning Tree is a vehicle to put a “smiley face” on an industry that lies repeatedly about forest ecology, bilked taxpayers of billions of dollars in welfare subsidies, manipulated lawmakers to encourage more deforestation and most grotesquely; made our children’s planet less livable.

Why do environmentalists ignore education? I am at a loss. Blame teachers? I say no, they are busy and yearning for good, lab-based, hands-on curriculum. In the absence of “green groups” providing sound educational data, industry has filled the void. Here is the twist: show me a single, peer-reviewed science document that doesn’t state that all major ecosystems are not in decline.

John F. Borowski fights for environmental education. His last administration secretly photographed cartoons and ecological readings on his classroom walls. Despite 28 years of grand evaluations, teacher of the year of awards, state Senate resolutions honoring his work: he was written up for insubordination. He recently fought the charge and had the charges reversed. He can be reached at [email protected]
(20 October 2008)