Is Australia trying to look foolish or do they truly want to look like a bumbling authoritarian state?
The Communications Minister, Stephen Conroy, has launched a stinging attack on Google and its credibility in response to the search giant’s campaign against the government’s internet filtering policy.
In an interview on ABC Radio last night, Senator Conroy also said he was unaware of complaints the Obama administration said it had raised with the government over the policy.
The government intends to introduce legislation within weeks forcing all ISPs to block a blacklist of “refused classification” websites for all Australians.
Senator Conroy has said the blacklist will largely include deplorable content such as child pornography, bestiality material and instructions on crime, but a large and growing group of academics, technology companies and lobby groups say the scope of the filters is too broad and will not make a meaningful impact on internet safety for children.
Google, which has recently been involved in a censorship spat with China, has been one of the filtering policy’s harshest critics. It has identified a range of politically sensitive and innocuous material, such as sexual health discussions and discussions on euthanasia, which could be blocked by the filters.
Last week, it said it had held discussions with users and parents around Australia and “the strong view from parents was that the government’s proposal goes too far and would take away their freedom of choice around what information they and their children can access”.
Google also said implementing mandatory filtering across Australia’s millions of internet users could “negatively impact user access speeds”, while filtering material from high-volume sites such as Wikipedia, YouTube, Facebook and Twitter “appears not to be technologically possible as it would have such a serious impact on internet access”.
“We have a number of other concerns, including that filtering may give a false sense of security to parents, it could damage Australia’s international reputation and it can be easily circumvented,” Google wrote.