Free speech means accepting that stuff will be said that you disagree with, but there’s plenty of people who spend their lives complaining about viewpoints or media they don’t like. What will those people start doing when Internet content can be blocked via a mandatory censorship scheme?
It’s difficult not to assume that the timing of last week’s Internet censorship announcement was deliberate: who’s going to notice in the run-up to Christmas? But that’s no reason to ignore the issue.
It’s clear Lifehacker readers think the plan to make Internet censorship mandatory in Australia in 2010 is a deeply stupid idea. While there may be ways of working around the filter, not having the filter would clearly be a better idea. How can you effectively make your views known?
We won’t see mandatory Internet filtering until mid-2010, but even without the details still being worked out, it’s clear that anyone with a modicum of technical know-how will be able to bypass it.
Now that Optus has joined the government’s controversial mandatory Web filtering trial , a lot more people are potentially going to be included than with the original list of small ISPs. But with Optus offering an opt-out option, the question arises: should you say yes or no if you get asked to participate?
Many of us find the prospect of mandatory Internet censorship worrying, but we often ignore the fact that there’s already a system in place that allows content to be effectively removed from Australian sites. Over at APC, I’ve written up an explanation of how ACMA uses “link deletion notices” to stop links to content it has deemed objectionable. The legislation isn’t just a hollow threat, as it was recently used to remove a link on respected broadband site Whirlpool. Of course, with broader-based censorship (as favoured by the government) this process would become more widespread, and the list of content deemed “prohibited” much longer. Photo from Wikimedia Commons BLACKLIST: Government cracks down on Whirlpool.net.au [APC]
One of the key elements of controversial plans to filter Australian Internet access is the use of a “blacklist” maintained by the Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA) to identify banned sites. While the list is supposed to be secret (since the content of the sites it lists is purportedly illegal), ACMA doesn’t seem to be going to particularly strong efforts to protect it, as Fran Foo points out in a report for AustralianIT. On the one hand, this is a kind of reassuring reminder that most attempts at censorship fail. On the other hand, the apparent willingness to embrace inconsistency isn’t a very promising sign for how policies might be applied if a full-scale filter is introduced.Row over web blacklist [AustralianIT]
The long-discussed testing of ISP-level Internet filtering, with six companies taking part: Primus Telecommunications, Tech 2U, Webshield, OMNIconnect, Netforce and Highway 1. Primus is the largest of those, and the absence of top-tier ISPs (like Telstra, Optus or iiNet) has attracted much comment. A test involving smaller ISPs might not be very conclusive, but look on the bright side: it could go so badly that the plan gets abandoned altogether. We can only hope. Meanwhile, If you are using one of the participating ISPs and have opted in for testing, share your experience in the comments.