When Australia introduced Internet censorship to stop child pornography, I was not alone in predicting that it wouldn’t be used only against child pornography for long. Still, I didn’t think that Australia would be blocking political content quite so soon.
It’s happening now. The Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA) has blacklisted an anti-abortion web site that shows gruesome pictures of aborted babies. That’s not even the end of the story. Whirlpool, a web site of discussion forums on the Internet and broadband, was given a takedown notice for linking to the site, according to the Australian. Had they refused, they would have faced fines of $11,000 (Australian) per day. (The placeholder for one deleted post can be seen here.)
The anti-abortion activists are not alone. ACMA has also blacklisted Wikileaks, for including a copy of Denmark’s blacklist.
The current state of affairs of Australian censorship allows the ACMA to censor domestic content, using takedown notices and threats of huge fines. However, the ACMA has no power (obviously) to take down foreign content. To correct that “problem”, the Australian government is looking to institute nationwide net filtering.
The Australian Minister for Broadband, Communications, and the Digital Economy, Stephen Conroy, assures Australians that:
The Government does not view this debate as an argument about freedom of speech. Freedom of speech is fundamentally important in a democratic society and there has never been any suggestion that the Australian Government would seek to block political content.
But, as we have just seen, it already has.
Conroy also asks Australians to have faith in them, adding:
“The Government of Australia is elected,” he said. “If the parliament wants to take this path, the last time I checked, that’s ok.”
Have faith in the censors? Heh. Good one. Anyway, Conroy clearly has forgotten the principles of limited government, if he ever knew them. An elected government can do anything it wants? What has become of you, Australia?