Australian Gov't Approves Internet Censorship Plan

Dennis Faas's picture

Australia's federal government has announced that it is proceeding with controversial plans to censor the Internet after government-commissioned trials found that using a blacklist of banned sites was accurate and would not slow down web use.

Critics, including Google, Electronic Frontiers Australia and Greens communications argue that the censorship policy is fundamentally flawed and the trial results are not surprising.

Stephen Conroy, Australia's Communications Minister, will introduce legislation just before next year's elections designed to force ISPs to block a blacklist of refused classification, or "RC" websites for all Australians using the Internet.

What will be Blocked?

The blacklist would be comprised of material that includes illicit child photos, violence and other criminal activity and would be compiled using complaints from the public, government censors and URLs that are provided internationally.

It's unknown what specifically would be blocked and who decides the fate of web sites. What is known is that such blocking will not reduce performance: results of ISP-level Internet studies found that blocking banned material "can be done with 100 percent accuracy and negligible impact on Internet speed." (Source:

Top-Secret List Reveals Extensive Filtering

How, or if, ISP filters will distinguish between illegal 'refused classification' material and material that is perfectly legal to view is not yet clear. The government's top-secret list of banned sites leaked on the Internet in March revealed that filtering extended beyond illicit images of children.

Instead, almost half of the sites on the government's top-secret list had nothing to do with this kind of content. Many of the links included online poker sites, YouTube links, regular adult sites, Wikipedia entries, euthanasia sites, fanatical religious sites, a tour operator's website and the website of a Queensland dentist.

Improving Accountability and Transparency

Conroy noted that the government would partake in public consultations and released a discussion paper on additional measures allegedly aimed at improving the accountability and transparency processes that result in sites being blacklisted.

Appeal mechanisms, notification to website owners of RC content, and review by an independent expert are some of the options being considered.

Google notes that Germany and Italy have mandatory, limited-scope ISP filtering in place, but Australia's proposed censorship would combine a mandatory framework and a wide scope of content.

Google Against Mandatory ISP Filtering Regime

Google is concerned about Australia's plans to introduce mandatory filtering for ISPs in Australia, primarily that the scope of content to be filtered is too wide and Google believes that moving to a mandatory ISP filtering regime with a scope that goes well beyond child abuse material is heavy handed and can raise genuine questions about restrictions on access to information. (Source:

RC is a broad category of content that includes socially and politically controversial material in addition to child abuse material. Because of the broad content, Google believes that the government should not have the right to block information that can inform debate on controversial issues. The openness of the Internet makes public debate more possible and should be protected, it says.

Visit Bill's Links and More for more great tips, just like this one!

Rate this article: 
No votes yet