Thursday, 17 December 2009

More on the Australian Internet Filter

This is some more information that I've managed to find, continuing on from yesterday's post. The move is becoming controversial and it looks like news bodies outside of Australia are starting to take notice. Google News already has a list of articles, some of which are from Australia and some are foreign which talk about this.

Google joins the anti-filter side

The Official Google Australia Blog has a post on their views of the filter.

Google has joined the list of groups that don't like the filter. Remember that groups that oppose the filter aren't just groups like the EFA but also groups like Save the Children. As well as essentially all the ISPs in the country.

They link to an interesting report from professors Catharine Lumby, Leila Green and John Hartley titled Untangling the Net: The Scope of Content Caught by Mandatory Internet Filtering, but more on that later.

They do make a good point in one case though, their SafeSearch allows the search engine to filter out unsavoury content. It must work quite well because Cracked have an article that uses the filter (for porn, so I guess that even though it's censored it will be blocked if the filter goes through.

There is one thing that they add though, Germany has a filter but it only filters child porn. Not potentially most of the internet.

Part of the issue, as I said yesterday, is that it's not just the Government's job to protect people on the Internet, it's also the role of parents to be vigilant and to teach their kids about internet safety. It appears that many, if not most Australians understand this, but some groups don't.

They also add that controversial topics should not be censored because it stifles discussion. This is correct. But most people will agree that it's quite fine to censor child porn because it's one issue that is believed to be wrong by most people regardless of their views on other things.

However stifling discussion is not a valid proposal.

The Filter and Euthanasia

This article was on the ABC today. Apparently the filter will restrict information about euthanasia.

Now it is clear that euthanasia is a touchy issue in society. However this is one of the issues that should not be censored.

Dr. Phillip Nitschke, a prominent voluntary euthanasia advocate has some of his websites listed on the ACMA blacklist.

Michael Duffy reported on the adding of Nitschke's work to the blacklist back in May. And if you search for the website for the online version of his book The Peaceful Pill Handbook on the Wikileaks copy of the blacklist you will find it there (just search for "") right below partypoker.

But this is not the only issue where we see information being censored.

The Report

We now turn back to the report that I mentioned earlier (link to article here).

The key findings are listed on page ii.

Overall the conclusion is that there shouldn't be a filter. Especially based on Australian law and the scope of the blacklists. It also states that it may lull people into a false sense of security.

One of the interesting things that they found was that only 32% of the blacklisted stuff was child pornography. Some of this content that has been prohibited falls under R18+ and X18+ classifications from the Office of Film and Literature Classification and are technically permitted as long as they are not sold to people under 18.
Yet it states that at present there is a strange contradiction in that under voluntary filtering X18+ is prohibited (so for internet purposes it's Refused Classification).

Strange huh? You can buy porn from stores in the ACT, or over the phone, but you're not allowed to do it over the internet.

But it lists various other hypothetical websites that could be considered RC based on their content including a website for LGBT people to discuss their sexuality, or a literary website. Which just goes to show that the classification system has the potential to paint most of the internet as RC, and therefore fair game for any filter.

Other potential issues include transparency, the article suggests some form of judicial review on blacklisted sites. But also whether we should be allowed to know what is on the blacklist. And also a section on balancing the filter, what happens if we over or under filter.

At present though we have to wait until Labor draft some legislation to see how some of these issues are sorted out.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Germany does NOT have a filter. The CDU dropped it before even implementing it after a coalition deal with the FDP in the last election.See link for article,,4794080,00.html