SYDNEY—Australian Broadband Minister Stephen Conroy Monday reiterated his commitment to the comprehensive filtering of objectionable content at the ISP level. His comments came as critics of the plan both within the country and without have escalated their call for the Rudd administration to reverse course.
According to a March 30 article on ZeroPaid.com, “Australia Broadband Minister Stephen Conroy first proposed an internet filtering regime as a voluntary effort to ‘protect children,’ but the plan quickly spiraled into an all out attempt by the Australian govt to make it mandatory for ISPs to filter the Internet of all ‘inappropriate content’ and ‘offensive and illegal material.’ It quickly deteriorated from an attempt to somehow safeguard children from things like child pornography to things like legal pornography, gambling, and even P2P traffic, making Australian citizens rightly upset.”
Video games have even been swept up in the scheme, as has the plan to prohibit “Adult R18+ and X18+ web sites, and those depicting drug use, crime, sex, cruelty, violence or ‘revolting and abhorrent phenomena’ that ‘offend against the standards of morality.’”
Even the U.S. State Department has expressed its displeasure with the plan, as did U.S. ambassador to Australia Jeff Bleich, who told a television audience Monday that the government’s goals can be met without resorting to censorship.
“We have been able to accomplish the goals that Australia has described, which is to capture and prosecute child pornographers ... without having to use internet filters," he told ABC's Q&A. “We have other means and we are willing to share our efforts with them ... it's an ongoing conversation.”
Despite such assurances, in a speech at the Sydney Institute taking place at about the same time, Conroy reasserted the government’s intention to follow through on its plan, describing it as a “modest measure” in light of the problem facing contemporary societies.
“For all its technical brilliance, the internet is a distribution and communications platform. Having no regulation to combat illegal activity actually weakens all that is good about the internet," he said. "This is a modest measure, which reflects long-held community standards about the type of content that is unacceptable in a civilized society."
The minister also made a bit of a red-herring argument, however, adding, “There are some who want to argue that on the internet, people should be able to publish anything they like—regardless of whether it contravenes laws in the off-line world.”
Considering the type of material currently on the Australian censors’ list, that sort of comment could also be viewed as disingenuous at best, and undemocratic at worst.
Thus, the World Censoship Olympics continue in earnest.