Australian Prime Minister Backs Web Filtering

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The AFP recently reported that Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard has begun actively pushing to filter Australia’s Internet content. According to news sources, the filter would block websites that contain rape, bestiality, and child sex abuse. Included in the plan is a proposed “secret blacklist” containing restricted sites, on which Australian ISPs could execute complete filtering control in conjunction with government policies.

Gillard, who recently criticized Twitter in public, defended her plan to filter the Internet with an analogy referring to film ratings, saying:

“My fundamental outlook is this: it is unlawful for me as an adult to go to a cinema and watch certain sorts of content, it's unlawful and we believe it to be wrong.”

Angry opposition to Gillard’s plan has cropped up (appropriately) on the Internet. Protesters of the proposed plan have begun comparing the potential government-regulated online filtering to those in China and Iran, where legal apparatuses are strict and authoritative concerning Internet content. One particular Australian group has initiated a website called No Clean Feed to encourage activism against web filtering. In their mission statement, they warn against the dangers of allowing the Australian government to follow through with plans to filter:

“The list of material to be banned includes much more than child sexual abuse material. The category of material that has been 'refused classification' includes websites about euthanasia, controversial movies such as 'Ken Park' and 'Baise-moi', and many games that are designed for people over 16 years of age.”

They go on to make a more universal appeal, stating, “The Internet does not work in a way that would let a filter be effective, and the World Wide Web contains far more content than could ever be effectively rated by a Government organisation.”

The site also lists options for people to become with the anti-filtering cause, including writing letters to members of parliament and signing the Senate Internet Censorship Petition.

Although parliamentary meetings to develop the plan have yet to materialize, Australians seem to view this issue as pressing and immediate, a proposal that indicates the possible future of Internet access in the country.

For more information, read ARN's 2008 interview on the issue with Citizen Lab's Ronald Deibert, or visit ONI's Australia profile and APC Mag’s rundown of the mechanisms behind Australia’s proposed Internet filtering plan.

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