Australia’s Latest Censorship Targets: Facebook And Game Review Sites

The ongoing obsession with censorship by the Australian Government continues with two new targets coming into view: Facebook and game review sites.

The interest in Facebook comes after a number of tribute Facebook groups for killed kiddies were defaced. Both cases received widespread coverage in Australia, especially in Queensland where both kids died.

This morning, Prime Minister Kevin Rudd has said he will consider the introduction of an “online ombudsman” that would be tasked with “cracking down on offensive material on the internet.” The emphasis is mine, but it’s the key: not material that is already illegal, but material that may be legal but which the Government deems “offensive.”

Last week, Minister for Censorship Stephen Conroy attacked Facebook, saying that “I think there is a situation where people take Facebook with an enormous amount of trust and they’ve got to clearly explain what went wrong with their security systems, how this was able to happen (and) importantly, how they’re going to ensure that this doesn’t happen again.” In a later report, Conroy was quoted to have demanded that Facebook overhaul security.

The problem with Conroy’s comments is that the only way to prevent this sort of material being posted (and it’s the ONLY way) is to prevent the free posting of material in the first place. That is: anything posted to a site like Facebook would have to be approved before it went live. Such a move would kill social media, and highlights how inept Conroy’s understanding of such sites are: there are billions of things posted to Facebook every single day; you can’t filter it all up front without a massive army of people in Orwellean scope, a scope way beyond the means of even a big company like Facebook.

Any attempt by the Australian Government to force sites such as Facebook to pre-approve comments would kill online free speech in Australia and deliver unprecedented online censorship compared to nearly every other country on the planet. Not even the Chinese insist on pre-approving content.

In related news, it now appears that game review sites may also find themselves in part censored in Australia.

The Australian Government Department tasked with censorship has told Kotaku Australia that pages on game review sites that review games that have been refused classification in Australia (remembering that Australia has no adult game rating) would themselves be refused classification and blocked in Australia because they include details of an RC game.

So not only will Australian’s not be able to play games suitable for adults in the rest of the world, they also won’t be able to read reviews about them.

I’d add my standard Orwell would be proud comment, but we’re probably beyond that point now. The Government in 1984 watched what it citizens said, the Australian Government may now want to approve what they say before they say it.