One step closer to free speech being closed online

It’s being reported this morning that the Australian Government has now added wikileaks to their list of ‘blacklisted’ sites.

A grab from Techradar and the SMH is below:

“One of the newest additions to Australia’s ‘blacklisted hyperlinks’ list is Wikileaks; the website that publishes anonymous submissions of sensitive info on everything from corporations, religion and governments.

The blacklisting of certain pages of the site has come about after Wikileaks posted a list of websites at the tail end of 2008 that comprised the ‘secret internet censorship’ list for Denmark. On this list were over 3,500 sites that were censored or banned in the country.

Disturbing picture

While Australia’s list of blacklisted sites currently stands at 1,370, the Sydney Morning Herald is reporting that that list could increase to around 10,000 sites – most of which are of illegal pornographic content, but could also includes sites that house incendiary political discussions.

“The Government is embarking on a deeply unpopular and troubling experiment to fine-tune its ability to censor the internet,” said communications spokesman Senator Scott Ludlam of Australian opposition party Greens.

“If you consider this kind of net censorship in the context of Australia’s anti-terror laws, it paints a disturbing picture indeed.”

On its website, Wikileaks, which leaked the news that the government had banned it for leaking information, simply said: “The first rule of censorship is that you cannot talk about censorship.”

Currently, it is not illegal for internet users in Australia to click on the sites found on the web blacklist. The people targeted by the Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA) are webmasters linking out to the sites that the government have flagged up as inappropriate.

This could all change, however, if a mandatory internet filtering censorship scheme is implemented – something that is being debated at the moment.”

I’ve asked the question “why is the Rudd government persisting with the clean feed” before today but this new development is now elevating and highlighting the dangers of over governance online.

Again I will say that I accept that there are situations where control does need to be exercised, heinous and violent crimes etc, but really – wikileaks?

When it is done, seemingly, completely at random with little explanation, other than that one page has some offending material on it, then we need to stop and look around and ask the question ‘is this appropriate?’

Some may argue that the governments reasoning is valid in this instance, I think the vast majority of the the population is anti-child pornography me included naturally, but what I’m asking is what’s the next site to be banned? and for what reason? what is the justification?

What if, for example, it was a forum site that had one page out of 10, or out of 1,000,000 that had a strongly worded but ultimately empty anti-government remark about it? Would that get banned?

Ultimately the real confusion comes from not knowing what the tangibles are: Who makes the decision if websites gets banned, for how long and on what grounds?

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