Over the last couple of days, it has become evident that the US has been keeping an eye on the Internet filtering policies of the Australian Government. The US has a strong sense of “net neutrality” (i.e. there should be no discrimination against users, particular types of traffic, etc on the Internet) which is enforced by the FCC (which is akin to ACMA here in Australia). Furthermore, other major entities such as Google (which is in the midst of pulling out of China) are adding their concerns to the those that have already been aired.
In Australia, we have the Australian Government attempting to censor the Internet by blocking material that is would fall into the “Refused Classification” category. Putting aside the fact that attempting to classify all content on something as dynamic and fluid as the Internet would be very difficult to achieve, this is a form of attack on net neutrality. The worrying thing about this approach is that it creates a platform for wider censorship of the Internet, much akin to how China filters the Internet for its inhabitants as well as its print and television media.
How many of you are aware that international news channels broadcast in China fade to black when content that does not align with what the Chinese Government deems as being acceptable?
As crazy as it may seem, Internet filtering is the first step in this direction for our access to online content.
Now I don’t dispute that there is some questionable content out on the Internet. In terms of the way this content should be handled, I believe law enforcement units should be empowered to deal with individuals who access such content.
Of course, the proposed filter would be easy to circumvent by using something like a VPN (which I touched on in Unsecured WiFi – Protect Your Privacy) or forcing secure HTTP (or HTTPS) connections in your web browser.
Senator Conroy has been playing the child pornography card and illegal content distribution against his opponents but he would hardly be able to do so against the US Government. This puts Conroy in an interesting position when it comes to rebutting their comments.
So folks, when the next election rolls around, have a think about the effect your vote could have on access to the Internet for future generations and unfettered access to information. Consider exercising how you want your preferences allocated (personally, I provide specific preferences on my ballot papers) rather than what the parties want you to do with their “how to vote” cards or the default preferences of your selected candidate.