Australia joins China in censoring the internet?

Techcrunch has a scathing report on the Australian government’s new plan to filter the internet in this country:

The Australian Government has announced that they will be joining China as one of the few countries globally that broadly censor the internet.

As recently as the week prior to the election, Labor Party candidates were telling those concerned about the proposed law that the censorship wouldn’t be compulsory, and that the “clean feed” would be opt-in, not opt-out. Today’s announcement by Telecommunications Minister Stephen Conroy states that the censorship regime will be mandatory, although people will be able to opt-out of it. The problem of course then becomes if you opt-out questions will be asked as to why you want out, which in itself may lead to Government monitoring.

There are a myriad of other reasons to oppose this. Not least of all is that forcing internet service providers to install this sort of filtering is going to increase the already high cost of broadband in this country. Furthermore, the government is already reported to be saying that the filter will extend beyond just pornography to include a broad class of website it considers “violent”. This definition will likely include ‘extremist websites’ or websites perceived by the state to be advocating violence or terrorism. However, once the technology is in place, the government will be able to exercise considerable control over what sorts of ideas and content Australians can access.