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Thread: Australia’s Internet Censorship is the Worst

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    Exclamation Australia’s Internet Censorship is the Worst

    By Stephen Wilson

    After a one year internet “filter” trial, Communications Minister Stephen Conroy announced on December 15, 2009, that Australian ISP providers must block content which has been refused classification overseas. Legislation will be introduced into Parliament in 2010 and once passed, the internet “filter” will take 12 months to implement. An “independent body” will determine a list of Refused Classification (RC) blacklisted sites for Australian internet users. Senator Conroy has made assurances that the filtering will be transparent, including notifying websites that they have been blocked, as well as measures to appeal blocked websites.

    However one of the fundamental tenets of our society and the pillar and supposed cornerstone of Liberal Democracy, is that of the free and robust exchange of ideas. A "marketplace of ideas" in which debate, free speech and criticism are welcome and tolerated. In fact, in a healthy "marketplace of ideas", dissent is welcomed and those of different political/religious persuasions are permitted to engage in vigorous discourse.

    Now imagine the Orwellian nightmare straight from the mind of the 1984 author George Orwell. Speech is suppressed, dissent is stifled and creativity and individualism are crushed.

    In March 2002, Electronic Frontiers Australia undertook extensive research into the status of laws and Government policy outside Australia. They were unable to find any indication that any other country broadly comparable to Australia (in terms of democratic political systems and cultures) has introduced, or intends to introduce internet censorship laws, particularly laws as restrictive as the existing Commonwealth legislation and proposed laws.

    The internet has since its inception been utilised by persons of all persuasions for all manner of purposes. From on-line shopping, email, to communication and networking of like minded individuals. t has until recently been mostly self regulating and has on the whole, been of tremendous benefit to commerce, private and public companies and individuals. However the Australian Governments recent attempts to impose mandatory internet filtering for "objectionable content" severely undermine one of the most fundamental rights of Man. To seek out information that may be unpopular, critical of institutions or considered challenging. This in and of itself would be an unjust and reprehensible intrusion into a citizens right to communicate with others and inform and entertain themselves. However given the fact that the Government is maintaining a database that is inaccessible to outside scrutiny, is not able to be viewed by citizens and is COMPLETELY SECRET!! The fact that this database is being maintained by the very same Government that refuses to cooperate with freedom of information requests, harangues civil servants who leak information embarrassing to the Government and shields itself deep within the cloak of bureaucratic invisibility, should only serve to arouse the deepest suspicions of all freedom loving people wherever they may reside.

    Indeed one would have thought that in conjunction with industry experts, interested parties and ISP's that a series of concrete criteria and benchmarks would have been established to measure the efficacy of the blocking of "objectionable" material. On the contrary, the Department of Broadband, Communication and the Digital Economy (the department responsible for the administering of the trials) has actually stated that NO criteria were established in order to measure the effectiveness of the censorship trials. The whole process is being shrouded in great secrecy with no-one permitted to question the motives of the Australian Government no matter how benign they may seem. The pretext that has been given for the internet censorship trials has (ostensibly) been preventing persons from accessing "illegal" and "refused classification" material (see child pornography).

    This argument is fundamentally flawed on several different levels.

    Firstly Child Pornography as reprehensible, disgusting, exploitative and incorrigible, will never be stamped out by the censorship of the internet. The reasons are complex and mostly outside the scope of this article. I n a nutshell however, the VAST majority of internet child pornography is through peer to peer networks. These are basically private file sharing networks that allow users to share content (music, files and more). However these networks are akin to an exclusive club, if you aren't a member, you can't gain access. These evil networks are a closed haven for like minded individuals and are generally speaking quite distrusting by nature. If you don't know where to look, and you're not a member, the files (pictures of children) are inaccessible. It’s an underground network beneath the internet. Secondly, most aspiring paedophiles are hardly stupid enough to type "Kiddy porn" into a search engine.

    So if internet censorship will not have an impact on the very thing it has supposedly been created to prevent, why on earth would the Australian Government insist upon this course of action? Why is the "blacklist" of "illegal" sites kept secret? What is on this list and do you trust the Government to determine what YOU as a law abiding Citizen may view? I would suggest that the best indicator of future behaviour is past behaviour. If we look back some 6 months ago, a minor furore erupted when a copy of the blacklist was released on Wikileaks and other areas of the internet (Ironically the internet censorship blacklist was leaked on-the internet). The list of sites that were banned were rather innocuous. A Brisbane dentist was on the list as well as several Adult bookstores, a mechanics webpage and several fetish sites which are 100% LEGAL to view as an Australian Citizen of the age of maturity. More disturbing is the fact that because you cannot access the list, you have no way of knowing what is and what isn't on it.

    Given the fact that only EIGHT small ISP's and Optus (on a limited basis) agreed to participate in the trials, there can be no statistically significant data to be gleaned from this totalitarian exercise of thought control and oppression. Not surprising iiNet (Australia's third largest ISP) withdrew from the Governments internet censorship trials in early 2009, saying it could not "reconcile participation in the trial with our corporate social responsibility". Indeed all available data indicates that the only effect that censorship will have on the internet is to turn it into an unwieldy (and slow) creature. Speeds will plummet, commerce and trade will suffer and costs will soar in order to pay for the ineffective filtering. Perhaps a more insidious force is at work, one that is attempting to stifle and suppress free speech, dissent and protest. When the Government is able to determine what sites you are able to visit, what you are able to post online and with whom you associate in the digital realm, this really should ring alarm bells. Are you an anti war protester attempting to find a forum with like minded individuals? A political activist trying to organise a meeting or simply a father sending an email to a child living overseas? How will you ever know you are restricted from accessing sites if they are simply omitted from your search results. When "page not found" is displayed on your monitor, has the site been removed or blocked due to Government interference?

    The fact that the results of the trial have been delayed and pushed back after repeated calls for Senator Stephen Conroy to release the censorship trial data seem to be indicative of the difficulties the trial has encountered. If things have been going swimmingly, why aren't the results being vaunted and championed to the public after spending 5 million dollars of taxpayers money?

    Nationalist Alternative sincerely hope that the internet censorship plan dies a quiet death and slinks off into the night. A remnant of an era that should have died with the demise of the Soviet Union and the KGB. If this plan is implemented the impact on the free exchange of ideas, political view and discourse of all kinds will be severely impeded and crushed. I do not welcome the thought of an Australia where I fear a knock on the door in the dead of night from the Peoples Secret Police for a blog entry or website search that aroused the suspicions of those in power.

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    Keep an eye on Australia, It seems to be the forerunner for the N.O.W.
    The coward believes he will live forever
    If he holds back in the battle,
    But in old age he shall have no peace
    Though spears have spared his limbs

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