Great Firewall of Australia will nationally block sites appearing on a secret, unaccountable list

Electronic Frontiers Australia have posted their authoritative condemnation of the Australian government's plan to impose mandatory, national filtering on the Australian Internet (like the filters used in Iran, Syria, China, and other repressive regimes). EFA points out that this national censorship plan will do little to curb child pornography and crime (because people who seek out that sort of thing can always get around filters), but it will give unaccountable government bureaucrats the power to secretly and arbitrarily hide information from Australians.

An announcement on Tuesday confirms it: next year, all Australian ISPs will be required to filter access to a government-supplied blacklist containing "refused classification" (RC) web content. That would include nasty stuff like child pornography, but also a broader range of content: fetishy sex, instruction in crime (such as euthanasia), any computer game not suitable for under 18s. The list will be partly generated by complaints from the public, and may include lists imported from overseas police departments.

While this is sold as a kid-friendly measure, to "improve safety of the internet for families", it's clearly nothing of the sort. A few thousand URLs hardly constitutes a national net nanny. The list would almost be laughable if it was not only mandatory but secret – unlike censorship decisions made in other media, blocked URLs will remain secret and expressly excluded from freedom of information requests. Just as worrying is the fact that once this list is in, a conga-line of special interests will be approaching the government to have their pet peeves added to the list. It's not much of a stretch to imagine AFACT (Australian Federation Against Copyright Theft) clamouring to have bittorrent trackers added, and several parliamentarians are on record calling for a ban on pro-anorexia sites and pornography in general.

Filtering coming to Australia in 2010

(Thanks, Gwen!)

(Image: The Worst Part of Censorship is ###### a Creative Commons Attribution ShareAlike image from kogakure's photostream)