Australian officials announced this week that plans for a mandatory Internet filter will go forward. Broadband, Communications, and Digital Economy Minister Stephen Conroy heralded the results of recent live testing, and will introduce legislation in August that will force ISPs to block access to websites around the world that are deemed to contain content that is illegal in Australia. Needless to say, it is disappointing to see a democratic government following China’s lead down the path of Internet censorship.
The plan would require all ISPs to block a subset of an existing blacklist of illegal content. In Conroy’s words, this will include “child sex abuse content, bestiality, sexual violence including rape and the detailed instruction of crime or drug use”—certainly what many would consider the worst of the worst. This is narrower than the original plan to filter the full blacklist, which includes legal content deemed inappropriate for children under 15 when it is not behind an age-verification system. But the system nonetheless poses major problems for free expression online.
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