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Strewth! Will stickybeak Oz pollies come a gutzer over shonky web censorship plan? [Nov. 1st, 2008|11:42 am]
Bob Bain
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Strewth! Will stickybeak Oz pollies come a gutzer over shonky web censorship plan?

as reported by telecomtv.com

31/10/2008 11:00:00 - by Martyn Warwick

While we now all used to (but remain unhappy about) the Chinese government's unapologetic, capricious and iron-fisted control over what its citizen's may access on the Internet, many will be gobsmacked by the news that Australia, that self-proclaimed classless bastion of freedom and democracy, is also to introduce mandatory web censorship.

The Federal Government there is proposing to impose on Australians a "national Internet filter" that all web users will have to use - no exceptions.

The original idea was mooted as a strategy to combat the incidence of child pornography but is now being extended to include websites deemed by the authorities to be "controversial." Mention has been made of preventing access to sites offering information on euthanasia or those "glorifying" in anorexia - whatever that means.

But where will censorship and denial of access stop? As Dr. Johnson is supposed to have observed "the road to hell is paved with good intentions" and although the prevention of access to child pornography sites is both desirable and laudable, extending such control to other areas of the Internet is dangerous in the extreme and a step too far down the road to potential totalitarianism.

Australia's Minister of Communications, Stephen Conroy (you can see Telecom TV's earlier interview with him elsewhere on this site) announced the censorship scheme at a meeting of the Senate's estimates committee.

When the plan was first mooted the idea was that the government would bring together companies, human rights organisations, academics and investors to discuss ways of dealing with the menace of child pornography whilst "protecting the freedom of expression and privacy rights of users" in terms of their ability to access other sites.

This proposal, termed the "Net Nanny" by the Australian media, originally included the proviso that web users would be able to maintain uncensored and uncontrolled access to any part of the web they fancy by registering with their ISP that they want to be excluded from the filtering process.

However, that option has now been rescinded. Stephen Conroy says that trials of the censorship technology will take place soon and that "the government is talking about the mandatory blocking of illegal material."

The $64,000 question is, of course, just who will decide what is illegal and what isn't?

This is happening simultaneously with the Global Network Initiative (GNI) devised by Google, Microsoft and Yahoo who are working with a coalition of other interested parties to come up with a code of conduct that is ostensibly supposed to enshrine the individual's right to freedom of speech and personal privacy on the World Wide Web.

However, as we reported yesterday, the net effect of the GNI will be to allow the Chinese government, and others of a similar draconian bent, to continue in their usual unenlightened way because the self-righteous Google, Microsoft and Yahoo have already said that they will "abide by" existing practice.

In other words, the not-so-hidden hand of self-interest in raking in lots of cash from places like China will ensure that these companies will continue to provide help to the authorities by self-censoring content and access and even, as has been done before, helping state security apparatchiks to identify individual dissidents.

In Australia criticism of the government's intentions is mounting with the System Administrators Guild and Electronic Frontiers Australia among those saying it will restrict citizens' access to the Internet, reduce access speeds and increase costs.

Colin Jacobs, a board member of Electronic Frontiers Australia points out that the proposals will have little real effect because it does not cover file-sharing networks.

The article concludes:-

By the way, the Australian slang used in the the headline of this story was provided by a mate from Sydney. I am reliably informed that in English it means, "Great Scott! Will meddling Australian politicians obsessed with a particular idea find that they are making a serious mistake over this dubious Internet interdiction plan?"

see also great firewall of russia
and keep your filter off our internet Australian Web Industry Association

zazzle no filter t-shirt $19.95