Saturday, January 23, 2010

The relevance of comparisons to Iran, China and Saudi Arabia

In the campaign against mandatory ISP-level filtering, much has been made of comparisons with Iran, China and Saudi Arabia.

In truth, much of this rhetoric is over-blown. If the mandatory ISP-level filtering is implemented it is unlikely to be as heavy handed or as arbitrary as these regimes.

On the other hand, these regimes still serve as a useful marker - try to name another Western democracy that is attempting to impose a mandatory ISP-level filter against such a broad range of material, and you will be hard pressed to find one.

Australia may not be marching to exactly the same place as Iran, China and Saudi Arabia - it may well stop before it gets there. But let's be clear - there is no other Western democracy standing between Australia, where it wants to go and where Iran, China and Saudi Arabia already are.

If it goes there Australia will be leading other western democracies down a path of increasingly authoritarian interference in online media consumption. This is not healthy, especially when the Government has yet to demonstrate any social utility whatsoever for the mandatory filter.


Stuart Anderson said...

Where Australia is exceptional in comparison to those regimes is that we have had freedom of expression in a way that they never did. Their online censorship systems reflect their regressive societies, their people have been on a tight leash since before the internet even existed.

Whilst I can see where people are coming from when they say that Australia won't ever be as bad as these places, I reject that notion as naive - those countries didn't start out being that way either, all it takes is for this kind of stupidity to go unchallenged. The Government is already lying about this proposal, and there are already examples of purely political censorship from the Government (eg. the takedown of the clearly satirical - how is that any different from when China stifles dissent and information it dislikes?

The Government deserves full credit for putting Australia in the same class as countries that treat basic human rights as expendable. It's shameful.

Ben Maden said...

@Stuart: I agree that the erosion of internet freedom is down right shameful in a civilised democracy. The rising concerns about internet freedom in China make it almost amusing to see the double standard of the Australian Government.

Any dissent about the continued march of Australia's Mandatory ISP Filter is met with disgusting and outrageous argument that the dissenter must be a paedophile. This emotionally charged shutdown of informed and considered discourse is on a par with the Nazi Party's rise to power. Lies, emotion and mis-information.

We all agree children need protection (parents methinks) but taking steps to be more like Iraq and China and putting our faith in these same (clearly flawed) politicians not to go "all the way" is just a big mistake. Just think, if a future politician can appear and take advantage of these moves for another emotionally charged step in the wrong direction what then?

@Jon: Your point about it being a sliding scale is totally right. I think you'll agree Australia stands between USA and China on internet freedom and there is little to stop going all the way

I for one think it should stand shoulder to shoulder with the USA. Parental education, supervision, in-home filtering (commercially available) and optional ISP filtering are the answers.