The Australian government is set to
impose Chinese-style Internet censorship by enforcing a universal national
filter that will block websites deemed "controversial," as
part of a wider agenda to regulate the Internet according to free speech
A provision whereby Internet users could
opt out of the filter by contacting their ISP has been stripped from
the legislation, meaning the filter will be universal and mandatory.
The System Administrators Guild of Australia
and Electronic Frontiers Australia have attacked the proposal, saying
it will restrict web access, raise prices and slow internet traffic
The plan was first created as a way
to combat child pornography and adult content, but could be extended
to include controversial websites on euthanasia or anorexia,"
reports the Australian
Communications minister Stephen Conroy revealed
the mandatory censorship to the Senate estimates committee as the
Global Network Initiative, bringing together leading companies, human
rights organisations, academics and investors, committed the technology
firms to "protect the freedom of expression and privacy rights
of their users". (Complete black is white, up is down, double
Human Rights Watch has condemned internet censorship,
and argued to the US Senate "there is a real danger of a Virtual
Curtain dividing the internet, much as the Iron Curtain did during
the Cold War, because some governments fear the potential of the internet,
(and) want to control it."
Speaking from personal experience, not
only are "controversial" websites blocked in China, meaning
any website that is critical of the state, but every website the user
attempts to visit first has to pass through the "great firewall,"
causing the browser to hang and delay while it is checked against a
This causes excruciating delays, and
the user experience is akin to being on a bad dial-up connection in
the mid 1990's. Even in the center of Shanghai with a fixed ethernet
connection, the user experience is barely tolerable.
Not only are websites in China blocked,
but e mails too are scanned for "controversial" words and
blocked from being sent if they contain phrases related to politics
Googling for information on certain
topics is also heavily restricted. While in China I tried to google
"Bush Taiwan," which resulted in Google.com ceasing to be
accessible and my Internet connection was immediately terminated thereafter.
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The Australian government will no doubt
insist that their filter is in our best interests and is only designed
to block child pornography, snuff films and other horrors, yet the system
is completely pointless because it will not affect file sharing networks,
which is the medium through which the vast majority of such material
If we allow Australia to become the
first "free" nation to impose Internet censorship, the snowball
effect will only accelerate - the U.S. and the UK are next.
In April 2007, Time
magazine reported that researchers funded by the federal government
want to shut down the internet and start over, citing the fact that
at the moment there are loopholes in the system whereby users cannot
be tracked and traced all the time. The projects echo moves we have
previously reported on to clamp down on internet neutrality and even
to designate a new form of the internet known as Internet 2.
Moves to regulate the web have increased
over the last two years.
In December 2006, Republican Senator John
McCain tabled a proposal to introduce legislation that would fine
blogs up to $300,000 for offensive statements, photos and videos posted
by visitors on comment boards. It is well known that McCain
has a distaste for his blogosphere critics, causing a definite
conflict of interest where any proposal to restrict blogs on his part
During an appearance with his wife Barbara
on Fox News in November 2006, George
Bush senior slammed Internet bloggers for creating an "adversarial
and ugly climate."
The White House's own de-classified
strategy for "winning the war on terror" targets Internet
conspiracy theories as a recruiting ground for terrorists and threatens
to "diminish" their influence.
In an October 2006 speech, Homeland Security
Chertoff identified the web as a "terror training camp,"
through which "disaffected people living in the United States"
are developing "radical ideologies and potentially violent
skills." His solution is "intelligence fusion centers,"
staffed by Homeland Security personnel which will are already in
The U.S. Government wants
to force bloggers and online grassroots activists to register
and regularly report their activities to Congress. Criminal charges
including a possible jail term of up to one year could be the punishment
A landmark November 2006 legal case on behalf
of the Recording Industry Association of America and other global
trade organizations sought to criminalize
all Internet file sharing of any kind as copyright infringement,
effectively shutting down the world wide web - and their argument
was supported by the U.S. government.
A landmark legal ruling in Sydney goes further
than ever before in setting the trap door for the destruction of
the Internet as we know it and the end of alternative news websites
and blogs by creating the precedent that simply linking
to other websites is breach of copyright and piracy.
The European Union, led by former Stalinist
John Reid, has also
vowed to shut down "terrorists" who use the Internet
to spread propaganda.
The EU data retention bill, passed after much
controversy and implemented in 2007, obliges telephone operators
and internet service providers to store information on who called
who and who emailed who for at least six months. Under this law,
investigators in any EU country, and most
bizarrely even in the US, can access EU citizens' data on phone
calls, sms', emails and instant messaging services.
The US government is also funding research into
social networking sites and how to gather and store personal data
published on them, according to the New
Scientist magazine. "At the same time, US lawmakers are attempting
to force the social networking sites themselves to control the amount
and kind of information that people, particularly children, can put
on the sites."
Governments are furious that their ceaseless
lies are being exposed in real time on the World Wide Web and have resolved
to stifle, regulate and control what truly is the last outpost of real
free speech in the world. Internet censorship is perhaps the most pertinent
issue that freedom advocates should rally to combat over the course
of the next few years, lest we allow a cyber-gag to be placed over our
mouths and say goodbye to our last medium of free and open communication.