The aim of protests against a proposed internet filter in Australia is to bring about change, as Anonymous claims that its actions are to make the public aware.
Speaking to SC Magazine, a representative for the Anonymous group explained that Project Freeweb, as detailed this week, is ‘going to be a collective effort for all members of Anonymous to take to the streets in order to protest this filter'.
The spokesperson confirmed that the protests will start at various Australian government locations and embassies on the 20th February, worldwide and planning is already well underway and they are hoping for a large turnout. The spokesperson welcomed anyone and everyone to join them in speaking out.
Asking the Anonymous spokesperson, who chose to remain nameless as Anonymous likes to avoid the idea that it has a leader, what the series of activities were likely to achieve, they said: “Project Freeweb is not truly focused on the internet portion of the attacks. However, the goal here is not necessarily to bring about change, but to get the public to start fighting the fight as well.
“When groups sign petitions, only people who have signed the petition truly know what they are fighting for. The actions that Anonymous takes are designed to draw attention and to have people look at what is going on. But in the end, Anonymous can only do so much, and we leave it up for the public to join us in taking the next steps. That is what these last few days have been about.”
I commented that the Stop the War campaign in 2003 brought millions to the streets around the world, yet war is still raging in Iraq. Can people really make a difference by protesting?
They said: “In the end, it is more about getting the public aware. Anonymous sees that most of Australia supports the filter because the government has misinformed them about the consequences of this filter going into action.”
So who are Anonymous? Is it a collective of operatives, for example a group of people who sit in the same office, or talk daily, or people working under an ‘umbrella' name, such as an open forum for anyone to be associated with?
They said: “Anonymous is truly both of these things, but to start, you have to understand who we are. We are your neighbour, your boss, your underling. We come from all locations and backgrounds, and we all have very different skill sets and ideas. It is this variety that makes us truly unique, but the other unique factor is that most of us don't know each other in our outside lives.
“We are all just random people, faces in a crowd that all speak out. So, in that factor, we are an umbrella name. However, whenever we take up a cause, we work together, communicating daily and working on projects via the internet. So we are both at the same time.”
Last year I interviewed Peter Mancer, managing director of Watchdog International, who was the brains behind the internet filter in New Zealand. He explained that the filter there was introduced to block sites containing child pornography. I asked the Anonymous spokesperson what their thoughts were on this, and what its relation to the Australian filter was.
They said: “First off, I would like to say that Project Freeweb and Anonymous is fully opposed to the exploitation of children. Any article or report that says otherwise is false.
“The internet is a very fluid resource, with content shifting around almost daily. The leaked list of sites, after being reviewed by members of Project Freeweb, points out that perfectly legal content will be blocked. Some examples are YouTube videos, Wikipedia articles, a dentist's website, and articles on CNN. Not only this, but the main places for illegal content to be found (LimeWire, BitTorrent, and other sharing and P2P sites) are not restricted in the same ways, and by their nature are impossible to restrict.
“All this filter will do is drive the content onto these resources, causing more cost to law enforcement in tracking down the criminals. There are more disturbing signs that this will be abused by the government. While Conroy claims transparency, when the blacklist was leaked, takedown notices and $11,000 daily recurring fines were threatened against websites hosting the list.
“The scariest part of all this is, the government refuses to release what its classifications are for choosing websites, instead using a blanket case of whatever they deem offensive. It could be anything from truly illegal content to a blog post criticising a recent move by parliament. All of these could be deemed improper material for public consumption by the government.
“Of course, there is also the 44 million dollar cost to taxpayers, the fact that the filter slows internet speeds by up to 70 per cent, and that the filter is easily bypassed. Overall, it is just a total waste of effort, money and time, as well as carrying disturbing implications worldwide.”
So is this a move to allow the likes of YouTube and Daily Motion to be able to include unrestricted content? They said: “It is not that we want to change the content on websites. Sites like those have perfectly good guidelines in place for content on their website, and that is fine. YouTube does not force you to only look at their videos. But in the end, it should be the user deciding where they visit on the web and what they do on it.”
So if the filter is put in place and implemented, what will be the next steps for the Anonymous group? Would they consider further protest attacks? The representative said: “We will have to see. The nature of Project Freeweb and Anonymous is that we are incredibly short term. The past few weeks have been planned for only about two. We have not spent years working up to this moment.
“To be honest, we all started working on this because one day a member pointed out that the government was tightening its restrictions and that we should do something. Any idea that a member has is taken into consideration as long as it is thought out, so after a little bit of debate, a number of members got together and started Project Freeweb, and here we are today. So we are looking forward only in the short term and we will do what we believe is the right choice.”