Most of Regator‘s users are from the United States, where the internet is unregulated and you can pretty much see anything you may, or may not, want to see. This is probably not going to change anytime soon thanks to the First Amendment. Australia, on the other hand (my home country, where we also have a lot of users), with no express provision relating to freedom of speech or expression, is planning to start filtering the internet within the country, weeding out whatever they deem bad. The justification is to stop child porn and other “objectionable” material from being accessible to the Australian public. Australia has had a checkered history of doing some rather misguided things that it later regrets, some of which are absolutely appalling but not widely known outside of the country. I won’t go into all of that here, because Australia as a whole doesn’t deserve to be judged on the stupid stuff its government has done in the past. But the current government should be judged on the decisions it is making today.
Essentially this is how it will work (from the GetUp Internet Censorship Factsheet):
The Government has proposed a two-tiered system. The first tier will be mandatory for all internet users in Australia, and will block a range of “prohibited” material. The second tier will be available to families who wish to limit access to a broader range of content.
The Minister for Broadband, Communications and the Digital Economy, Senator Stephen Conroy has suggested that the mandatory filter should block access to “prohibited” material, as defined by the Broadcasting Services Act 1992.1. In essence this would block any information categorised X-18 rated by ACMA2. Also being considered for inclusion on the blacklist however, are gambling sites (the suggestion of Senator Xenophon) and all pornography (the suggestion of Senator Fielding). It is easy to see how the blacklist can quickly become a greylist – a process made even more dangerous by the fact that ACMA’s secret list of prohibited material is not subject to oversight, appeal, or review. It’s worth noting that the banned material – material “refused classification” by ACMA is legal to view and own, it is just not legal to distribute.
The debate around this internet filter should not be stifled by accusing those that challenge the scheme of an interest in access to child pornography. The scope of the mandatory filter is far broader than child pornography alone.
I think most people would agree that child porn is disgusting, but there are other ways to fight it and protect people from online predators and douchebags. At the end of the day, it will be an expensive way to give a small number of people the illusion of security. Without putting much thought into it, I can think of five ways to potentially get around censorship.
Australian’s don’t generally ask the world for much, except to come on down and have a beer and some fun with us, but in this case, you can help. Show your surprise that Australia would do restrict such basic rights. You can get on Twitter and tell this guy, @KevinRuddPM (he’s the Prime Minister) and the Australian government that they are bloody wrong!
You can also sign the online petition at http://www.getup.org.au/campaign/SaveTheNet/
Full Disclosure: Regator, although located in Atlanta, Georgia, is run by 1.5 Australians living in the United States. We’ve also got an Australian born cat, but he is unconcerned about these types of things.