September 21, 2007 6:09 AM PDT

Australia pushes further Web censorship

A bill introduced this week by Australia's Parliament would give the Australian federal police the power to control which sites can and cannot be viewed by Australian Web surfers.

Introduced on Thursday, the bill--titled the Communications Legislation Amendment (Crime or Terrorism Related Internet Content) Bill 2007--would empower the federal police to alter the "blacklist" of sites that are currently prohibited by the Australian Communications and Media Authority.

The list currently includes pornography and "offensive material." However, under the amendment, federal police would be able to add other sites to the list, including content that the AFP Commissioner "has reason to believe...is crime- or terrorism-related content."

The definition of material that may be liable for censorship includes Internet content that "encourages, incites or induces," "facilitate(s)" or "has, or is likely to have, the effect of facilitating" a crime.

Once such content has been identified by the AFP, Internet service providers may be responsible for blocking their users from accessing it.

According to the government, the legislation is designed to target phishing and terrorist sites, among other online criminal activity.

"The new arrangements will allow harmful sites to be more quickly added to software filters," said Eric Abetz, a senator for Tasmania, who introduced the bill. "Of course the best outcome is for these sites to be taken down and their hosts prosecuted. But this takes time, particularly as most of these sites are hosted overseas.

"Rapid blacklisting means that the damage these sites can do can be more quickly reduced whilst takedown and prosecution processes are pursued, usually overseas," Abetz said.

Privacy groups have already criticized the legislation as an attack on free speech.

"This government's extremism has reached new heights today," said the chair of the Australian Privacy Foundation, Roger Clarke.

"How can a politician claim the right to hold office if they set out to undermine the critical democratic right of freedom of speech, and blatantly decline to evaluate the impact of measures put before the Parliament?"

Jo Best of ZDNet Australia reported from Sydney.

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7 comments

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Just one more step in establishing a totalitarian police state.
Looks like Australia is one step further along then the U.S. in
establishing a totalitarian police state. They have already banned
firearms (which factions in the US Govt. would love to embrace).

Are the Aussies so asleep that they don't even know what is going
on? I hope that this won't serve as a model for US censorship. But
I don't think we are that far behind our brothers and sisters from
'Down Under'.
Posted by jimmyhoops (239 comments )
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police state ++
Screw it. All that blacklisting needs to be done by software, and that code must be available to Australian citizens. If they use humans to do this, they will be in a bad situation.
Posted by ethana2 (348 comments )
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China syndrome
Looks like these guys are getting their sense of what is right from north of the equator. But Australia was always a bit of a wierd place - originally Britain's prison farm, run by sadist prison guards. Their government seem to be regressing to that era. Get out while you can.
Posted by gggg sssss (2285 comments )
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the land of oz
Australia gave the world the term wowser:

one whose overdeveloped sense of morality drives them to deprive others of their pleasures

reminiscent of Mencken's definition of a Puritan as 'one who fears that someone, somewhere, may be having a good time."

That sort of thinking fits right in to the control freak fear of 'terrorists under the bed", from the "man of steal" on down the food chain of government hacks. There've been 40 anti-terror bills through 2006 and more this year.

Fiddling with the Internet is just another chapter in the book of authoritarian rule.

We've been Bushraq'd.
Posted by NoVista (274 comments )
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Australia-pushes-further-Web-censorship
This is another typical Howard bastardisation of Australian society. Not satisfied with his original disarming of the honest citizen (do you believe the crims handed in their weapons - dont be stupid) followed by his anti-terrorist legislation which again was followed by his scare tactics of 'discovered' terrorist plots in this country he now has to attack us with this bit of garbage.

btw, John Howard has been proven to be as big a liar as George W - re the children overboard lies he spread during an election campaign not so long ago. Sadly here is one man whose use by date has well and truly passed but who refuses to face that fact.

One can say this of the Liberals in this country: garbage in - garbage out.

But just how genuine is this attempt to stamp out or deny access to all things pornographic? Hey, we got a federal election coming up in a couple of months - just wondering what else the Liberals will try to pull out of the hat - maybe the discovery of a 'huge' child pornography ring in this country?

Did you know that Canberra - our acclaimed Federal Capital - is in fact the mail-order pornography capital of Australia and has been for many years? Did you know that there are legal brothels in some states in this country? And that you can legally buy pornographic magazines at many newsagents?

So what if i want to access a bit of pornography on the internet that is my decision to make - or not to make. It is not up to some hopped-up war criminal posing as a politician to make for me. And that goes for any site on the internet - my god, are they going to ban anti-Liberal Party sites and protest sites as well?

Dont get me wrong, there are some sites that should never have been allowed on the internet in the first place particularly those site dealing with child pornography but that is an ISP problem and its time they cleaned up their act. And yes, perhaps there is a need for legislation in this case but it should be very specific and completely related to this problem.

This country is fast becoming a totally totalitarian state following closely in the footsteps of the US under the leadership of its war criminal administration.

But then that is to be expected, after all, we dont call John Howard George W's lapdog for nothing.

As for those d***heads who will claim that this proposed action will be taken to protect our children from visiting these sites, let me say this: that is a parental responsibility not a government one. Governments in this country have infringed too far on parental responsibilities as it is. There are enough lock-out programs available for parents to ensure that their kids dont visit these sites - that is what the federal and state governments should be pushing and making available free of charge to all parents.

One final thought: unlike the US we in Australia dont have a guaranteed freedom of speech or any guaranteed freedoms at all. We are at the utter and complete mercy of those people who rank lower than car salesmen and snakeoil salesmen - the politicians in this country. Time to change this state of affairs, but who will have the guts and nerve to do so? Sadly to say, there is nobody willing to standup.
Posted by HJBartz (23 comments )
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Australia?s ban of Second Life and other similar sites sets a dangerous precedent that should strike fear into the hearts of free people everywhere. A ?free? country that has a ?Minister for Censorship!?? This is something we might expect from China, North Korea or Iran, but Australia!? The Nazis would be so proud!

Those who call themselves ?Christians? or ?Moral,? might see this as a ?victory? over ?evil.? But for them, as well as all who applaud this travesty of freedom I will quote Benjamin Franklin, who said:

?They who can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety, deserve neither liberty nor safety.?

It appears the people of Australia are still prisoners, exiled as were their forefathers and permitted only the
1984 or 2009?

1984 or 2009?

?freedoms? their masters deem fit. It will be interesting to see if they accept this Orwellian destiny or rise up and demand the freedoms so many of them have given their blood to defend around the world.

As for Second Life (SL) and its ?danger? as a source of adult content; SL is no more or less dangerous than the rest of the Internet. Those who wish to can find virtually anything they want on the Internet, good, bad or indifferent.

It should be up to adults and parents, not a ?Nanny State,? to take the steps necessary to limit exposure to content they deem inappropriate for themselves or their children. This can be done at the individual PC or user level.

By banning access to Second Life, the Australian government is not only cutting off access to ?adult? content, but also art, music, education and collaboration opportunities that have the potential to enlighten, inspire and improve the lives of its citizens, young and old alike. If the government of Australia succeeds in censoring SL from their citizens, those of us who work, learn and yes ?play? in Second Life will miss the tremendous spirit and contributions our Australian brothers and sisters make to SL everyday.
May Liberty Prevail!

May Liberty Prevail!

I close with a quote from another of our (American) Founding Fathers, that I hope will be taken to heart by all those who love freedom in Australia and around the world:

??The tree of liberty must be refreshed from time to time with the blood of patriots and tyrants.? Thomas Jefferson
Posted by VWestland (3 comments )
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First web censorship, now posters plastered all over our states announcing some kind of new law - it mentions the Australian Interior Authority... anyone know anything about this??
Posted by TruthDetective (1 comment )
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