US concerned by Australian Internet filter plan

Mar 29, 2010 By ROD McGUIRK , Associated Press Writer

(AP) -- The United States has raised concerns with Australia about the impact of a proposed Internet filter that would place restrictions on Web content, an official said Monday.

The concerns of Australia's most important security ally further undermine plans that would make one of the strictest Internet regulators among the world's democracies.

"Our main message of course is that we remain committed to advancing the free flow of information which we view as vital to economic prosperity and preserving open societies globally," a U.S. State Department spokesman Michael Tran told The Associated Press by telephone from Washington.

Tran declined to say when or at what level the U.S. State Department raised its concerns with Australia and declined to detail those concerns.

"We don't discuss the details of specific diplomatic exchanges, but I can say that in the context of that ongoing relationship, we have raised our concerns on this matter with Australian officials," he added.

Internet giants and Yahoo have condemned the proposal as a heavy-handed measure that could restrict access to legal information.

The plan needs the support of Parliament to become law later this year.

Australian Communications Minister Stephen Conroy says the filter would block access to sites that include child pornography, sexual violence and detailed instructions in crime or drug use. The list of banned sites could be constantly updated based on public complaints. If adopted into law, the screening system would make Australia one of the strictest Internet regulators among the world's democracies.

Conroy declined to comment on the U.S. concerns.

"The Australian and U.S. governments liaise regularly on a broad range of issues. It would be inappropriate to discuss the details of these consultations," said his spokeswoman, Suzie Brady.

Some critics of Australia's filter have said it puts the nation in the same league as China.

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User comments : 4

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frajo
not rated yet Mar 29, 2010
Australian Communications Minister Stephen Conroy says the filter would block access to sites that include child pornography, sexual violence and detailed instructions in crime or drug use. The list of banned sites could be constantly updated based on public complaints.
The problem with the "list of banned sites" is its obscurity. The public will not know what sites are banned. This way, the tools for a potential future political censorship are prepared.
Some critics of Australia's filter have said it puts the nation in the same censorship league as China.
Those critics are wrong. Australia will never block the internet presence of groupings which try to destabilize the country.
marjon
1 / 5 (1) Mar 29, 2010
Those critics are wrong. Australia will never block the internet presence of groupings which try to destabilize the country.

From a previous post, you suggested Chinese and Australian censorship were equivalent.
frajo
not rated yet Mar 29, 2010
Those critics are wrong. Australia will never block the internet presence of groupings which try to destabilize the country.

From a previous post, you suggested Chinese and Australian censorship were equivalent.
That's not what I said; it's only what you read into it. However, I'm delighted that you don't object a prophecy which claims to be of eternal validity.
Skeptic_Heretic
5 / 5 (2) Mar 29, 2010
The Australians and Americans share many common bonds. Least of which being fierce independence and being the decendants of rebellious subjects under the English empire. This has shaped both of our cultures in a unique way and made us all rather bitter with the topic of censorship. I don't see Australia being able to institute a filter for long without terrible civilian backlash. Once the government controls your access to information you will find yourself receiving only that which they wish you to hear. Although at any time the government could cut the links and shutdown the internet (if you don't believe me ask anyone at a backbone facility) they fear the need to do so as the immediate civil unrest would be of epic proportion.