Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Thought Control: Australia's Firewall

If you were to enter the Australian government website you would find a bright colored smiley face with the words next to it that read Cyber Smart. A click on this link would take you for a ride to the happy land of multi-level censorship. Censorship, which the Australian government labels "cyber safety," has various Internet control options for children, teens, parents and even libraries.

Australia's government has forcibly erected ISP filters which they claim are designed to regulate and filter inappropriate content mainly for children. There is NOT an opt out option. Internet users can choose to opt out of the filter for child safety but there not an option to opt out of the "illegal content" filter. The question really becomes "who is deciding what is illegal content?"
The government is relying solely on the Australia Media and Communications Authority (AMCA) to provide specific sites for blacklisting. ACMA is also responsible for telecommunication, broadcasting, and radio regulation as well as Spam control.

On February 24, 2009 in a news interview the Minister for Broadband, Communications and the Digital Economy, Stephen Conroy, admitted that there is a possibility that the government will block legal as well as illegal content. Currently the Internet content that is considered illegal is Refused Classification and X18+ material, which includes simulated sex (without an age limit), depictions of actual sex, and child pornography. One of the main problems is that sexual content is considered to be on the same criminal level as child pornography. It is highly possible that the censorship program could end up prohibiting news articles pertaining to sex in addition to other sexual content. The AMCA also has enacted the Ruddock-era book ban on alleged terrorist material, which would also limit academic research. Stephen Conroy is intent on expanding the definition of "illegal content" to include suicide counseling information, gambling websites, and material that has been banned by multinational corporations.

In my mind, the largest problem with ISP filters is that by controlling the information that people can access you are controlling their thoughts. I completely agree that Spam and child pornography should be deemed illegal, but I don't believe that it should come with the heavy price of forcible ISP filtering and government censorship of other content. People should have the right and freedom to the access of information. And the most terrifying thing of all, is that this is a government sponsored program that is being backed by conservative and corporate interests.


Chow, E. (2008) Australia to Build Great Firewall Down Under. Retrieved from

Commonwealth of Australia. (2009) How Filtering Works. Retrieved from

Commonwealth of Australia. (2008) Minister Welcomes Advances in Internet Filtering Technology.

Retrieved from

Doctorow, C. (2008) Australia’s Great firewall: Just like China, Syria, and other ‘free” Countries. Retrieved from http://

Internet Filtering Trials Explained. (2009). Retrieved from

Pauli, D. (2008) No opt-out of Filtered Internet. Retrieved from


  1. I don’t think the problem is filtering illegal material as much as who decides what is illegal, the accuracy of the filters, and the potential of it being abused.

    There are many troubling things about the Cyber-Smart system. There was confusion by some people who thought they could opt-out and remove the filtering altogether which turned out to be false. According to Pauli (2008) during the preliminary trials using the “best” content filters 10,000 out of one million pages were incorrectly blocked. And I also think that with this policy in place it will make it easier to censor other types of legal information.

    With so much information available on the internet anyone who is involved in generating the blacklist has a lot of power. I agree with Lauren that by restricting their access to information the government is also restricting their knowledge and therefore their thoughts and ideas.

    Kristine Towne

  2. And by 2010 there was ONE comment on this goverment crime?
    That says a LOT!
    John Young