Tuesday, January 01, 2008

Conroy's Communication Collision

Federal Communications Minister, Stephen Conroy, has announced Federal Government plans to use ISP's for Internet content filtering. Senator Conroy has said it will be mandatory for ISPs to filter pornography and "inappropriate material" to houses and schools. He claims the scheme will protect children from pornography and violence.

He said he would not apologise to people who argued that Internet regulation was "like going down the Chinese road" (of heavily restricted, state-controlled filtering). Here, Senator Conroy is thumbing his nose at those who argue for 'freedom of speech'. No-one of fair mind would argue against protecting children, but governments, both Liberal and Labor, have a poor record on openness. Consider how the former Liberal Coalition government, and the current NSW Labor government used FOI laws to minimise accountability.

Senator Conroy went on to say, "If people equate freedom of speech with watching child pornography, then the Rudd-Labor Government is going to disagree." Here, he is simply disparaging anyone who argues against him, consigning all and sundry to the depravity of paedophiles. Mandatory filtering might be one of a number of appropriate methods of protection, but Senator Conroy is trying to stifle debate about them.

The OpenNet Initiative (ONI) gives its mission as:"to identify and document Internet filtering and surveillance, and to promote and inform wider public dialogue about such practices."
This is what they said about Australia, BEFORE the current government's announcement:
"Australia maintains some of the most restrictive Internet policies of any Western nation, while its neighbor, New Zealand, is less rigorous in its Internet regulation. Without any explicit protection of free speech in the constitution, the Australian government has used its 'communications power' delineated in the constitution to regulate ..."

The BBC quotes an ONI report that list 25 countries that apply Internet filtering:Azerbaijan, Bahrain, Burma/Myanmar, China, Ethiopia, India, Iran, Jordan, Libya, Morocco, Oman, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Singapore, South Korea, Sudan, Syria, Tajikistan, Thailand, Tunisia, Turkmenistan, UAE, Uzbekistan, Vietnam and Yemen.

It would seem Australia is to join that list. Freedoms? Protection? Or another step in the race to become a police state? Senator Conroy does not want press comments and editorials - his comments made that clear. Just how will the media respond?