Clashes with Google and hassles with hackers
in the land Downunder
Australia's Labour government is rapidly earning the
unenviable reputation as the the only Western democracy
attempting to censor the Internet with its determined
moves to control Internet content (see previous InfoPowa
reports) This week the focus was on a clash with Google
and hassles with hackers of government websites.
The Sydney Morning Herald reports that Communications
Minister Stephen Conroy's latest move - an approach to
Google requesting that it censor YouTube videos in
accordance with broad content rules had been rejected.
The Minister had earlier referred to Google's censorship
on behalf of the Chinese and Thai governments in making
his case for the company to impose Australian
Google responded that it would not
"voluntarily" comply with the Australian government's
request, warning that this would lead to the removal of
many politically controversial, but harmless, YouTube
University of Sydney associate professor
Bjorn Landfeldt, one of Australia's top communications
experts, said that to comply with Conroy's request
Google "would have to install a filter along the lines
of what they actually have in China".
newspaper reports that the Australian government is
currently preparing to introduce legislation forcing
Australian ISPs to block a government blacklist of
websites compiled by the Australian Communications and
YouTube's rules already forbid
certain videos, such as sex, violence, bestiality and
child pornography, and such classifications can extend
further to more controversial content such as
information on euthanasia, material about safer drug use
and material on how to commit more minor crimes such as
Google said all of these
topics were featured in videos on YouTube and it refused
to censor these voluntarily. It said exposing these
topics to public debate was vital for democracy.
In an interview this week on the Australian Broadcasting
Coporation program Hungry Beast, Conroy said applying
ISP filters to high-traffic sites such as YouTube would
slow down the internet, "...so we're currently in
discussions with Google about ... how we can work this
"What we're saying is, well in
Australia, these are our laws and we'd like you to apply
our laws," Conroy said.
"Google at the moment
filters an enormous amount of material on behalf of the
Chinese government; they filter an enormous amount of
material on behalf of the Thai government."
Google Australia's head of policy, Iarla Flynn, told the
Sydney Morning Herald that the company had a bias in
favour of freedom of expression in everything it did and
Conroy's comparisons between how Australia and China
deal with access to information were not "helpful or
Google has recently threatened to pull
out of China, partly due to continuing requests for it
to censor material.
It is not clear whether
Australian Internet censorship rules would apply to
Google, since YouTube is hosted overseas.
week the Computer Research and Education Association
(CORE) joined a long list of Internet freedom
organisations fighting Australian censorship by putting
out a statement on behalf of all Australasian computer
science lecturers and professors opposing the
government's internet filtering policy.
the blacklist could be used by current and future
governments to restrict freedom of speech, while those
determined to get around the filters and access nasty
content could do so with ease.
Earlier this week
hackers protesting Australian government censorship of
the Internet shut down several Australian government
websites in a demonstration against the announcement
that filters would be imposed to block access to
websites deemed offensive by the authorities.
campaign was launched by the group 'Anonymous', not the
first time this group has attacked government websites,
having launched a similar online assault last September.
Agence France Presse news agency reported that the
main government website, Australia.gov.au, and
parliaments APH.gov.au were both affected along with the
sites for Prime Minister Kevin Rudd and Communications
Minister Stephen Conroy.
No one messes with our
access to perfectly legal (or illegal) content for any
reason, said a statement released by the group.
The Australian government attacked the campaign as not a
legitimate form of political statement.