New Kafka novel discovered

We are pleased to present an extract from a previously undiscovered novel by Franz Kafka. It is entitled ‘The Hyperlink’ and seems remarkable prescient for its time.

ACMA: Mr Kafka, your website links to a site on the ACMA blacklist. Remove the link or you will be fined $11,000 per day.

Kafka: What list is that? Can I see it?

ACMA: No, Mr Kafka. The list is secret – we can’t tell anyone what’s on it.

Kafka: But my website only links to my wife’s Fluffy Toy Shop, my grandmother’s Stray Cat Welfare site and fifteen Federal Government websites.

ACMA: I’m afraid we can’t comment on any individual website, Mr Kafka.

Kafka: This is ridiculous. Oh very well. Which one do I have to remove?

ACMA: I’m sorry, Mr Kafka, but if we told you that we’d be telling you it was on the list and we’ve already told you that list is secret.

Kafka: So I have to remove all links from my website?

ACMA: Oh no sir. Just the one on the blacklist.

Kafka: Yes, but which one is it?

ACMA: I’m sorry sir, we can’t tell you that.

etc. etc.

Well, I never thought I’d say it, but I owe John Howard an apology. Sorry, John. I would have sworn that no other Australian government could have come up with the deceit and stupidity which characterised your time in power but I was wrong.

Senator Stephen Conroy, the Federal Communications minister, has come up with an internet filtering idea of which Franz Kafka would have been proud. The government will maintain a ‘blacklist’ of sites which ISPs must block. Even linking to one of these sites will be a criminal offence.

But, there is no way to find out what is on the list. Which means that there will be a sudden increase in the number of criminals in Australia – admittedly part of our proud tradition but we were doing fine anyway thank you very much. Revealing what is on the list is, in itself, a criminal offense.

Now, I’m completely in favour of prosecuting every child pornographer we can lay our hands on. I’m happy to fill Long Bay with them and if we accidentally lose the key it won’t affect my sleep. But, this is not the way to do it.

Ignoring for the moment the technical problems associated with filtering and the impossibility of dealing with secure, encrypted connections, there is simply no way we can both keep the list secret and guarantee that it only contains ‘bad’ sites.

For example, a recently leaked list shows that one Queensland site was on the list because the owner had committed the heinous crime of being a dentist. All right, none of us like going to the dentist but I don’t want to be prosecuted just because I link to his site. Especially given that I had no way of knowing (apart from his evil profession) that he was on the list in the first place.

While the technical problems have been exaggerated a little (Cisco make some very powerful and expensive hardware which can perform Deep Packet Inspection with very little loss of speed) this is not the point. It is (adjusts soapbox) a serious invasion of our rights. It is the classic totalitarian tactic of depriving the populace of information – in this case with the clever twist of making it illegal to try and find out what you are not being told in the first place.

However, we still live in a democracy. The fact that we put up with John Howard for more than ten years proves that. So, if the issue is seen to be sufficiently unpopular as to actually start costing votes, the pollies will take notice.

If we all make enough noise about it, Conroy will eventually get a tap on the shoulder and one of the party enforcers will have a little chat with him starting with the the dreadful words “Stephen, ma-a-a-a-ate…” and it will all be quietly dropped.

This is my little contribution. Please make yours. If nothing else, link to it – if you get told to remove the link we will at least know one item on the list.

This entry was posted on Tuesday, March 24th, 2009 at 10:12 am and is filed under And furthermore.... You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. Both comments and pings are currently closed.

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