Australia to test Internet filtering (read: censorship) this month


Australia looks to be moving ahead with its plan to censor Internet content on a country-wide level, and will test its array of filters later this month. To refresh your memory, the Australian government wants to block access to illegal material on the Internet, be it genuinely awful material like child pornography or something more controversial like terrorist Web sites. (Who’s a terrorist?, when is a site advocating terrorism?, etc.)

The scheme is made of two filters: a giant blacklist, maintained by the government, that ISPs would have to block access to; and an optional filter that would be used to weed out unseemly content from being accessible to children. Quite the nanny state you’ve got there.

Of course, there’s plenty of people who don’t like the idea. Type in “australia censorship” on Facebook and you find dozens of groups populated with thousands of people who aren’t too keen on the idea of mandatory Internet filtering. Oh, and these filtering schemes, in tests, have slowed Internet speeds by as much as 87 percent. So there’s that.

Again, as with the Great Usenet Purge of 2008, it’s hard to defend against censorship when officials hide behind things like child pornography and terrorism. No one wants to be seen as being “soft” on such topics, and the nuance required to successfully argue against this type of censorship is often difficult to articulate in a media environment of 60-second sound bites and screaming Drudge sirens.