Censorship Versus Blogs

I have been thinking about Australia’s plan to censor internet content for their citizens and my initial reaction was to believe this can only be bad for bloggers. I thought I would ask you guys what you think?

As Duncan states in his post linked above, there is little chance their government will start with pr0n and such and leave it there. They will filter all content they deem “inappropriate”, there will be much disagreement about what that actually covers and special interest groups will pile in.

Anyone who believes a government can efficiently and fairly decide this stuff only has to look at the most banned or challenged books. If memory serves we are talking about such subversive titles as Huckleberry Finn and Harry Potter.

The tin-foil-hat-wearer part of my brain is thinking anyone who disagrees with the government or deals with adult themes in their blogs will also be caught in the trap. Bloggers swear. They talk about sex. There are blogs about drug and hacker culture. I have had clients caught in corporate and school filters, stuff people really needed to access, such as sexual health education material. People will demand a way to add to the blacklist, will evil competitors start blacklisting each other?

I have a daughter and want to protect her from bad stuff. I do this the way I protect her from bad TV shows. The way any responsible parent does. I supervise, if you don’t want kids to see bad stuff don’t leave them alone with it.

That all said, there seems a lot of folks well in favor so I would like to hear your thoughts. Is this a good thing and I have it wrong?

7 thoughts on “Censorship Versus Blogs

  1. I think you’ve summed up the reality of it, Paul. And I couldn’t agree with that simple truth more. I do, however, think there are some civil liberty issues with the model they’ve put forward. Maintaining a list of the people who are using something is very different from maintaining a list of those who aren’t. The first has a logical service function. The latter is essentially monitoring who disagrees.

    Blogging Personal ~ Arriving Soon.

  2. Likening it to China is a bit much. They aren’t throwing up a government controlled network boundary around the country.

    I wouldn’t worry though. Its basically an effort towards following through on an election promise to extreme family groups who think the internet is responsible for the downfall of society. Its been tried before, around 4 years ago at the last federal election.

    I think the scheme will fall down on technical feasibility. Little though has been given as to how exactly any government concocted list of “bad websites” will actually be blocked, on a consistent and auditable basis across the hundreds of ISPs (some of which do not have the financial resources to implement such systems).

    It also ignores a simple truth – no technical solution will ever be better than good parenting.

  3. I wish I could remember who it was that said, “If I cannot rule myself, how can I rule others?” The government has no greater capacity to make choices about what I am exposed to than I do. In fact, it has less.

    Leaving aside that there has never been a blacklist that hasn’t done more harm than good, and leaving aside that the filter will almost certainly be catching dolphins along with the tuna (and the sharks will still be roaming free), having to opt-out rather than choosing to opt-in gives a pretty clear indication that this is not as innocuous as the government would like it to seem.

    If they want to offer a (probably useless) service, fine, but having to opt-out? Obviously it’s Scarlet Letter time.

    Blogging Personal

  4. As far as I am aware it will be an ever-growing blacklist. How they hope they will keep up with the internets rate of growth is probably something they won’t want questioning. One thought I had based on your “it’s too big” comment was they will blacklist the obvious sites but this means that the more fringe stuff will always get through. Clever users and webmasters will find ways around even the most intelligent system. In my albeit limited experiences the mainstream stuff tends to be tamer than the stuff on the fringes so they will succeed in giving more traffic to the stuff that is way out there. Counterproductive?

  5. How can you censor the Internet? It’s just too big, isn’t it? I also don’t believe it’s any government’s job to decide what my children can and can’t see. It’s my job. I realize not all parents are so diligent in making sure their kids find age-appropriate material, but is that the government’s business?

    Like Mike, I don’t know what the answer is. Channels like a television set? Stricter parental control programs? In any event, it’s my job to make sure my son stays away from smut or offensive material. I don’t need a government to tell me what he should read or watch.

  6. They aren’t new to censorship. Various books have already been banned from import. Other forms of media too, I’m sure.

    Generally I feel that you can’t count on all the rest of the world to take care of your kid, and you should take most of the responsibility. Asking the entire world not to swear or discuss sex is, well, kind of silly.

    Of course, one can argue that this is just Australia putting a country-only wide net filter, but I feel sorry for the Australians.

    Arachne Jericho
    Spontaneous Derivation

  7. I’m generally opposed to censorship.

    A major justification for censoring material online is to protect the children. Censorship is not necessary where responsible adults ensure that their children and other children do not access bad stuff on the computers that are their responsibilities.

    Unfortunately, there are a great number of adults who, for whatever reason, do not do this. It may because of time and work pressure in their busy lives. It may be because they are not computer savvy enough. Perhaps they do not understand or do not believe the dangers of what exists out there. For whatever reason, censorship by adults to protect their children doesn’t work.

    Our children grew up before the internet age, but I’m concerned about our grandchildren.

    I don’t know what the answer is. However, government censorship for the best of reasons is not it.

    Mike Goad

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