Internet Censorship in Australia

In the spirit of Ada Lovelace Day Ive decided to make this blog post about the proposed internet censorship laws in Australia currently championed by Telecommunications Minister Stephen Conroy. Im very passionate about freedom of speech and freedom of information. My earliest memory of censorship outrage was when I found out satirical novel by Bret Easton Ellis, Americn Psycho, was actually banned in my home state Queensland. This is despite the fact that the Office of Film and Literature Classification Guidelines state that “adults should be able to read, hear and see what they want”.

If you want to read more about some of the more interesting censorship laws in place in Australia then perhaps do some investigation into why activist group Anonymous called their recent protest “Operation Titstorm“.

Classification

The reason why American Psycho is banned in some states is because its received a “R” for Restricted classification by the Australian Communications and Media Authority, ACMA. Similarly for electronic materials ACMA, have created another classification, “RC”, Refused Classification. Any site deemed RC will go on the governments URL blacklist for possible filtering. Stephen Conroy has been marketing his censorship policy as a way of “protecting the children” but  websites can be classified as RC if they are not only about child pornography but “depictions of bestiality, material containing excessive violence or sexual violence, detailed instruction in crime, violence or drug use, and/or material that advocates the doing of a terrorist act”.

Recently Conroy approached Google to ask for them to implement search filetering on youtube for anything that falls under the RC classification to which a Google spokeswoman replied Google “won’t comply voluntarily with the broad scope of all RC content”. More here.

I applaud Google for taking a firm stance on this issue, once we start filtering, where does it stop? Isn’t this sounding a little too much like China?

Filtering

In December 2009 the labour government announced it would go ahead with plans to censor internet access after a government comissioned ISP trial found that filtering a blacklist of banned URL’s didn’t slow down web access. So? I don’t care about speed (well I do but it comes much further down the list) what I care about is how this censorship infringes on my right to freedom of information.

From the beginning this policy has been very hazy about what exactly goes on this blacklist and who maintains it.

Furthermore why should ISP’s be shouldering this responsibility anyway, will they be subsidised by the government for increased administration costs?

Conroy himself has recently filtered his own website by removing “ISP Filtering” from his tag cloud. Ahh the hypocrisy of politics.

Where do we currently stand?

At present these laws have not been passed by the senate and as its a sensitive topic it looks likely that it wont be mentioned much in the lead up to the upcoming election.

I will be watching this topic closely to see what all parties have to say about it because this will swing my vote.

What do I think?

Im opposed to ISP filtering and other search filtering because:

  • I believe in freedom of information for everyone in every country
  • There is no transparency over what goes on this blacklist and who maintains it
  • RC is too broad
  • The government could potentially add anything to this blacklist under the tenuous guise that its RC, potentially restricting access to content harmful to its own agenda
  • Its will be easy to get around for a somewhat technically savvy person, so what’s the point of it?
  • I feel patronised that the government is telling me what is and isn’t appropriate for me to view – don’t get me started on the video game classification debate – GRR
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