Australia on internet watchlist with Iran, North Korea
Socialism is all about total control:
A top media rights watchdog has listed Australia along with Iran and North Korea in a report on countries that pose a threat of internet censorship.
Paris-based media rights group Reporters Without Borders on Thursday put Australia and South Korea on its list of countries “under surveillance” in its “Internet Enemies” report.
But its not all bad news:
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The ‘dirty’ excuses:
Australia was listed for the government’s plan to block access to websites featuring material such as rape, drug use, bestiality and child sex abuse.
Critics say the plan is a misguided measure that will harm civil liberties by blocking a broader range of content than just nasty material.
Communications Minister Stephen Conroy has said heÂ plans to introduce legislation by the end of next week that would require ISPs to block a blacklist of “refused classification” websites for all Australians.
It is not clear if the government will meet this deadline; a spokeswoman for Conroy said the legislation would be introduced “after it has been considered by caucus and cabinet”.
Today’s inclusion on “Internet Enemies” follows the naming of Conroy as the “internet villain of the year” last July at the Internet Service Providers’ Association annual awards in London.
The latest report was seized on by Peter Coroneos, the managing director of the Internet Industry Association, who said it showed the international reception to the proposed internet filter.
“This regrettably puts Australia on notice that, despite the Rudd government’s best intentions, any mandatory filtering policy is likely to be perceived internationally in ways that will not benefit our reputation as a free and open society,” he said.
“It will likely be used by less open societies as a vindication of their internet censorship regimes, despite any domestic attempts to draw distinctions. Mandatory filtering is mandatory filtering by whatever colour it is painted.”
Conroy’s spokeswoman defended the internet filtering policy, saying RC content is already prohibited in physical media distributed offline.
“Under Australia’s existing Classification regulations this material is not available in newsagencies, it is not on library shelves, you cannot watch it on a DVD or at the cinema and it is not shown on television,” she said.
Whether the internet filtering scheme gets up will most likely depend on the position of the Liberal Party, as the Greens have already pledged to oppose the legislation.
The opposition has yet to come to a final position on the matter but in aÂ speech to the Grattan Institute last night shadow treasurer Joe Hockey said the policy was “likely to be unworkable in practice”. He expressed concerns that the scope of blocked sites could expand in future and said it was up to parents, not governments, to regulate their children’s internet use.
A spokeswoman for Hockey said today that the shadow treasurer’s comments should not be interpreted as confirmation that the opposition would oppose the filtering legislation, as a decision had not yet been made.
In South Korea, the RSF report added, “draconian laws are creating too many specific restrictions on web users by challenging their anonymity and promoting self-censorship”.
“These countries are worrying us because they have measures that could have repercussions for freedom of expression on the internet,” RSF secretary general Jean-Francois Julliard said at an internet rights award ceremony on Thursday.
Russia and Turkey were also added to the watchlist, which is a category below RSF’s top “Enemies of the internet”, the countries it considers the 12 worst web freedom violators.
These include Saudi Arabia, Burma, China, North Korea, Iran and Vietnam.
“The world’s largest netizen prison is in China, which is far ahead of other countries with 72 detainees, followed by Vietnam and then by Iran, which have all launched waves of brutal attacks on websites in recent months,” RSF’s report said.
A senior manager of US internet giant Google, David Drummond, said there was an “alarming trend” of government interference in online freedom, not only in countries that are judged to have poor human rights records.
He cited Australia’s plans as an example, saying that there “the wide scope of content prohibited could include socially and politically controversial material”.
The Australian case “is an example of where these benign intentions can result in the spectre of true censorship”, he added, speaking at Thursday’s ceremony.
“Here in Europe, even in France, at this very moment, some are tempted by this slippery path of network filtering.”
Last month, after ConroyÂ called on YouTube to censor videos in accordance with his filtering scheme, the search giant’s head of policy in Australia, Iarla Flynn, said: “The scope of RC is simply too broad and can raise genuine questions about restrictions on access to information. RC includes the grey realms of material instructing in any crime from [painting] graffiti to politically controversial crimes such as euthanasia, and exposing these topics to public debate is vital for democracy.”