Friday, September 21, 2007

Australia intends to censor the web

I've often thought that Australia surely appears to the world at times, from a sociopolitical viewpoint, as an immature nation. When political candidates seek to be elected, and when citizens vote, they often seem to do so, not through profound principles about what's good for the people and right for the nation, but merely on the basis of a single pervading question: What's in it for me? Things are warming up for a forthcoming federal election, and the tactics of the two major contenders [current PM John Howard and Opposition leader Kevin Rudd] are already producing what a local journalist referred to poetically as "a shriekfest about smears, fears, sneers, jeers, cheers, leers...".

To my mind, there is no more abject indicator of sociopolitical immaturity than an appeal to censorship. And this is what John Howard and his minister of Communications, Helen Coonan, are presently seeking to impose upon the Australian people.... in a telltale elusive manner, as surreptitiously as possible, so that few observers are likely to realize what is happening, and kick up a fuss.

This lady wants to extend a black list of websites to be outlawed, purely and simply, by the ACMA [Australian Communications and Media Authority]. For the moment, apparently, ACMA shields the Aussie public from certain websites containing pornography or offensive content. It would be interesting to know what exactly is meant by the terms "pornography" and "offensive content", just as it would be intriguing to learn something about the individuals who perform this censorship, their credentials and their operational criteria.

The planned Coonan censorship extensions concern websites in the domain of "terrorism and cyber-crime". Superficially, that sounds great. Australia simply has to ban websites that seek to expound terrorist ideology and cyber-crime methods, and—abracadabra!—these obnoxious phenomena will disappear magically from the wide brown country. What idiotically naive thinking! Are Australians not mature enough to separate the wheat from the chaff? To see what web stuff they wish to examine, and what they want to reject spontaneously? Are Howard and Coonan afraid that some silly kid in the suburbs is going to learn from the Internet the art of making roadside bombs, or the methods for delving into the online bank accounts of unsuspecting citizens? What rubbish! The nation's leaders would do better to enhance the sophistication of their intelligence, security and law-enforcement services...

To paraphrase one of my favorite conclusions on affairs of this nature: Every nation has the censorship it deserves.

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