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Australia charges ahead with internet censorship

Australia is set to become one of toughest internet regulators in
the world as it moves ahead with a plan to block “offensive” websites.

to be introduced in 2010 will require internet service providers to
block “refused classification” content hosted on overseas servers. A press release touting the plan is titled “Measures to improve safety of the internet for families."

The internet filter is raising the question of who gets to decide exactly what is “offensive."

According to Australia’s classification laws, websites may be given a
"refused classification” rating if they are found to be offensive to
"reasonable adults.” Critics say the filter will mistakenly target legal as well as illegal sites.

An early version of Australia’s internet blacklist leaked in March. It contained “online poker sites, YouTube links,
regular gay and straight porn sites, Wikipedia entries, euthanasia
sites, websites of fringe religions such as satanic sites, fetish
sites, Christian sites, the website of a tour operator and even a
Queensland dentist.”

Electronic Frontiers Australia is leading an online action campaign against the proposed internet censorship. Check out NoCleanFeed.com for more info.

EFA notes a number of concerns with the censorship proposal:

  • Only illegal material published on websites could be targeted,
    completely missing other methods of distribution such as BitTorrent.
  • Any
    determined user – including children – could bypass the filter quickly
    using an anonymizer service, open proxy or VPN connection.
  • How
    far will the list go, now and in future? Will it filter out material on
    sexual health, drug use, terrorism… even breastfeeding? Euthanasia
    and anorexia have been touted by Government MPs as topics worthy of

"Even if it worked the filter would be terrible policy,” says EFA. “By censoring the
entire country’s internet access down to the level of a child of
indeterminate age, it robs Australian adults of ability to make their
own decisions about what content they view."

There have also been reports that the Conroy held meetings with the Australian Christian Lobby to discuss the internet filter.   

Sound familiar? This year, Canada’s Conservative government has introduced three bills that would increase police surveillance of internet use. 

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