Pro-euthanasia group Exit International is holding national hacking crash-courses in how to bypass the Federal Government's planned ISP-level Internet content filter with help from the Australian Pirate Party.
The first of eight "Hacking Masterclasses" was held in Chatswood, Sydney last week, and drew about 50 elderly people -- some bearing laptops. Exit International director and controversial Australian physician, Philip Nitschke, created the class to help the elderly access euthanasia-assistance material online, following fears that the Internet filter will block access to the information.
A leaked copy of the filter blacklist revealed Exit International websites, the UK publisher of the Peaceful Pill eHandbook, and three YouTube videos were on the list of banned materials.
"We were comprehensively listed," Nitschke told Computerworld. "We weren't totally surprised, but it will drastically curtail our ability to get out information to our 5,000 Australian members."
The Peaceful Pill Handbook was published free online after the hardcopy version was banned in Australia, following the revocation of the original R18+ classification by then Federal Attorney General Philip Ruddock in 2006. Nitschke turned to the Australian Pirate Party, via the Electronic Frontiers Australia, to locate an IT expert capable of teaching an average 70-year-old how to access pro-euthanasia material by using a proxy server to bypass the proposed national Internet firewall.
They found David Campbell, from Newcastle-based company Clear Computers.
About 100 people have signed on to the Perth hacking class to be held 7 April. Each workshop takes five-and-a-half hours and will also be held in Melbourne (12 April), Hobart (15 April), Adelaide (21 April), Brisbane (24 April), Canberra (30 April) and Sydney (7 May).
A spokeswoman for Communications Minister Stephen Conroy said it is not illegal to teach or enact methods to bypass the proposed Internet filter, following reports that the classes could be outlawed.
"Under the government's policy it will not be an offence to circumvent the filtering measures or to show someone how to do so," the spokeswoman said.
She said the Peaceful Pill eHandbook is refused classification, and its website will be blocked.
Debate on euthanasia which does not outline methods of killing, or means to import drugs will avoid the classification block.
Nitschke said he has "got to move quickly to get people up to speed [on how to bypass the filters]", and said the Exit International local chapters could carry out promotional, work if the organisation's web presence is blocked.
He said he believes the filter will pass through parliament with no or few amendments, and small opposition. "Opponents are accused of supporting child porn, and that kind of wedging has ensured there is support from the Federal Opposition," Nitschke said.