Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Australia's draconian approach to the internet

Politicians in Australia are seemingly obsessed with the "internet is evil" vision of censorship. John Howard forced taxpayers to pay for all families to have filtering software at home, but for the Rudd regime it isn't good enough.

The model for Australia? China, Singapore or the UAE. Yes none exactly known for free speech and openness. The great firewall of Australia is purportedly designed to block child pornography, which of course means anyone opposing it must be suspect.

Now child pornography doesn't sit around on websites for very long, because its very nature being illegal means that websites are set up and shut down regularly. Indeed, most prosecutions for it are by people swapping personal collections via instant messaging and peer to peer networks. Not exactly a means by which a website firewall can interfere with. In fact the one point that most of those concerned about illicit material ignores is that the internet also makes it easier to track down those who produce it and distribute it.

Now there are reports that the trial firewall is blocking legal material. The majority blocked is NOT child pornography. So it is the typical sledgehammer to crack a nut.

The simple rule that should apply to the internet and all content is that the law should be involved when the material distributed is a recording of an actual crime - that means children, that means real rape and real violence. It means the recording is an accessory to the crime, not the desire to engage in wide scale social planning.

Of course the authorities and certainly politicians have no response to the fact that increasing numbers of cases are now appearing of teenagers facing legal action because they are taking photos of themselves, which happen to be illegal. The image remains of a big bad world of adults, and a world of innocence of those under 18. The truth is there is a lot going on in between all that which parents don't know about, which politicians don't want to utter and youth culture. Sexuality is changing, the genie is well and truly out of the bottle, and people's heads are in the sand.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Quite right (no pun intended). The internet has been the whipping boy for paranoid politicians and so called concerned citizens from the day it came into existance. Are we being swamped by a flood of kiddy porn? The criminal conviction rate would suggest not. I have surfed the net since 2002 without filters and have yet to stumble across a CP site. Perhaps it's a generation thing. Eventually governments will consist entirely of people who never knew a world without the net. Then we might see a little less of this kind of paranoia. Ian