According to news.com.au, the Federal Government in Australia has extended its scope in the controversial Internet censorship scheme. The original intent of its censorship plan was to filter out offensive and illegal content such as child pornography and adult content but it is now considering to cover BitTorrent traffic as well.
This is not a “Net Nanny” style of service were users could opt out of censored content ; communications minister Senator Stephen Conroy has revealed that this censorship will be mandatory.
Many activist groups in the country have expressed their outrage over the censorship proposal. Colin Jacobs, an Electronic Frontiers Australia board member, said during an interview with news.com.au, “If the Government would actually come out and say we’re only targeting child pornography it would be a different debate."
Jerry Yang, the still CEO of Yahoo welcomes this legislation and praised the new code of conduct as “a valuable roadmap for companies like Yahoo operating in markets where freedom of expression and privacy are unfairly restricted.”
Australia has already been criticized for their harsh National Classification Scheme (NCS), where books, films, games and publications are often denied to be sold in the country. The latest example was Grand Theft Auto IV, where the country received a re-edited version of the game. How is the Australian censorship scheme different from countries such as China ? According to Conroy, the difference is that Australian government will not be blocking “political” content. He claims that the scheme will follow the existing methods adopted by the NCS but will simply be applied to internationally hosted content.
In democratic societies, freedom of speech is the corner stone of basic human rights. What the Australian Government is planning to do is a very slippery slope indeed. Senator Conroy has been posting on the Digital Economy Future Directions blog, launched earlier this year by the government to encourage public feedback.
As of press time, there are 130 comments on the Senator’s post with his plans for traffic filtering. A live trial of the filtering technology is scheduled to start sometime this week but news.com.au has been in contact with local ISPs and they are all clueless as to when it will actually occur or if their filtering proposals have been accepted.