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[liberationtech] The coming internet censorship regime in Australia

Jeremy Yuille overlobe at
Thu Mar 25 02:04:36 PDT 2010

Thanks for posting that Terry, hi all,
I'm a lurker here - came on when the list was opened up via an invite to the
anthro-design list (i think)

As an Australian, the *really* worrying thing about this censorship filter
is not that its happening, of course there'll always be ways to get around
The worrying thing for me is the way the debate has been very polarised,
very quickly.

As I'm sure a lot of you are familiar with, the filter has been positioned
as a saviour of family values, something that protects kids at home from all
that nasty stuff out there in the aether etc etc. It is great to see
organisations that carry a lot of memetic weight (like YHOO, MSFT and GOOG)
come out with some sanity in these submissions, but a lot of this doesn't
filter (sorry) down to the everyday, where ministers of communication have
an uncanny knack of mentioning opposition to this filter in the same
sentence as paedophilia.

Of course it's nothing like the situation in other countries, but am I the
only one who thinks it's weird that a government puts billions into a
National Broadband Network, and whacks a filter on the country at the same


Jeremy Yuille

Senior Lecturer, RMIT University

Interaction Design Researcher, ACID

+61 409 870 616

On Thu, Mar 25, 2010 at 4:43 AM, Terry Winograd <winograd at>wrote:

> Australia's biggest technology companies, communications academics and
> many lobby groups have delivered a withering critique of the
> government's plans to censor the internet.
> The government today published most of the 174 submissions it received
> relating to improving the transparency and accountability measures of
> its internet filtering policy.
> Legislation to force ISPs to implement the policy is expected to be
> introduced within weeks. The filters will block a blacklist of "refused
> classification" websites for all Australians on a mandatory basis.
> Most of the submissions called for full transparency surrounding the
> operation of the list and for all sites placed on the list by
> bureaucrats at the Australian Communications and Media Authority first
> to be examined by the Classification Board.
> They supported a regular review of the list by an independent expert and
> the ability for blacklisted sites to appeal.
> But many reiterated their concerns that the policy is fundamentally
> unsound and would do little to make the internet a safer place for
> children. Many said the scope of blocked content was too broad and would
> render legitimate sites inaccessible, while the process of adding sites
> to the blacklist could be subject to abuse by bureaucrats and
> politicians.
> Google, which today officially stopped censoring search results in
> China, said it had held discussions with users and parents around
> Australia and "the strong view from parents was that the government's
> proposal goes too far and would take away their freedom of choice around
> what information they and their children can access".
> Google also said implementing mandatory filtering across Australia's
> millions of internet users could "negatively impact user access speeds",
> while filtering material from high-volume sites such as Wikipedia,
> YouTube, Facebook and Twitter "appears not to be technologically
> possible as it would have such a serious impact on internet access".
> "We have a number of other concerns, including that filtering may give a
> false sense of security to parents, it could damage Australia's
> international reputation and it can be easily circumvented," Google
> wrote.
> The search giant said it was preferable instead to focus on improving
> education around cyber safety and providing tools that people could
> install on their home computers to block unwanted content.
> Many of Google's concerns are mirrored by many of the other submissions
> by academics, technology companies, industry groups, lobby groups and
> ISPs.
> Microsoft demanded protection against "arbitrary executive decision
> making" surrounding content added to the list and noted the potential
> for banned material to be loaded on to a site without the sanction of
> the owner of that site.
> Yahoo and Google's submissions, along with many others, expressed
> concerns that the scope of content to be filtered was too broad.
> "Yahoo are entirely supportive of any effort to make the internet a
> safer place for children, however mandatory filtering of all RC material
> could block content with a strong social, political and/or educational
> value," Yahoo's submission read.
> It listed some examples of innocuous sites that could be blocked
> including:
> - Safe injecting and other harm minimisation websites.
> - Euthanasia discussion forums.
> - A video on creating graffiti art.
> - Anti-abortion websites.
> - Gay and lesbian forums that discuss sexual experiences.
> - Explorations of the geo-political causes of terrorism where specific
> terrorist organisations and propaganda are cited as reference material.
> Yahoo also pointed to a recent paper that provided "several examples
> where knee jerk regulatory reactions to 'controversial' content have
> been entirely out of step with broader public opinion".
> The Australian Federation of AIDS Organisations fears sites that are
> valuable to sexual health promotion might be placed on the blacklist.
> "Social research has shown that information, 'chat' and even
> pornographic sites play an important role in providing information about
> sexuality and sexual health, particularly for men who have sex with men
> and same-sex attracted young people," it wrote.
> Mark McLelland, an associate professor in the sociology program at the
> University of Wollongong, said the filters could block access to an
> entire genre of niche but popular Japanese animated fiction.
> Even the Australian Christian Lobby, one of the biggest supporters of
> the internet filtering plan, said inadvertently adding innocuous content
> to the blacklist would "undermine the entire policy".
> Telstra fears the blacklist of banned sites could be leaked - as has
> already occurred last year - and "could be used as a directory of
> harmful content, which would therefore become more easily available to
> users that are able to circumvent the ISP filter or who are located
> overseas".
> Colin Jacobs, spokesman for online users' lobby group Electronic
> Frontiers Australia, said it was clear from the submissions that the
> vast majority have a difficult time stomaching the filter at all.
> "Many of the submissions stated flat out that the filter was not
> needed," he said.
> "Most of the rest held their noses and tried to come up with a way this
> inherently secret process could be made more transparent."
> Douglas Schuler
> douglas at
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> Public Sphere Project
> Liberating Voices!  A Pattern Language for Communication Revolution
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