'Draconian' net censorship proposals attacked

Issue 

Anti-censorship group Electronic Frontiers Australia has attacked federal government plans to censor the internet as ignorant and draconian.

"The proposal by the government sets the debate on internet censorship back three years", said EFA chair Kim Heitman. "The government is ignoring the expert advice of internet industry associations and user groups, computer professionals and even government departments."

The government proposals will make material that is legal offline illegal on the internet. The proposals include:

  • a ban on "X-rated" material on-line;

  • a requirement for internet service providers (ISPs) to block access to X-rated material from overseas;

  • a requirement that all "R-rated" content be protected by "adult verification mechanisms".

The government claims, "This regime is consistent with the content regulation regime for subscription narrowcast services such as adult pay TV services", ignoring the fact that the net is nothing like pay TV.

"There needs to be open public discussion of detailed proposals, not rushed implementation of legislation", Heitman said. "Only a few per cent of net content is located in Australia. Almost all the material being targeted by the government is legal in the United States. So the material our government is trying to ban or restrict access to will remain available from overseas.

"Suggestions that service providers should 'block access to such material hosted overseas' are totally impractical. They were rejected in a recent CSIRO report commissioned by federal communications minister Richard Alston's own office."

Attempts elsewhere to control external content with "black lists" and forced use of proxies are acknowledged as failures. China, Singapore and some Islamic states are among the few countries that still persist with them. Even Malaysia has announced that it has abandoned attempts to censor the net.

"Access by users to information on line is private communication. It is not just 'unreasonable' for ISPs to interfere with the content involved — it is a totally unacceptable invasion of users' personal privacy", concluded Heitman.

For more information about the government's censorship moves, visit EFA's web site at <http://www.efa.org.au/>. EFA has an on-line petition against Canberra's proposals at <http://www.efa.org.au/Campaigns/petition.html>. Protest messages can be e-mailed direct to <richard.alston@dcita.gov.au> and copies sent to the federal opposition at <senator.schacht@aph.gov.au>.