March 23rd, 2006


A call to arms

It looks like Australia may soon have a censored Internet, with adult content blocked from anyone who hasn't signed a "perverts' register".

This policy has been pushed by religious-Right groups such as Family First for a while, but dismissed by the major parties as unreasonable. Until a few days ago, when the Labor party adopted it as a policy, seemingly to outflank the Tories and court the wowser vote. Of course, Labor is unlikely to get anywhere near power in the next few elections, but this has emboldened the right-wing moralists on the Tories' backbenches, and now the Federal Communications Minister has announced that the government will look into implementing the scheme.

Any such scheme would block all adult content to anyone not on a list of people who have applied to access it. This includes not only pornography but also things like news sites, blogs and online communities that touch on adult themes. Given that blogs like Boing Boing are blocked in many countries for being insufficiently squeaky-clean, that is the sort of content that may be blocked. Once the infrastructure is in place, it is likely that it will be used to block access to some materials to everyone, even those who have signed the perverts' register. Given the government's culture of secrecy when dealing in lists of banned websites in the past, and its censorious behaviour (such as recently having a parody of the Prime Minister's web site taken down, allegedly for "phishing"), chances are that a lot of things the government deems "unsuitable for Australians" will be blocked. Additionally, the scheme will further slow down Australians' internet connections, which already lag behind the rest of the developed world.

The wowsers and religious rightists who are pushing for this scheme are well organised, and look set to get it, unless those who oppose such censorship stand up and make themselves heard. Now is the time to do so. Write to your MP, letting them know that you oppose increased censorship. And consider joining groups like Electronic Frontiers Australia, who oppose such laws. If politicians don't see considerable opposition to such censorship, they will fall over themselves to bring it in and court the wowser vote.

I have just emailed my MP about this: Collapse )