I have previously blogged about the The Great Australian Firewall, which is currently in its testing phase for manadatory internet filtering under the direction and control of the Australian Government (specifically ACMA). In the past few days, things have taken an alarming turn for the worse. I’m going to be slightly vague on some details for my own protection, as I don’t want to risk being the recepient a $11,000 fine and criminal record thanks to the AFP. So I’m only going to point towards public news sources that are reporting the details about this.
The Government, in its new initiative to become the world’s leading Nanny State, has decided that it is their right and duty to tell us what we can and cannot think, say and see on the Internet and other media. And remember kids, these people mostly live in Canberra, the most boring city in the world. Need I say more?
What has happened recently? (Historically? See here). Well ..
- Bulletproof Networks hosts the very popular Internet forum, whirlpool.net.au. ACMA don’t like Whirlpool, particularly as a lot of discussion about Australian ISPs performance and their views on Internet Censorship, happens on there. A user posted a link to an anti-abortion website which apparently is on ACMAs blacklist. Bulletproof was immediately issued with a takedown notice and a threat of being fined $11,000 per day. Out of the blue of course, because ACMA’s blacklist is kept secret. More information reported in The Australian newspaper
- Somewhere on the Internet, somebody has posted Denmark’s blacklist. Someone else submitted a link to ACMA aiming to highlight the futility of maintaining a secret blacklist. ACMA responded by blocking access to that website, and their press release about it. US Tech Blog Wired takes up the story.
- Someone claims to have located a copy of the ACMA Blacklist. It has been reported by the Sydney Morning Herald that the blacklist has been posted on the Internet. It is found to contain perfectly legal websites, such as a that of a dentist, a tour operator, a YouTube profile and a MySpace page. Senator Conroy quickly issued a press release denying its the blacklist and threatens:
“ACMA is investigating this matter and is considering a range of possible actions it may take including referral to the Australian Federal Police. Any Australian involved in making this content publicly available would be at serious risk of criminal prosecution.”
- Coincedentally, whistleblower website, WikiLeaks, has been inaccessible from a number of Australian locations today. Not one to draw conclusions, but they are quoted in The Australian:
While Wikileaks is used to exposing secret government censorship in developing countries, we now find Australia acting like a democratic backwater. History shows that secret censorship systems, whatever their original intent, are invariably corrupted into anti-democratic behavior
- Finally, respected organisation for press freedom Reporters sans frontières, has put South Korea and Australia on its “Under Surveillence” list in its 2009 Internet Enemies report, due to their recent measures that endanger online free expression. Australia now joins states like Zimbabwe, Sri Lanka and Yemen in holding that dubious honour.
Chief Censor Sentator Conroy has aleady admitted his fitering scheme will be used to block legal material as well as illegal material (you know, the kind of stuff you can buy on the top shelves of newsagents – except if you live near a mining site, then its right by the cash register instead). The initial law was strictly to block illegal material such as Child Pr0n* and material that incites terrorism and other evil stuff like that. However now the somebody-please-think-of-the-children thought police have got their way and this has been expanded to “inappropriate” sites … legal gambing sites for example, like BetFair.com, are apparently on the blacklist. Of course, it would not suprise me if the Aussie equivelent of the RIAA, the ARIA, and the MPAA are fevereshly lobbying their cause, persuading Conroy to block peer-to-peer technologies in this filter, fresh on their success in New Zealand.
Unfortunately, the fact that the Nanny State forgets is that as soon as you make something illegal, all that happens is its driven underground. Techologies already exist that will bypass such censorship. Look at drug smuggling which is rife thoughout the world and mostly illegal. Even worse, they also make it more difficult for the authorites to locate and capture the bastards involved in activities such as terrorism and child pr0nography.
My previous position, that this funding should be diverted to the AFP and international legal authorities to track down, capture and castrate (no anasthetic) people involved in these dispicable acts and then lock them up for life, still stands.
Restricting debate and enforcing your views through legal means on others in a Nanny State solution only drives the problem further underground. More debate here, and here, and here … while we still can.