Australia's Internet Freedom Debated

Published Wednesday, March 18, 2009 -

The Australian Communication and Media Authority released a report recently called 'Australia in the Digital Economy: Trust and Confidence'. The report, observes that many people with home internet connections are employing minimal security practices. In addition the report makes clear that self-reported information technology literacy is not a strong indication that Australian internet users will engage in practices to reduce online risks. The report's main policy conclusion is renewed emphasis on end user education.

Greens communications spokesman Senator Scott Ludlam said, "This report demolished the Communications Minister's contention that Australia is just following other comparable democracies,"
Last week, Reporters Without Borders, in its report on enemies of internet freedom, placed Australia on its "watch list" of countries imposing anti-democratic internet restrictions that could open the way for abuses of power and control of information. The main issue being the Government's proposed internet censorship regime.

After considerable debate on the subject of filtering internet content the Australian Government looks like its is still caught between a rock and a hard place. The expansion of a black list of prohibited sites to a possible 10,000 from the current 1370 has been proposed. The Australian Communications and Media Authority threatened the host of online broadband discussion forum Whirlpool last week with a $11,000 per day fine over a link published in its forum to another page blacklisted by the Australian Communication and Media Authority.

Online civil liberties campaigners have jumped all over this with concerns that the scope of the Government's censorship plan could easily be expanded to encompass sites that are not illegal.
The Communications Minister, Stephen Conroy, has repeatedly claimed his proposed mandatory filters would target only "illegal" content.

Electronic Frontiers Australia said the Government's "spin is starting to wear thin" and that the ACMA blacklist targets a huge range of material that is legal and even uncontroversial.
Nick Xenophon the Independent Senator wanted online gambling sites added to the blacklist. He has since withdrawn his support for the scheme, saying it was dangerous and could be "counter-productive".

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