Kennesaw State University

Internet Filtering in Australia

censorship1When one thinks of a government filtering internet content, he/she quickly thinks of China. The communist country has been the source of numerous studies that have shown its resolute determination to block websites that discuss human rights, border issues, and even social networking. According to Harvard’s Berkman Center for Internet and Society:

• Iran, China, and Saudi Arabia not only filter a wide range of topics, but also block a large amount of content related to those topics;
• South Korea’s filtering efforts are very narrow in scope, but heavily censor one topic, North Korea;
• Countries engaged in substantial politically-motivated filtering include: Burma, China, Iran, Syria, Tunisia, and Vietnam;
• Saudi Arabia, Iran, Tunisia, and Yemen engage in substantial social content filtering;
• Burma, China, Iran, Pakistan and South Korea have the most encompassing national security filtering, targeting the websites related to border disputes, separatists, and extremists;

What is interesting, however, is that a surprising new country can now be added to the list.   Australia conducted trials earlier this year to test a filtering program that would block selected URL’s. Led by Senator Conroy, the goal of the program is to block sites that are considered sexually inappropriate.   He says some internet content is simply not suitable in a civilized society.

“It is important that all Australians, particularly young children, are protected from this material…The Government believes that parents want assistance to reduce the risk of children being exposed to such material.”

The government said Tuesday that it will introduce the legislation next year. Critics say it will not prevent determined users from sharing such content, and could lead to unwarranted censorship by overzealous officials.

Many will remember an incident last year when six UK ISP’s blocked Wikipedia altogether.  The reason for the entire website being added to a blacklist is this page, an article on Virgin Killer, a 1976 heavy-metal album by the German rock band Scorpions.  The cover art, with a history of controversy since its release, was deemed inappropriate by the British Internet Watch Foundation.

This comes on the foot heels of President Barack Obama’s talk last month in Shanghai in which he criticized internet censorship.

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