By Richard Phillips
World Socialist Web Site
14 January 2008
Under the guise of “protecting children” from pornography and X-rated violence, the Australian Labor government has announced that it will attempt to censor local internet access. Labor’s plans, which were mooted by Minister for Communications Stephen Conroy on December 31, constitute a direct attack on freedom of expression.
While the government has not yet provided exact details, Conroy told the media that it would censor online child pornography and other “inappropriate material” by compelling local Internet Service Providers (ISPs) to block websites listed by the Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA). The blacklist would be updated by the government regulatory body in consultation with the Australian Federal Police, and international agencies such as Interpol and the FBI.
“Labor makes no apologies to those that argue that any regulation of the Internet is like going down the Chinese road,” Conroy told the media.
“If people equate freedom of speech with watching child pornography, then the Rudd-Labor Government is going to disagree,” he insisted, implying that anyone opposing these measures was aiding child pornographers.
When Labor’s Internet censorship policies were announced just prior to the recent federal election some commentators suggested that the filtering system might not be compulsory—i.e., that individual users would have to notify their provider if they wanted to have their content blocked.
Conroy made clear on December 31, however, that this would not be the case and that the system would be mandatory. Those who don’t want their content filtered will have to inform their provider. This means that people choosing to “opt out” will be noted, and could face ongoing government scrutiny of their Internet use.
Notwithstanding Conroy’s denial that the government was “going down the China road”, Labor’s proposals are strikingly similar to those used in that country, as well as in Iran, Singapore, North Korea and Burma, which prevent open access to the Internet.