• Australia on Internet censorship watch list

    Mar 12 2010, 11:26

    Today March 12 is World Day Against Cyber Censorship. This day is intended to rally everyone in support of a single Internet that is unrestricted and accessible to all. It is also meant to draw attention to the fact that, by creating new spaces for exchanging ideas and information, the Internet is a force for freedom.

    The international organisation Reporters Without Borders celebrated World Day Against Cyber Censorship by issuing its latest list of “Enemies of the Internet.” The countries that have made the list this year are Saudi Arabia, Burma, China, North Korea, Cuba, Egypt, Iran, Uzbekistan, Syria,Tunisia,Turkmenistan, and Vietnam.

    However, Reporters Without Borders also has a list of countries that have been placed “under surveillance” for displaying a disturbing attitude towards the Internet.  Australia is on that list.

    Joining Australia on the list of countries “under surveillance” are Behrain, Belarus, Eritrea, Malaysia, Russia, South Korea, Sri Lanka, Thailiand, Turkey, and the United Arab Emirates.

    When describing Australia, the Reporters Without Borders report says that “Under the guise of fighting child pornography, the government wants to set up a filtering system never before seen a democracy.”  You can read what the report says about Australia here, or you can read the whole report here.

    It is very concerning that the Australian Government seems determined to introduce a system of Internet censorship that will put us in the same club as Burma, China and North Korea.  Only yesterday, EFA Vice-Chair Colin Jacobs blogged about how Australia’s proposed Internet censorship has gained some attention in China:

    It’s not surprising that these initiatives have gained some attention in China. The Chinese Government have come under considerable pressure recently with Google’s threat to withdraw from the Chinese market due to onerous censorship and aggressive state-sponsored espionage, followed up by a stinging and unequivocal condemnation of Internet censorship worldwide by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. This puts Australia in the unenviable position of introducing a significant system of real-time internet censorship just as the tide is turning; the events in China and Iran have precipitated a significant backlash against such censorship in the West. Yet rather than back down, our government is amping up the rhetoric. This includes the online ombudsman idea, more restrictivee hate speech laws, and the unnecessary and ill-thought-out filter itself.

    This highlights the concern among many Australians that a new era of domestic Internet censorship will put us in some very bad company. Joining this club of censors will grant legitimacy to regimes that are using censorship for political as well as prurient purposes. Google, no strangers to the issues surrounding censorship in China and elsewhere around the globe, wrote this in their submission to the Department in February:

    “Could damage Australia’s International Reputation – Mandatory filtering by Australia could be argued to confer legitimacy upon filtering by other Governments. Australia is rightly regarded as a liberal democracy that balances individual liberty with social responsibility. The Governments of many other countries may justify, by reference to Australia, their use of filtering, their lack of disclosure about what is being filtered, and their political direction of agencies administering filtering.”

    Read the rest of his blog post here.