The Australian Government is considering a crackdown on online racism, including the possibility of extending the proposed internet filter to block anything moderately deemed as racist content.
Australian Attorney-General Robert McClelland has requested that the Australian Human Rights Commission undertake a “sweeping review of arrangements for dealing with racist material on the internet”.
According to Fairfax Media, options on the table include “providing the Human Rights Commission with the power to order internet service providers to remove racist content.”
‘While freedom of expression is one of the most fundamental rights, this is not at the expense of the rights of people, while using the internet, to be treated with equality, dignity and respect,” McClelland said.
The problem with the proposal is that inciting racial hatred is currently a criminal offense in Australia, and Australia already has tough anti-racism laws. Any extension of the current laws, particularly into the realms of internet censorship, can only come at a serious danger to free speech. While there should be a reasonable balance, new laws would slew the balance beyond what most would believe is reasonable.
The graver risk is highlighted in the Fairfax report
Such changes – which are opposed by civil libertarians – could have significant ramifications for online news websites that offer readers the opportunity to comment, and for ISPs working with the commission to voluntarily remove racist material.
The proposals would shift liability to website owners for comments made by others, an outrageous attack on social and new media. Having said that, it’s not that surprising giving the nanny state Australian Government is planning to introduce Chinese style censorship this year as well. Goebbels would be proud.