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The great firewall of……Australia

Posted by todd at 9:32 PM on October 30, 2008

My blood has passed boiling point this week with the Australian government planning to put a mandatory firewall between me and the Internet. While the comparison to the Chinese firewall will be denied I am sure, this is essentially the same thing. A firewall will block all sites and content that the government decides are not suitable for us poor feeble minded citizens.

The reason of course is to “combat child pronography and adult content”, as if this measure has any hope at all of acheiving this. But then the lowest of acts are often wrapped in the noblest of reasons. Even before the legislation is even passed though, they are already talking of extending it to cover information on topics like anorexia. While they may think they are protecting us poor plebs, they are actually trying to restrict our access to information. Knowing something should not be a crime or restricted, only the actions we take. And in case you didn’t know there is no legislated free speech in Australia, even though we are a generally liberal country.

The problems I have with this are:

- This will not block the actual wrong doers, only prevent innocent people from accessing the complete Internet. Just like DRM annoys customers and is ignored by pirates.
- There is zero chance that this will only block the content intended. I am sure that a couple of sites that teach young girls to cope with anorexia will get blocked.
- Unblocking improperly blocked sites is likely to involve tortuous trips through bureaucracy.
- I left home over 25 years ago and have not needed parents to protect me from nasty people for some time, and my sensibilities are not so delicate that I need my eyes to be protected from naughty pictures.
- There is no clear method described for how what is blocked will be decided and how these decisions can be challenged.
- When the government proposed this before the last election there was supposed to be an opt-out clause which they have now removed. My lack of surprise at being lied to does not reduce my annoyance.

Thankfully the Australian Senate seems to be gearing up to block the legislation.