Kevin Rudd's plans to crack down on Internet content appear to have drawn the attention of no less than the Chinese Government. The website of the State Council Information Office recently featured an article (Google translation here) on Rudd's endorsement of an "online ombudsman" to deal with inappropriate Internet content and discusses the upcoming mandatory filtering legislation. The article reads in part:

Kevin Rudd told the media that the spread of pornography online in Australia was shocking, and presents a great danger for young people. The government must take all practical measures to severely crack down on online pornography crimes.

It goes on to report on the filter, saying that Parliament is considering legislation to automatically block such sites in future.

It's not surprising that these initiatives have gained some attention in China. The Chinese Government have come under considerable pressure recently with Google's threat to withdraw from the Chinese market due to onerous censorship and aggressive state-sponsored espionage, followed up by a stinging and unequivocal condemnation of Internet censorship worldwide by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. This puts Australia in the unenviable position of introducing a significant system of real-time internet censorship just as the tide is turning; the events in China and Iran have precipitated a significant backlash against such censorship in the West. Yet rather than back down, our government is amping up the rhetoric. This includes the online ombudsman idea, more restrictive hate speech laws, and the unnecessary and ill-thought-out filter itself.

This highlights the concern among many Australians that a new era of domestic Internet censorship will put us in some very bad company. Joining this club of censors will grant legitimacy to regimes that are using censorship for political as well as prurient purposes. Google, no strangers to the issues surrounding censorship in China and elsewhere around the globe, wrote this in their submission to the Department in February:

Could damage Australia's International Reputation - Mandatory filtering by Australia could be argued to confer legitimacy upon filtering by other Governments. Australia is rightly regarded as a liberal democracy that balances individual liberty with social responsibility. The Governments of many other countries may justify, by reference to Australia, their use of filtering, their lack of disclosure about what is being filtered, and their political direction of agencies administering filtering.

It appears this could already be happening with respect to China. No doubt they heartily approve of what is going on here. Indeed, the language attributed to the Prime Minister in the article above sounds suspiciously like that used by the CCP itself to justify its own censorship.

15 comments

  1. Clearly KRudd has a strong affinity with China. He is fluent in Mandarin. Perhaps he believes we need to become more like them? No thanks!

    Comment by Michael on 11 March 2010 at 7:40 pm
  2. See citizens of China, the great democratic nation of Australia is implementing censorship too. That makes our filter ok.

    Comment by Ryan on 11 March 2010 at 8:47 pm
  3. @Ryan

    The bigger problem is that it lends credibility to their censorship.

    It is a disgrace that Rudd has put us into the same league as China. Our new 'friends' lie, suppress anything but their version of reality, imprison those who dissent, torture them, steal and sell their organs, and then execute them (usually with bullets, but hey, if you've got a tank spare that works too). Great mates you've got there Kev.

    Comment by Stuart on 11 March 2010 at 11:11 pm
  4. Ugh, thinking more and more about moving countries... I hate the Government.

    Best idea! Let's hand out the book Nineteen Eighty-Four for free. After all it's only talking about what Australia is going to be in 50 years. It's more like an information leaflet, a big leaflet.

    Comment by Taylor on 12 March 2010 at 2:05 am
  5. Amazing, Labour (ISP FIltering) like Liberal (Work Choices) they both seem to get in there, do a good job, then both find themselves a reason to get BOOTED from the Top Job.

    Comment by Luke J on 12 March 2010 at 3:08 am
  6. I can't read Chinese but let me guess, the Chinese Government want to hire Conroy as a consultant?

    Comment by Mike on 12 March 2010 at 3:19 am
  7. The Australian Government move headed by the Prime Minister to block specific websites is only to be expected especially in an election year. Any government initiative to make kids safer on the internet would be welcomed by parents.
    Is this a vote winner or not?

    In any case will it actually work......?? The internet is a seamless medium where banned sites can re appear quickly in another form.

    The fact that a foreign government body has made comment on this internet sanction is not surprising when small point scoring is the norm in foreign relations.

    Just get on with digging the country out of recession and make our country great again.

    Comment by Greg Allardice Media on 12 March 2010 at 9:12 pm
  8. Well Rudd does want an Asian Union by 2020, so we would need to have harmonised our laws by then, how awesome will it be, competing with Chinese labour prices, 20c per hour, i can't wait to become a full blown peasant with no freedom of speech. Rudd is a criminal, we won't accept the New World Order, he will go to jail with rest of the criminals when the truth comes out.

    Comment by Mike D on 12 March 2010 at 9:55 pm
  9. wow, comparing an online filter against "online pornography crimes" and "more restrictive hate speech laws" with the filter chinese internet users face blocking all kinds of politically unwanted information and the general supression of democratic rights in China..... I understand the general concern against state imposed internet filters, but should argumentation be not a bit less black and white?!

    Comment by Andreas on 13 March 2010 at 6:38 am
  10. @Andreas

    (It is worth mentioning that the proposed filter doesn't target pornography or hate speech, it targets RC content - a category so broad and all encompassing that it can mean virtually anything. If you don't understand that key concept my following comments will be likely lost on you - there's no point debating the merits of something other than what the Government intends to introduce.)

    Considering the only effective difference between the two censorship systems is the list they use for blocking, I'd argue that it is very black and white.

    The Chinese people are forced into using a censored internet by their Government 'for their own protection', they get no say in that, and they certainly never asked for it. Remind me how that is different to what the Australian Government is trying to do again?

    Putting in infrastructure that enables us to have China's fully restricted internet with the flick of a switch is not something any democratic nation should even consider - China has their system exactly *because* it impairs democratic processes: free speech, freedom of association, freedom of the press, etc.

    If we allow the Government to chip away at our rights and freedoms that is what they will do (it is a truly rare Government that has the confidence to give more rights and powers to its citizens - governance is almost always conducted from a position of fear of loss of power). That isn't something I am prepared to accept in any capacity. Certainly not for the specious justifications the Government is currently giving for this atrocious censorship proposal.

    Comment by Stuart on 13 March 2010 at 8:33 am
  11. Andreas, the fact that topics such as Abortion have made it on to the filter list indicates that the filtering is already in the realm of political censorship. This is not a government that has respect for democracy. The more people have voiced their concerns - the more the government has stepped up its plans to filter. As for filters - they are very black and white! Have you ever tried arguing with a computer when it hasn't done what you expect it to do? Where does it get you?

    Comment by Mike on 13 March 2010 at 8:46 am
  12. I really want to say something nasty about China... but at the end of the day NOBODY gives a sh*t if they were wiped off the planet tomorrow. In fact, many countries would be relieved.

    Comment by Bob on 16 March 2010 at 11:38 am
  13. I feel the utmost compassion for the Chinese people, i would hate to live under a strict government regime of killing , bullying and silencing dissenters. Im scared for Australia under this scare tactic, lying , corrupt government we are stuck with .

    Comment by Dee on 16 March 2010 at 6:14 pm
  14. Supporting China on the Filtering issue, is supporting Australia on the Filtering issue.

    Filtering via Government means has always been about Poltics, not Protecting.

    Comment by Daniel on 15 April 2010 at 11:40 pm
  15. Very well said!!

    "Filtering via Government means has always been about Politics, not Protecting"

    Comment by Bob on 16 April 2010 at 6:42 am