Statistics experts label ISP filtering trials unscientific

Earlier this year I added my $AUD0.02 to the debate around the Australian government’s ill-conceived, and, in fact, ludicrous plan to compulsorily censor the internet (under the Orwellian moniker of Cleanfeed).  My arguments against it were more ethical/ philosophical/ common sense, objecting that Cleanfeed:

  • was not needed
  • was not wanted
  • will not work
  • has no mandate
  • will be too expensive
  • will break things
  • will not scale
  • was not transparent
  • was vulnerable to scope creep

All pretty sound arguments if you ask me* [*nobody asked me].  Enough to drop the project in its embryonic stages you would have thought.  But no, Cleanfeed trials were launched and now maintain an unstable orbit around the planet Stupid.  Viz this recent article in ARN:

Statistics experts label ISP filtering trials unscientific: Trials for mandatory filtering would never be accepted in an academic statistics journal

The Federal Government’s ISP filter trials lack proper methodology and are not representative, according to experts in statistics and testing from two of Australia’s leading universities.

The criticisms come after two of the nine ISPs participating revealed only 15 of their customers, which in one case was 1 per cent of the total, chose to have their Internet filtered.

The vast majority of ISPs also used an opt-in system that requires users wanting to be filtered to request it.

“I would not have confidence in any of the results they find because of the way the sample has been constructed,” expert in statistics and senior lecturer at the Queensland University of Technology, Dr Daniel Johnson, said.

So not only does Cleanfeed fail on ethical grounds, it now fails on hard scientific grounds.  As one of my statistical mentors, the legendary Professor Robert (Bob) F. Ling says, “When you find yourself in a hole, stop digging.”