It’s 2010. You log on to your email to find that an American friend has forwarded you a link to a YouTube video, which, they claim, contains many LOL’s (laugh out louds). But when you click, the video doesn’t load. In fact you can’t seem to get onto YouTube at all. Instead, all you see is a screen with a message: “You have attempted to access a website [http://youtube.com] which may contain material prohibited under Australian law. Your IP address has been logged. If you believe you have reached this site in error, please contact your ISP (Internet Service Provider).”
Oh dear. Due to the large amount of copyrighted and unrated content available on YouTube, it’s just been added to the federal government’s mandatory internet filtering blacklist. Thus, it’s no longer available in Australia. Scary? Yeah. Fiction? Only for the moment.
Right now, the ‘open & accountable’ Rudd Government is pressing ahead with its plan to throttle the internet access of every Australian citizen by introducing mandatory filtering of ‘illegal’ material. If you haven’t heard about this plan to erect the ‘Great Firewall of Australia’, you’re not alone – the offline media has raised barely a murmur on the topic until recently. And if the Minister for Broadband, Senator Stephen Conroy, has his way there could be a lot more that you don’t know in the near future. But, as you won’t have access to the blacklist of ‘illegal’ websites, you won’t even know that you don’t know it.
The government’s own tests show that a mandatory filter will significantly slow internet access for Australians by up to 80%. It could be argued, however, that there’s some merit to mandatory filtering if it actually blocks the transmission of material like child porn. But it doesn’t. Every filter tested so far lets through a certain amount of banned material, as well as blocking legitimate material – typically, information on sensitive subjects such as bulimia or euthanasia. And no filter can prevent files, illegal or otherwise, being transmitted via peer-to-peer (P2P) connections with software such as LimeWire. P2P is now thought to comprise as much as 60% of internet traffic.
In January, when confronted with the charge that this scheme would give Australia an internet censorship regime similar to China, Cuba, Iran & North Korea, Conroy said: “Labor makes no apologies to those that argue that any regulation of the internet is like going down the Chinese road.”
Words like this are chilling. Now is the time to become informed on this critical issue. While we’re still allowed.
Article written by Chris Kennett