The List Of Fallacies

Here is a list of fallacies (eventually to be) discussed on this blog. The first 6 fallacies follow the line of argument in Mark Newton’s second letter to his local member, Kate Ellis.

The list given here does have duplicates – many fallacious arguments are represented in different forms.

Don’t to forget to vote for your least favourite fallacy with this poll.

Links to the arguments that expose the fallacy will be added over time.

A tip o’ the hat to the immortal “Hundreds of Proofs of God’s Existence“. I somewhat immodestly lay claim to the “ARGUMENT FROM MULTIPLICITY (V) (recursive internet edition)”  which I submitted quite a few years ago now. Perhaps a similar argument applies here?

  1. That the need for the filter has been demonstrated
  2. That the filter is wanted
  3. That the filter will work
  4. That the costs of the filter are justified
  5. That the filter will be implemented well
  6. That the filter won’t be counter-productive
  7. That the filter won’t be subject to scope creep
  8. That Moore’s law will fix the performance issues
  9. That the filter will eliminate or substantially reduce criminal behaviour
  10. The McMenanmin Fallacy: That no price is too high a price to pay, in order to protect the children.
  11. That filtering porn is not an act of political censorship
  12. That porn is “pushed” into Australian homes by nefarious peddlers of filth
  13. The Conroy Fallacy: That if you are against the filter, you are for child pornography
  14. That children will feel oppressed if their parents have to monitor their Internet usage
  15. That accidental encounters with extreme pornography are likely
  16. That accidental encounters with extreme pornography cause lasting psychological damage
  17. That net libertarians believe that the Internet is and should be a lawless frontier
  18. The Hamilton Fallacy: That censoring the Internet is just like censoring other media
  19. That the filter must be opt-out, rather than opt-in
  20. That illegality necessarily implies the need for a technical response as distinct from a law enforcement response
  21. That only illegal content will be blocked
  22. That the proposed censorship process will be as transparent as existing censorship processes
  23. That pornography consumed by some people’s children poses a significant risk to society as a whole
  24. That other democracies have implemented identical measures
  25. That an opt-in filter is identical to an opt-out filter
  26. That the filter will make the Internet a safe place for children
  27. That access to child pornography is not already illegal
  28. That mandatory ISP filtering is a superior response to increased funding for law enforcement action
  29. That child access to adult porn and adult access to child porn is the same problem
  30. That ISP filtering solutions are not already available, for those that want them
  31. That ISP filters will be more effective than PC-based filters
  32. That social problems are best fixed with technical solutions
  33. That there is no such thing as healthy porn usage
  34. The Rudd Fallacy: That there is a consensus about what porn is and what it is not. See Rule 34.
  35. That the entire Internet should be made safe for the most vulnerable child
  36. That there is such a thing as once-size-fits all filter
  37. That parents should be relieved of the responsibility of monitoring their own children’s Internet usage
  38. That arguments about freedom of speech are a red-herring
  39. The primary target of the filter is criminals, rather than ordinary Australians
  40. That the 2008-2009 trial will adequately test the performance or accuracy characteristics of the filter
  41. That the Government’s objectives have been clearly and honestly articulated
  42. That it has been demonstrated that a filter can be simultaneously efficient, effective and accurate
  43. That the BT cleanfeed system provides a workable model for all ISPs
  44. That the BT cleanfeed system has the same objectives as the Government’s proposal
  45. That the Government is sincerely committed to an evidence based approach
  46. That the only people opposing the filter are extremist net libertarians
  47. That the opposition to the filter is best represented by random quotes from anonymous sock puppets
  48. That the filter will be substantially different in nature to that of the Great Firewall Of China
  49. That if you believe that the Government should do something about the problems of Internet pornography, you MUST believe that mandatory ISP filtering is part of the solution.
  50. That the filter will be fully funded by the Government.
  51. That filtering for pornography won’t set a precedent for filtering on behalf of copyright holders.
  52. That the web protocol is the primary vector for illegal content
  53. That filters will be able to effectively, accurately and efficiently filter SSL traffic
  54. That succumbing to moral panic is a superior alternative to rational consideration of that which is in ones best interests
  55. That dismantling the censorship apparatus will be trivial, if a future Government starts abusing it for political purposes other than controlling porn consumption
  56. That because there is no currently compelling scenario showing how the apparatus will be abused, that such a scenario won’t arise once the infrastructure is in place
  57. That censorship remains a useful tool for social control in a functioning democracy given the existence of a medium such as the Internet
  58. That existing classification procedures will scale to the volume of material that will need to be classified in order to “protect the children”
  59. That a decision made by a dynamic filter is anyway equivalent to the deliberative processes of the National Classification Board.
  60. That the technologies used in the BT cleanfeed system will scale to the volume of URLs required to “protect the children”
  61. That filtering just Refused Classification material will be sufficient “to protect the children”
  62. That the Australian population would accept that filtering all X-rated material with a mandatory filter would be an acceptable price to pay “to protect the children”
  63. That all content in ACMA’s “Refused Classification” category is invariably perverse and unsuitable for all adults and all children.
  64. That Australians will happily accept filtering decisions made on their behalf by filtering products sourced from overseas suppliers who sell these products to ISPs who have opt-in subscribers with different moral standards to those of mainstream Australia.
  65. That future generations will appreciate and respect a citizen’s right to freedom of thought when their only experience of the Internet at home and school has been obtrusive Government-imposed censorship reminding them that they are only allowed to think Government approved thoughts.
  66. That ISP-level filtering can be both effective and unobtrusive.
  67. That should there ever be ISP-level filtering that is both effective and unobtrusive that such filtering won’t be used to control political dissent.
  68. That the filtering model used by specialist filtered-ISPs such as is directly applicable to existing ISPs in the Australian market.
  69. That Australians will opt to exert market pressure on filters with poor accuracy, performance or effectiveness in favour of opting-out  altogether.
  70. That mandatory ISP filters can be successfully implemented by hostile ISPs
  71. That national ISPs can effectively centralise filtering
  72. That distributed filtering will be an insignificant cost for ISPs to bear
  73. That filtering is the best technological investment that ISPs could make
  74. That the security of the blacklist can be maintained when copies of it have to be distributed to so many points of presence.
  75. That updates to the filter will be fast enough to track highly transient illegal sites
  76. That pursuing a policy with full awareness of its likely ineffectiveness constitutes responsible governance.
  77. That the self-righteousness of a policy and its proponents makes up for any and all weaknesses in its concept or its execution
  78. The ChildWise Fallacy: That all child advocacy groups believe that mandatory ISP filtering is a good idea.
  79. That saving even one child will make it all worth while
  80. That advocacy against net censorship implies abandoning all existing forms of censorship
  81. That the Government has made clear exactly what material will be blocked by the mandatory filter.
  82. The Hamilton Fallacy of Clueless Consent: That people who allegedly support the filter were fully informed of the issues when they gave that support
  83. That the Government has a mandate to implement the filter
  84. That an effective measurement framework exists that will demonstrate that the filter has achieved the objectives set for it
  85. That the Government would use the apparatus responsibly when moral panics arise regarding other aspects of social policy
  86. That filters do not create bottlenecks that will inhibit future increases in network performance
  87. That the problem of subversion technologies can be dealt with effectively without criminalizing the use of subversion technologies
  88. That criminalizing the use of subversion technologies will not have economic impacts
  89. That law enforcement efforts are better directed at enforcing laws against subversion technologies than investigating actual crimes against children
  90. That filtering has ever been successful at preventing deliberate access to illegal material in any Western democracy
  91. That the disgust induced by accidentally viewing extreme pornography causes a child to become a habitual consumer of extreme pornography
  92. The Fallacy Of The Tolerant Electorate: That the constant annoyance of being blocked by a Government mandated filter will be tolerated
  93. That the same arguments about the dire threats posed by online pornography won’t keep being raised when the filter fails to eliminate pornography from Australian homes
  94. That this Government is committed to maintaining the opt-out option during its term in office
  95. That a future Government will be similarly committed to maintaining the opt-out option
  96. That adults cannot be trusted to use the uncensored Internet responsibly
  97. That parents are deluded if they believe they can trust their children to use the uncensored Internet responsibly
  98. That the lack of popularity of existing opt-in filtering mechanisms is proof that compulsory imposition of an opt-out filtering mechanism is required
  99. That the choice to opt-out of the optional filter will be an entirely free one
  100. The Felatious Fallacy: “If you loved me Stephen, then you would”. The full explanation of this fallacy is deeply pornographic but you can get the idea from Fallacy #34.
  101. That any attempt to censor controversial material will not be subject to the Streisand Effect and consequent rise in knowledge about and use of subversion technologies. [ref: IWF ]
  102. The Hamilton Fallacy Of Parental Irresponsibility: other people could not possibly know how to best bring up their own children
  103. The Hamilton Fallacy Of Generalized Parental Helplessness: since some families want Government help all other families MUST have “help” too.
  104. That self-reports of accidental encounters with “unwanted” pornography by teenage boys should be taken on face value.
  105. That, even if you don’t enable the automatic image display feature of your mail reader, you can still be subjected to unwanted visual assaults by porn-laden spam e-mails
  106. The Invisibility Fallacy: that by forcing illegal traffic into encrypted tunnels, the traffic ceases to exist
  107. The One Hand Knows What The Other Does Fallacy: That a Minister who knows what he is doing could simultaneously advocate the need for faster broadband with one hand while making it much harder to achieve with the other.
  108. That democracy’s robustness is eternal and will forever withstand assaults from those who would curtail it.
  109. The Resilience to Farce Fallacy: that a proposal to filter the Internet will survive the inevitable descent into farce that arguments in favour of it must inevitably take
  110. The My Risks Are More Important Than Your Risks Fallacy: That purely theoretical risks can be safely discounted when considering the censorship arguments, but all child protection risks must be given equal weight irrespective of their likelihood of occurrence.
  111. The We Tried Our Best Fallacy: That implementing an ineffective but annoying filter is all we really need to do about the problem of child sexual abuse. Also known as the Headless Chook Fantasy of Moral Panic
  112. We Need Filtering So We Can Block Wikipedia Fallacy: [ needs no further explanation, the rebuttal is obvious ]
  113. The Principle Of Least Farce Fallacy: That governments demonstrate strong leadership by following the Principle Of Least Farce
  114. That child pornography and children viewing pornography is so rampant and destructive that the government needs to take qualitatively different action, not just increase funding for existing measures.
  115. That one should use the nice, friendly and clean term filter when a much better term already exists: censorwall.
  116. The Lazy Network Engineer Fallacy: That network engineers employed by ISPs don’t have better things to do but keep the Government’s censorwalls running.
  117. The Fallacy Of The Great Unwashed: That it is right to block online X-rated content from the homes of adult Australians, yet just fine to leave untouched the variety found in 5-star hotels, haunts frequently visited by politicians.
  118. That contacting your ISP to opt-out won’t at all feel like ringing down to the front desk to have the smutty stuff switched on. Pack your macintosh.
  119. That being photographed to make it look like you have just opened the door to a complete stranger in the middle of the night  is consistent with the message that you are not at all, really, trying to create a sense of moral panic.
  120. That when John Gilmore said: “The Net interprets censorship as damage and routes around it.”, he didn’t have the faintest clue what he was talking about.
  121. The Cynic’s Fallacy: that the public won’t see through the Government’s rather cynical attempt to take the heat out of the debate. [ ed: let the premise – it is a cynical attempt – be false. please. ]
  122. That atheists have no morals. [ ed: The truth is actually this : “atheists have no moral panics” ]
  123. That readers of newspapers won’t vociferously object when their sub-editors fan the flames of moral panic.
  124. That when the Government refers to prohibited online content, it is talking about a class of material that only includes child porn and bestiality and a few other nasties of that nature. Wrong: even MA15+ material can be “prohibited online content” under certain circumstances.
  125. That when a newspaper headline screams “Net video crime epidemic”, the problem is that more crime is being committed when, in fact, the real problem is the ever expanding definition of the word “crime”.
  126. That having accepted the insightful accuracy of Hamilton’s speed limit analogy, the Australian public would accept the implication that we should drive speed-limited cars at 40km/h on freeways because that’s the only way to protect the children in school zones.

12 Responses to “The List Of Fallacies”

  1. Panther Says:

    That the filter will make the web a safe place for the children

    [ed: Thanks – Fallacy#26]

  2. Simon Rumble Says:

    That government/church/auntie knows best.

    [ ed: thanks, that becomes #102. ]

  3. Sam D Says:

    That our democracy will magically stay ‘robust’ (if it ever was) regardless of how much we curtail citizens democratic rights.

    [Thanks: #108]

  4. Dan Buzzard Says:

    Nice work, if I can think of any I will let you know.

  5. Dan Says:

    That child pornography and children viewing pornography is so rampant and destructive that the government needs to take qualitatively different action, not just increase funding for existing measures.

    [ Nice one – that’s 114 ]

  6. Beyond The Fringe » Blog Archive » Government Digital Economy Blog Launch Says:

    […] new list of Filter Fallacies invoked by defenders of net censorship is an excellent starting point for people wishing to […]

  7. Dan Says:

    That a legally sexually mature 16 year old being able to disable a home filter and view pornography is evidence that the children need saving.

  8. jonseymour Says:


    That one is a little trickier. 16 is the age of consent, but it is not the age of sexual maturity because a 16 year old may still not legally have sex with a 19 year old. I do not wish to argue with the position that some parents might have that they are entitled to attempt to influence the sexual behaviour of children younger than 18. Of course, children will resist this control but that’s between them and their parents.


  9. Dan Says:

    Ok, fair enough. I personally think that ‘a 16 year old being able to disable a home filter and view pornography is evidence that the children need saving’ still stands as a fallacy, but I won’t submit it because my own convictions on parenting practice (that a 16 year old is more than ready to view ‘adult content’, and parents are doing no good by restricting it-maybe even a little harm) is a personal position along a continuum. I understand it’s not necessarily agreed upon by everyone who believes the main point which is that it should be up to the parents, and this is a bad solution no matter how severe the problem.

    I do find the use of this example an interesting indicator of how much I disagree with Senator Conroy on the severity and nature of the problem though, and since he at least in part uses this to justify his solution, I must say I’m unmoved. Perhaps a better fallacy would be ‘there’s a point where the problem of child pornography and children viewing pornography could become so severe that the proposed filter was the best measure to take’. Another fallacy could be (or perhaps it fits into the previous one) ‘we are at that point’.

  10. Gerry Says:

    I think Fallacy #22 is in fact not a fallacy, but a truth. “That the proposed censorship process will be as transparent as existing censorship processes”. Existing and past censorship is often not transparent at all. To cite a few examples: In the mid 80’s, government lawyers visited book retailers and publishers with a list of books that they said contravened the Racial Discrimination Act and could be said to incite racial hatreds – book sellers were advised that they could get charged. The target was neo-fascist and racist publications. Fair enough, but the list also included at least one book critical of the Labor Party’s management of Aboriginal affairs – it’s title was “Red Over Black”. No one knows what other non-fascist publication may or may not have been n this list – the matter was never raised publicly. The government also has laws that allows them to prohibit the publication of information. It is illegal for the media to even mention this. I’m not sure, but I think they’re called”D” notices. Then there is the cosy relation ship between the Packer and Murdoch media empires and whatever the ruling government of the day is – lots of room for careful omission and under reporting there. The ABC is a bit player here, who may or may not be biased – make your own decision.

  11. jonseymour Says:

    I accept your point that the premise of fallacy #22 – that the existing process is transparent – is false. If and when #22 gets expanded, I will be ensure to include your comments as a caveat.

  12. I think your analogy slipped! | Vicarious Conversations Says:

    […] For more details: see #9, #17, #18 (but insert “roads” for “media”), #20, #25, #26, #27, oh, fuggit, just look at the whole darn lot here! […]

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