Australian Minister confirms legal content may be blocked by Censorship Regime

Duncan Riley

Despite saying previously that "unwanted" content would be included in the Great Firewall of Australia, Australian Minister for Censorship Stephen Conroy had also claimed that the proposed Internet censorship regime was focused on blocking "illegal sites." Until now.

At an estimates hearing of the Australian Senate's Environment, Communications and the Arts committee Monday, Conroy said that the trial of the filter now underway was based on blocking "illegal sites," but the censorship of other content would be "determined after the trial".

Some have incorrectly suggested that this other content would include X and R rated pornography, for the purposes of the internet, this content is already illegal in Australia. X rated pornography is illegal to sell in Australian states (but legal in the Northern Territory and ACT, it's also legal to possess), and R rated pornography is legal but only with strict age verification which websites would not meet. See our run down of what might be blocked in this post.

Crikey also suggest that "additional content that will be considered after the trial relates to illegal content such as gambling sites, websites that counsel suicide, seditious material and material banned at the behest of multinational copyright owners," however this content is already technically illegal, so it hardly counts outside of illegal content as defined by the Minister. Take it as a given that they will likely end up on the blacklist.

The implications of what Conroy is said is far more serious again.

The opposite of illegal content is legal content the last time I checked. Legal "unwanted" content (unwanted being the criteria given by the Minister) could well include political speech where that speech may constitute hate speech in some Australian states. It may include debate on immigration, the debate on global warming, discussion of the links between Organized Crime and the previous could just about mean anything the Minister decides he doesn't like. That open door can and will be abused by do-gooder groups who want things banned, after all the criteria now isn't illegal content, but unwanted content.

There's one thing though to take away from the Ministers disclosure: the do-gooders like Clive Hamilton and the Christian Lobby can no longer seriously claim that this filter is all about child porn when the Minister himself has clearly confirmed that it's something far more wide reaching than that.

Not long now until Australian joins China, Iran and other progressive places.