Australian Government Announces That It Is Dropping Mandatory ISP Filtering...But Still Wants Filtering
from the run-that-by-us-again dept
Techdirt has been writing about Australia's plans to join the online censorship club for almost three years. Now, in a surprise move pointed out to us on Twitter by @Asher_Wolf, the Australian government has announced that it is dropping the plans -- sort of:
The Federal Government has formally abandoned plans to introduce legislation for mandatory ISP filtering, closing a dark chapter in politics concerning Australia's internet.
However, confusingly, it does still want Australian Net feeds to be filtered:
Instead, internet service providers will be directed by the Government and the Australian Federal Police to block "child abuse websites" that feature on an INTERPOL block list.
Most people would probably approve of blocking that particular class of sites, but there are some wider issues here. First, it's a little disingenuous of the Australian government to claim that it is dropping plans to censor the Internet, since it plainly still intends to do that, albeit in a specific area. As we know from experience elsewhere, once the apparatus of censorship is in place, there is always pressure to add sites unrelated to the original blocking list.
Communications Minister Stephen Conroy said in a statement that "Australia's largest ISPs have been issued notices requiring them to block these illegal sites in accordance with their obligations under the Telecommunications Act 1997".
The other issue is whether this nominal climbdown was part of the plan all along. After all, it's a standard tactic to make totally outrageous initial demands so that anything less seems almost reasonable by comparison. Or perhaps this was Plan B: try to push through ISP filtering as Plan A, and if that fails, drop back to "limited" censorship.
Since it seems unlikely that those who fought against the general censorship plans will be able to muster much support for the idea of not blocking child abuse sites, the key question now is whether it will be possible to stop this approach turning into precisely the kind of ISP filtering that the Australian government claims to have abandoned.