Friday, March 20, 2009

More on Australia Internet Censorship: Wikileaks and co.

Despite some media reports that Australian Government initiatives to impose mandatory ISP-level filtering were 'dead in the water', after Sen. Xenophon withdrew support for the initiative (it is still possible for the Government to pass legislation; there is also a live debate about whether they need any legislative change at all), the issue is very much still alive and troubling. Sen. Conroy remains entirely unswayed, and truly oblivious, to the general stupidity of his plans.

The latest information to light is that there is now the threat of $11,000/day in fines or 10 years imprisonment for linking to prohibited sites. This at the time that wikileaks, a wikipedia-like site devoted to publishing information about governments and other structures that would rather they didn't, for transparency and accountability, released firstly the Norwegian list of blacklisted sites, followed by the ACMA's blacklist. The ACMA proceeded to blacklist wikileaks in turn. This merely demonstrates how quickly censorship spirals beyond control - to discuss censorship is to become censurable oneself. The blacklist, unsurprisingly, contains a lot of sexual content (a quick peruse of domain names will tell you that), but a lot of material whose place on the list is highly dubious.

The fact is, we are talking about a technically inefficient and problematic scheme, run with no accountability and no review, by unelected officials. This proposal *is*, despite rhetorical blind-sides, akin to censorship regimes in China, Iran, and Thailand (a censorship list introduced to block child pornography but in fact used primarily to block anti-monarchy material).

The readiness of Christians to subscribe to such blatant moves towards censorship, to take Conroy's rhetoric at face-value (and he is not below cheap-shots at his opponents at all. It shows the state of contemporary debate that opponents need to start with 'Now, I'm not in favour of child pornography..."), I continue to find disturbing. We are talking about a system of information control that is very likely to tend towards corruption and abuse, is difficult to correct, will do little to nothing to deal with child pornography (except maybe make it harder to police by driving things more underground; the majority of such traffic does not occur over websites anyway), and is anti-democratic move in a western democratic nation.

[Edit]: Note that wikileaks has now posted the ACMA list from the 11th and 18th March, which contain respectively 2602 and 1172 URLs. The latter number match more closely matches the number of URLs the government has been claiming were on the list. Wonder why it changed...

1 comment:

Nathan said...

Thanks for your post Seamus. I agree completely. I'm glad there are other Christians taking a stand against what amounts to an insidious form of thought policing under the guise of "protecting our children" - better resourcing for catching perpetrators and harsher punishments as a deterrent strike me as being a much more effective way of preventing the transfer of objectionable content.