Australia to implement mandatory internet censorship
- Australia to implement mandatory internet censorship
October 29, 2008
AUSTRALIA will join China in implementing mandatory censoring of the
internet under plans put forward by the Federal Government.
The revelations emerge as US tech giants Google, Microsoft and Yahoo,
and a coalition of human rights and other groups unveiled a code of
conduct aimed at safeguarding online freedom of speech and privacy.
The government has declared it will not let internet users opt out of
the proposed national internet filter.
The plan was first created as a way to combat child pronography and
adult content, but could be extended to include controversial
websites on euthanasia or anorexia.
Communications minister Stephen Conroy revealed the mandatory
censorship to the Senate estimates committee as the Global Network
Initiative, bringing together leading companies, human rights
organisations, academics and investors, committed the technology
firms to "protect the freedom of expression and privacy rights of
Mr Conroy said trials were yet to be carried out, but "we are talking
about mandatory blocking, where possible, of illegal material."
The net nanny proposal was originally going to allow Australians who
wanted uncensored access to the web the option of contacting their
internet service provider to be excluded from the service.
Human Rights Watch has condemned internet censorship, and argued to
the US Senate "there is a real danger of a Virtual Curtain dividing
the internet, much as the Iron Curtain did during the Cold War,
because some governments fear the potential of the internet, (and)
want to control it"
Groups including the System Administrators Guild of Australia and
Electronic Frontiers Australia have attacked the proposal, saying it
would unfairly restrict Australians' access to the web, slow internet
speeds and raise the price of internet access.
EFA board member Colin Jacobs said it would have little effect on
illegal internet content, including child pornography, as it would
not cover file-sharing networks.
"If the Government would actually come out and say we're only
targeting child pornography it would be a different debate," he said.
The technology companies' move, which follows criticism that the
companies were assisting censorship of the internet in nations such
as China, requires them to narrowly interpret government requests for
information or censorship and to fight to minimise cooperation.
The initiative provides a systematic approach to "work together in
resisting efforts by governments that seek to enlist companies in
acts of censorship and surveillance that violate international
standards", the participants said.
In a statement, Yahoo co-founder and chief executive Jerry Yang
welcomed the new code of conduct.
"These principles provide a valuable roadmap for companies like Yahoo
operating in markets where freedom of expression and privacy are
unfairly restricted," he said.
"Yahoo was founded on the belief that promoting access to information
can enrich people's lives, and the principles we unveil today reflect
our determination that our actions match our values around the
Yahoo was thrust into the forefront of the online rights issue after
the Californian company helped Chinese police identify cyber
dissidents whose supposed crime was expressing their views online.
China exercises strict control over the internet, blocking sites
linked to Chinese dissidents, the outlawed Falun Gong spiritual
movement, the Tibetan government-in-exile and those with information
on the 1989 Tiananmen massacre.
A number of US companies, including Microsoft, Cisco, Google and
Yahoo, have been hauled before the US Congress in recent years and
accused of complicity in building the "Great Firewall of China".
The Australian Christian Lobby, however, has welcomed the proposals.
Managing director Jim Wallace said the measures were needed.
"The need to prevent access to illegal hard-core material and child
pornography must be placed above the industry's desire for unfettered
access," Mr Wallace said.
WORLD VIEW NEWS SERVICE
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