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 http://www.gizmodo.com
Commonwealth of Australia. (2009) How Filtering Works. Retrieved from http://www.acma.gov.au
Commonwealth of Australia. (2008) Minister Welcomes Advances in Internet Filtering Technology.
Retrieved from http://www.minister.dbcde.gov.au
Doctorow, C. (2008) Australia’s Great firewall: Just like China, Syria, and other ‘free” Countries. Retrieved from http:// www.boingboing.net
Internet Filtering Trials Explained. (2009). Retrieved from http://www.lawcouncil.asn.au
Pauli, D. (2008) No opt-out of Filtered Internet. Retrieved from http://www.computerworld.com