November 1, 2008
Global Research Editor's Note
First Australia, then the US, Canada, the EU and the rest of the "Free
World".... These measures create an important precedent.
The mandatory blocking of illegal material is a pretext. These measures are
ultimately intended to curb free expression and silence that part of the
alternative media which is not already controlled either by the mainstream
media or by major foundations.
Australia will join China in implementing mandatory censoring of the
internet under plans put forward by the Federal Government.
The revelations emerge as US tech giants Google, Microsoft and
Yahoo, and a
coalition of human rights and other groups unveiled a code of conduct aimed
at safeguarding online freedom of speech and privacy.
The government has declared it will not let Internet users opt out of the
proposed national internet filter.
The plan was first created as a way to combat child pornography and
content, but could be extended to include controversial websites on
euthanasia or anorexia.
Communications minister Stephen Conroy revealed the mandatory censorship to
the Senate estimates committee as the Global Network Initiative, bringing
together leading companies, human rights organizations, academics and
investors, committed the technology firms to "protect the freedom of
expression and privacy rights of their users".
Mr. Conroy said trials were yet to be carried out, but,
"we are talking about
mandatory blocking, where possible, of illegal material."
The net nanny proposal was originally going to allow Australians who wanted
uncensored access to the web the option of contacting their Internet service
provider to be excluded from the service.
Human Rights Watch has condemned Internet censorship, and argued to the US
"there is a real danger of a Virtual Curtain dividing the internet,
much as the Iron Curtain did during the Cold War, because some governments
fear the potential of the internet, (and) want to control it"
Groups including the System Administrators Guild of Australia and
Frontiers Australia (EFA) have attacked the proposal, saying it would unfairly
restrict Australians' access to the web, slow internet speeds and raise the
price of internet access.
EFA board member Colin Jacobs said it would have little effect on illegal
Internet content, including child pornography, as it would not cover
"If the Government would actually come out and say we're only targeting
child pornography it would be a different debate," he said.
The technology companies' move, which follows criticism that the companies
were assisting censorship of the Internet in nations such as China, requires
them to narrowly interpret government requests for information or censorship
and to fight to minimize cooperation.
The initiative provides a systematic approach to,
"work together in resisting
efforts by governments that seek to enlist companies in acts of censorship
and surveillance that violate international standards", the participants
In a statement, Yahoo co-founder and chief executive
Jerry Yang welcomed the
new code of conduct.
"These principles provide a valuable roadmap for companies like Yahoo
operating in markets where freedom of expression and privacy are unfairly
restricted," he said.
"Yahoo was founded on the belief that promoting access to information can
enrich people's lives, and the principles we unveil today reflect our
determination that our actions match our values around the world."
Yahoo was thrust into the forefront of the online rights issue after the
Californian company helped Chinese police identify cyber dissidents whose
supposed crime was expressing their views online.
China exercises strict control over the Internet, blocking sites linked to
Chinese dissidents, the outlawed Falun Gong spiritual movement, the Tibetan
government-in-exile and those with information on the 1989 Tiananmen
A number of US companies, including Microsoft, Cisco, Google and
been hauled before the US Congress in recent years and accused of complicity
in building the "Great Firewall of China".
The Australian Christian Lobby, however, has welcomed the proposals.
Managing director Jim Wallace said the measures were needed.
"The need to prevent access to illegal hard-core material and child
pornography must be placed above the industry's desire for unfettered
access," Mr Wallace said.