Australian Online Freedoms Challenged

Published Monday, May 04, 2009 -

Senator Stephen Conroy has been quoted as saying, "The Rudd Government has an election commitment to ensure all Australian families can utilise ISP filters that block prohibited content as identified by the Australian Communications and Media Authority. Families should also be able to access filters that can be customised to block more material if they choose."

"The internet is a fantastic tool that enables access to a wealth of information and other benefits. The Rudd Government wants to ensure the benefits of the internet are made available to all Australians. That said, the Government also wants to find ways to make a safer online environment, particularly for children, and is investigating the use of filters to block access to illegal content."

"The Australian Government has allocated $128.5 million for a comprehensive cyber-safety program that focuses on education, research, ISP filtering and law enforcement."

Australians are now asking their government, "Is it the role of government to prevent breaches of the law by removing the means?" and in the absence of a definition as to what will be deemed "unwanted" the public is concerned. The system that Senator Conroy wants is a mandatory filter of all internet traffic, with the government of the day able to add any unwanted site to a secret blacklist. The people of Australia say their government should be concentrating on solutions that are more effective and won't undermine their digital economy or democratic freedoms.

Senator Conroy was asked about the issue and responded, "This is not an argument about free speech. As I have already said, we have laws about the sort of material that is acceptable across all mediums and the internet is no different. Currently, some material is banned and we are simply seeking to use technology to ensure those bans are working."

Australians will be relying on the Opposition to block the legislation in the Senate. It is hoped that there will be enough public outcry on the censorship issue to stir a much needed reality check for the Rudd government.

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