Debating why the internet should not be censored

The following article by Erik Jensen appears in today’s Sydney Morning Herald:

Governments should not censor the internet. The Prime Minister, Kevin Rudd, disagrees and the Opposition Leader, Tony Abbott, broadly supports his position.

But two journalists and the head of government affairs for Google in Asia strongly agree with the proposition.

“We have to ask what the Rudd government’s agenda is,” said Antony Loewenstein, a freelance journalist and blogger who is speaking for the motion at the Herald’s IQ2 debate tonight. “And we have to assume it is to appease certain lobby groups – particularly the Christian lobby.”

Mr Loewenstein is joined in condemning clean-feed internet by the head of government affairs for Google in Asia, Ross LaJeunesse, and the Herald’s David Marr.

Broadly, the trio argue that censoring the internet will not work, is not the most effective way to deal with the crimes cited as reasons for censorship, and can be a front for government control of ideas. “The argument government goes for is they’re protecting citizens from harmful content, they’re protecting children from paedophilia,” Loewenstein said. “The truth is in all these countries [China and Iran] there is zero evidence that blocking content is doing anything to these crimes.”

But Elizabeth Handsley, a professor of law at Flinders University and third speaker for the negative, said the argument was not about implementation – it was about government responsibility and developing a mechanism to control content that was already illegal. “The government regulates every other medium of communication,” she said.

In arguing against the motion, she is joined by the Beijing-based commentator Kaiser Kuo and the founding director of the Australian High Tech Crime Centre, Alastair MacGibbon.

The Herald’s IQ2 debate is held at the City Recital Hall tonight from 6.30.

Text and images ©2024 Antony Loewenstein. All rights reserved.

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