Written by Agency.Asia
This report from the Asian Internet Gaming Conference highlights how Australia's internet filtering legislation is set to turn the internet into a predators' playground. The online gaming industry’s ‘policing by proxy’ role was highlighted in a presentation by the former chief officer of the Money Laundering and Proceeds of Crime Unit with the Australian Federal Police, Miss Sandra Lawrence. The online gaming operators use state-of-the-art technology and volunteer unique intelligence that is routinely used by authorities in combating the international money laundering trade, according to Miss Lawrence. The gaming imdustry's unofficial role focuses on due diligence, assessing and reporting players that may be suspected of laundering proceeds from a range of illegalities.
There is a large group of extremely organised criminals. They are unimaginably rich and influential. Call them Criminals Without Borders. They kill, terrorise and torture, they destroy the lives of innocent victims; they seize power or buy favours using weapons, drugs and human beings as tender.
People trafficking alone is a $9 billion-a-year business - one where men, women and small children are abducted and stranded in foreign countries. 80 percent are women and girls - and up to 50 percent are minors. Most become sex slaves. Underworld gangs are left with billions in cash proceeds needing to be cleaned.
The online gaming industry is considered indispensable in ensuring they don’t. Stealth software can track irregular, or in some instances overly regular transactions; raise flags at the creation of multiple player accounts from identical addresses, players who deposit funds from one country and then withdraw in another, sudden activity from dormant accounts - and a myriad of laundering schemes we won't advertise.
The global authorities alone cannot curtail a scourge that turns around more cash than many of the world's economies. They can't cross borders fast enough, let alone chase electronic pulses over encrypted connections. Exclusively created for the gaming industry and tailor-made for targeting money laundering operations the online gaming industry’s data-matching software and use of interdiction databases prove acutely effective in raising red flags and exposing criminal networks.
By Australia's government putting online gaming websites on a blacklist and treating operators like the underworld gangs that they are successfully intercepting, it offers those that deal in slavery, prostitution and child pornography far greater freedoms than they have ever enjoyed. Wasn't this initiative supposed to be protecting children? It was suggested at AIG that the gaming industry have assisted police in cracking numerous crime rings across the globe - and saving untold lives if human traffickers and terrorists have indeed been apprehended.
It was clear from Miss Lawrence’s presentation and the large turnout of delegates that they take their ‘policing by proxy’ role seriously. The majority of exhibitors at AIG were not offering online slot machines and bells and whistles gaming software, but a raft of anti-laundering technologies targeted towards the gaming and global finance industries.
And how do Australian's feel about the clean-fed? Complaints that the filtering scheme is blatantly unconstitutional from civil libertarians and an angry Australian public have been swept aside by the Government claiming that it is shielding children from porn and other ‘inappropriate’ content on the internet. Ironically the Australian Government stance may well have devastating repercussions for children everywhere, extending far beyond Australa's borders. The collateral damage is too difficult to gauge and simply too repugnant to fathom. Potentially, millions of innocent children will suffer at the hands of criminals.
So, why are the gaming operators being targeted, especially in light of their helping to fight organised crime? They must be causing untold harm to society – maybe it is because they prey on problem gamblers?
A recent AC Nielsen report on gambling commissioned by the NSW Office of Liquor, Gaming & Racing and The Department of The Arts, Sport & Recreation concludes those people who fall into the 'problem gambling' category is 0.8% of the population,
That was the conclusion of the largest survey of its kind ever conducted in Australia. Where does that leave the long held belief that gambling is the root cause of towering crime, domestic violence, poverty, homelessness? In percentage terms, the infinitesimal 0.8% result arguably proved that around 99.9% of campaigning by political action groups and everything long held out as true - was false.
Clearly the Government were embarrassed - and also missing a traditional scapegoat they had long trotted out to explain Australia's social ills, homelessness and poverty. Yet, rather than spending funds on homelessness and poverty, the Federal Government is instead dedicating AUD$189 million to their ‘anti-porn’ and anti-vice initiative. Did they not read their own report? Here is govermnent campaign to protect children from pornography – yet one that puts children the world over in realy jeopardy. If your heart bleeds for the 0.8% of 'problem gamblers' - consider the millions of children that don't sit in front of a slot machine, but are chained to a bedpost.
The Australian cleen-feed scheme is opt-out system - pay attention paedophiles and problem gamblers - and a schoolboy has recently shown he can circumvent the filtering in two minutes hails its ridiculously limited efficacy. Civil libertarians and the traditionally moderate Australians oppose the scheme, arguing the anonymous and autonomous Federal Communications & Media Authority is ostensibly shadowy itself.
As it stands, if Mr A pretends to be Mr B wagering millions in dirty money over the internet, chances are he will be brought to the attention of Federal Police and Interpol, by the online gaming industry. Yet, it seems that this is going to be a thing of the past. One exhibitor whose company develops software to prevent organised fraud, phishing and pharming - and supplies many of the biggest banking and financial groups globally - likened the situation to former Australian Prime Minister Bob Hawke jokingly telling every Australian to take the day off after its victory in the America's Cup. He said by placing online gaming sites on its anti-porn blacklist, it is like Mr Rudd giving the good guys the day off all on the same day, and then wondering why crime rocketed out of control. It will result in an Internet left with so many breaches it could indeed be a net:
"As an industry we are told that we are not allowed to advertise our brands to anybody in Australia. And as you clearly see, we don't. Furthermore, it is patently impossible for children to gamble online. In the case of online gaming what’s clear is that it is not about screening, but more a Government smokescreen. And that is ‘inappropriate.’” said one online gaming operator. Online gaming itself 'enjoys' many different levels of acceptance. Some countries embrace it, others condone it; some deem it as legal, others as illegal - whatever the case, it is simply superfluous to talk about entertaining underage players masquerading as legitimate players or their hacking online offerings."
It is overkill to talk about manipulation and cheating by the online gaming operators themselves. There are few businesses that boast anywhere near the same transparency and accountability. It is well known that the industry's self-regulation is working, not to mention their employment of multinational accounting firms to audit their software and player accounts - including independent controls courtesy of the millions that make up industry associations and savvy affiliate partners. We interviewed some interesting people who are involved in the online gaming industry as part of this report on its role in fighting organised crime.
One such gentleman we chatted to was entrepreneur and casino impresario, Mr Hwa-Min Hsu MBE. In addition to boasting a wealth of marketing knowledge and having a celebrated corporate and legal career, Mr Hsu also happens to have received one of the highest accolades that Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II can bestow. With around 200 business people in attendance and packing MBAs rather than revolvers and knuckle dusters, the event went yet another step closer to beating the industry's 'shady' rap.
Please allow us to offer a practical demonstration of how absolutely INEFFECTIVE the so called 'clean feed' is in countering any pornography.
We are an advertising magazine, but we are also dedicated campaigners against human trafficking and the sexual exploitation of children. Please allow us to offer a practical demonstration of how absolutely INEFFECTIVE the so called 'clean feed' is in countering child pornography. Let's say what we have written here has been submitted anonymously via what's known as a 'proxy server' - it is impossible to trace. I will not outline how it is done, other than to say that the method is common knowledge and laughably easy. So, consider that this could be any one of dozens of coded forums where pedophiles act like a group of teenagers on Face Book.
In simple terms, I am sitting in my office in Australia, but effectively writing to you from Holland, Japan, Cambodia, New Zealand - or any number of other countries. Bypassing every filtering system in existence, we could have used the same proxy to surf the internet for any form of illegal content. But rest assured, we would absolutely NOT be able to find any true child pornography.
As part of this author's role in creating a public awareness ad campaign to counter such activities, as a former executive creative director in MNC agencies, I once had cause to write a social awareness campaign which involved researching child pornography on the internet. I hasten to add that this presented certain obvious risks to myself [and I strongly recommend that readers do not attempt the same - it is illegal after all]. make no mistake, we are not talking about your average porn. The images that exist for those who are driven to view or profit from such despicable material are so depraved as to defy description in an open forum such as this. While various 'genres' of pornography are abundant on the internet - you could surf the internet for days and not turn up a single image depicting child pornography.
Is that to say that such horrific porn does not exist? No. Again, we will not even hint at how one comes by such material. But even authorities acknowledge it is simply impossible to stumble across such images. Yes, impossible. But isn't this what the legislation is ostensibly there to protect us from? The pedophile network is hugely smarter than any filtering technology - and always will be. The point here is that the Rudd Government's attempt to filter images of child pornography is an exercise in the utmost futility.
It will NOT have the slightest impact on the underground trade in child pornography. It will, however, divert tens of millions of dollars away from law enforcement and NGOs that actively and successfully close down organized crime groups and pedophile networks each year. It will also create a false sense of security among decent Australians that this legislation is serving the common good. Absolutely not.
Australian's civil liberties are meaningless to the Rudd Government, clearly. More importantly, is the Government considering the victims of this deplorable trade as they drive it further underground? If anything, it will only serve to stimulate greater efforts by paedophile rings to circumvent inadequate technologies - the 'clean feed' is already 100% superfluous incidentally - and redouble efforts to avoid prosecution and continue a billion dollar trade in human misery. Without revealing specifics, it is difficult to adequately explain here that the perpetrators' methods are most often decidedly low-tech, not high-tech. The 'clean feed' will not have the slightest effect on message boards and forums. It will not detect commonly known yet ever changing code words or 'redirects' where sites exist for hours courtesy of ever changing RSS feeds and inside intel . To think otherwise is like saying that drug dealers will ever advertise on a website and call it www.Drugs-R-Us.com and then sit around at home waiting for you to pick them up.
The Government is so far off the mark it is sad. What is worse, they are guided by advisers and groups whose objectives are naive, damaging and questionable. Political activists such as the 'Australian Christian Lobby' will have had their way and there'll be no more porn [Acually, there will!]. The suffering brought about by human trafficking and the exploitation of children will continue unabated, thriving like cockroaches under soggy cardboard.
The people behind Agency.Asia have campaigned against sex-tourism for many years in S.E. Asia - and let us assure you that any legislation in existence in Australia and most civilized countries has done very little to stem the tide of international sex tourists. Our team have lived among these once-a-year 'golfers' traveling with their mates to Cambodia, Phillipines, Vietnam and Thailand. They rarely fit the mold of how society sees a sex predator. Other than booking their air tickets online, the internet played an insignificant role in their exploitation of innocents in these countries. Solution: Fund a brigade plain clothes officers. The local police and even 'good Samaritans' in those countries are making too much money off prostitution to want to see change. Make sure the undercover officers are balding, pudgy, boorish and andropausal so that they fit in nicely.
Let's be far less concerned by the purported 87% decrease in Australia's already pitifully slow Internet, and start concentrating 100% on protecting the real victims. By all means allow Australians to voluntarily opt-in to filtering on a household-by-household basis [as defective as filtering is deemed by the Australian Internet Association and other authorities], as people wish. Making the 'clean feed' some mandatory embargo of all 'innapropriate' websites that is presided over by back-room bureaucrats and faceless public servants - we are headed to hell. It might not be commonly known, but Australian's - adults - can legitimately opt out of the scheme.
Can you imagine the policing nightmare that situation will create as hundreds of thousands of Australians tell the the Rudd Government how they feel about web filtering and being arbitrarily barred from what is 'unacceptable'? Let's be realistic, it stands to reason there may be a would-be pedophile or two in amongst them!!!! It will be a further strain on the pathetically limited resources Australia's Government dedicates to combating the root of the problem of child exploitation. It may well be the case that the next election will see Mr Rudd & Mr Conroy widely seen as 'inappropriate' in the eyes of Australians. Perhaps censorship isn't such a bad thing after all.
Sandra Lawrence is a director of Cogent Group Singapore. Her talk at AIG was the inspiration for this piece. Article made possible by AIG organisers - Clarion Gaming/River City Group www.aigcongress.com
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