Internet Censorship - Is Australia the Next China?
Internet Censorship vs Freedom of Speech
America prides itself on its freedom of speech laws. The ability to voice an opinion is a cornerstone of democratic society and the internet has changed the way we interact with information.
The internet has enabled everyday citizens to publish their views regardless of society's acceptance of their position at that point in time. Few are surprised when they hear of China's censorship but many will be when they find out that Australia is starting down the same path.
To Censor the Internet?
The list of countries attempting to censor the Internet include Iran, China, Yemen and Myanmar. In 2010 Australia is looking to add its name to this list.
Kevin Rudd's Labor Government is continuing with its censorship plans using child pornography and adult content as its argument against free internet access. The government plans to develop a "Black List" of sites that will be banned at an internet provider level.
The move is strongly opposed by The Systems Administrators Guild of Australia and Electronic Frontiers Australia. They argue that the ban will have little effect on child pornography as it will not cover file-sharing networks. Supporters of the ban include the Australian Christian Lobby.
The censorship plans are proving to be unpopular and many Australian citizens do not feel they are in fitting with the Australian way of life.
Would Internet Censorship Cause More Problems?
It has been argued that free access to the internet, even to sites with illegal or immoral content has its benefits. Many pedophiles have been apprehended as a result of their behaviour online. Government agencies and forensic computer specialists have been able to trace and arrest whole networks of pedophiles that have previously been difficult to identify. Driving them underground may make arresting them more difficult. This can hardly be seen as beneficial to the Australian community.
Another frequently asked question is: "Where does censorship end?"
Governments typically use the argument of "offensive", "immoral" and "illegal" content as the target of internet censorship. Will Australia also follow China's lead of silencing anyone questioning the Government or limiting the online power of political opponents? In any censorship program a line must be drawn and the position of this line is controlled by the political party in power. The ability to manipulate this line in order to "protect society" may create a conflict of interest.
The Internet Censorship Debate
The Internet Censorship Debate
As the Australian government continues with its push for internet censorship, ongoing political debate and community and industry protest will occur.
The key points will be limitation and protection vs. freedom and vigilance.
It is hoped that the weight of public opinion will help the government see that the Australian way of life is not congruent with severe limitations on freedom, and that following the lead of countries like China and Iran is unlikely to be appreciated both domestically and internationally.