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The Australian Government's proposed internet filter

Posted: 01 Apr 2010

As you’ve probably heard by now the Australian Government is planning to introduce a mandatory internet filter which would block access to material that is “refused classification” by our politicians or bureaucrats.


I am passionate about internet freedom, and I would like to chat to you about the proposed filter and hear your thoughts.


To my mind, the issue really boils down to whether or not you think that Australians are mature enough to decide how they and their families use the internet. Given that there are already plenty of internet filters available (for free) to concerned parents, it is clear that this is not an issue about making the internet child friendly. Rather, it is about our Government treating adults like children and curbing the last bastion of absolute freedom in our society – the place where a government “classification” isn’t required to make a post, and people need to rely on their own discernment to check fact from fiction and sales from scams.


As you know I regularly travel to China to look at new products and liaise with our manufacturers and suppliers. In China I get first hand experience of a mandatory internet filter. Obviously the proposed filter in Australia is not "planned" to be quite as extreme, but it is difficult to know where the Government will draw the line once they have the power to censor our connection to the rest of the world.


While I’m in China I feel abused and violated when trying to access the internet. It is an infringement on what I feel to be a basic right. I have to e-mail friends and family back home to get them to e-mail me even the most basic information, such as when a certain port opens so I can get into Hong Kong.


I do sometimes setup an anonymous proxy (such as Skydur – in order to access any site I wish, including Facebook and Twitter. The ease with which I can do this shows that anyone who is tech-savvy will be able to get around the proposed internet filter with ease.


On top of the fact that an Internet filter is just plain wrong, what particularly worries me is the Government’s lack of transparency. They have stated that they won’t release the list of banned websites, which shouldn’t be an issue if they stand by their argument that the filter is 100% effective. If the list is kept private and Government-controlled, who’s to know what is on it?


The other problem is the publicity the filter has received will simply make criminals who want to look at inappropriate content better at covering their tracks. They will be more wary and this will make it increasingly more difficult to catch them.


Many people I speak to about it think that it will somehow stop their children from looking at pornographic or inappropriate content. This is simply not the case.


What is needed instead of wasting money on a cheap political stunt is adequate education and support for parents in teaching their children how to responsibly use the internet and not access this material; not a blanket filter which affects everyone and turns us into more of a nanny state.


“Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely.” The person in charge of this censorship program will have the power over what Australians can and can’t see on the internet. Even if this person was the most honest, intelligent and just person in the World, do you want somebody else telling you what you can and can’t watch?  


I’m obviously not alone – even the US Administration and Google have weighed in on the debate condemning Australia’s proposed internet filter. 


I'm very keen to hear your thoughts. Please join in the conversation here, or with us on Twitter (@Kogan) using the #openinternet hashtag.





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