Australia: First Western Nation to censor the Internet?

Do you remember the opt-out internet censorship that the government promised during the last election?  The one that was meant to protect all Australians from the horrors of the intertubes?  Well, it turns out that contrary to what the Labor Party assured Australians during the election, you can’t actually opt out of it.

Australians will be unable to opt-out of the government’s pending Internet content filtering scheme, and will instead be placed on a watered-down blacklist, experts say.

Under the government’s $125.8 million Plan for Cyber-Safety, users can switch between two blacklists which block content inappropriate for children, and a separate list which blocks illegal material.

Pundits say consumers have been lulled into believing the opt-out proviso would remove content filtering altogether.

As the Inquirer points out, Australia may well become the first Western nation to attempt to censor the internet.

Of course, the issue isn’t whether there is material on the internet that is inappropriate for children (obviously, there is) but whether we want the state to control what we can and cannot read.  This responsibility would better rest with parents and with internet users themselves: there are already many free and commercial filtering products available that will do essentially what the government is spending $125.8 million to do on our behalf.  Not being able to opt out of the scheme is cause for concern; as is the apparent absence of any objective criteria by which the state will decide what is and what is not safe for Australian eyes to read or view.

And, as government report [pdf] on the effects of the filtering schemes shows, there are also likely to be performance implications.  Or, as the Inquirier put it, “Internet Service Providers have warned that the glorious filter will slow Australian internet speeds down to that of a three-legged dingo dragging a baby up Ayers’ Rock.”

Read more about it here.