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2 JUNE 2006

What the bleep's wrong with bleep?

REGARDING Wednesday's Target puzzle ( The Age, 31/5). It appears that my word score of 26 — which must be exceptional as 25 was deemed "excellent" — has been reduced by the inability of your Target puzzle writer to acknowledge the word "F--k", which does appear in the referenced dictionary.

Now, while I don't really give a "f--k", it does seem puritanical to ignore a word that is permissible on the arts pages and on commercial television and in, according to some, unfortunately frequent use. Most children — including mine — seem familiar with this word, as do most octogenarians, who are capable, it seems, of frightening modernity when it comes to using the English language.

It seems a shame to f--k up my better-than-perfect score, so how about a correction?

Peter Slifirski, Kew

12 JUNE 2006

From the UK Financial Times 12 June 2006

Beijing's censors accused of disrupting

By Mure Dickie in Beijing

Published: June 8 2006 04:23 | Last updated: June 8 2006 04:23

Chinese internet users have had serious problems using Google's international search service, prompting speculation it is being disrupted by government censors.

Users in many Chinese cities have been able to access only intermittently in recent days.

The problems have not affected, the US company's China-based search service, which is censored.

A Google spokesperson said on Wednesday: "We have heard reports of users in China experiencing problems in accessing We are investigating this matter."

Beijing does not usually comment on which websites it blocks. But the problems suffered by Google are similar to those experienced by other websites targeted by censors.

China has disrupted Google's service before, blocking it completely in 2002 and redirecting visitors to China-based websites including Beijing lifted the block amid protests by internet users and international publicity.

The current problems are the worst in recent years, prompting suggestions that Google's introduction this year of its censored service had emboldened Beijing to act against the unfiltered international version.

Reporters Without Borders, the media freedom watchdog, said: "It was only to be expected that would be gradually sidelined after the censored version was launched in January.

"Google has definitively joined the club of western companies that comply with online censorship in China. It is deplorable that Chinese internet users are forced to wage a technological war against censorship in order to access banned content."

Beijing blocks thousands of overseas websites and monitors internet cafés round the clock.

The censorship system was blamed by many users for problems accessing Microsoft's Hotmail service just weeks after President Hu Jintao visited Bill Gates' Seattle home.

Reuters this week quoted Sergey Brin, Google co-founder and president, as saying that only 1 per cent of Chinese users used, with most sticking with


(ABC - Last Update: Friday, September 22, 2006. 3:22pm (AEST))

Customs seizes Nitschke's new book

Euthanasia campaigner Philip Nitschke has compared Customs' seizure of his new book with the burning of literature in Germany during the Nazi era.

On Tuesday, 45 copies of The Peaceful Pill Handbook were seized at Brisbane airport. They will now be withheld, pending appeal.

Speaking at a conference in Sydney to mark 10 years since the overturning of Northern Territory's euthanasia laws, Dr Nitschke says the action goes to the heart of the right to free speech.

"The comment that was made was that it's an incitement to suicide, which, of course, we would argue against. There's no incitement in the book," he said.

"We've also been told that unless we take steps to legally appeal the decision, they will be destroyed in 21 days."


25 FEBRUARY 2007

The more things change-----------!!!


Censorship item 1979
Censorship item 1979

30 APRIL 2007

The following article appeared in The Age on 27 April 2007 as Australia sinks deeper and deeper into the mire and secrecy of a police state with Philip Ruddock steering the ship:

Ruddock snubs states on censor

PM's friend confirmed in top job


One of Prime Minister John Howard's closest friends was officially appointed Australia's chief censor ahead of the recommended candidate, despite outrage from the states.

Former ABC chairman Donald McDonald will begin a four-year term as director of the classification review board on Tuesday, after Attorney-General Philip Ruddock yesterday confirmed his appointment in writing to state attorneys-general.

Revelations that Mr Ruddock intended to install Mr McDonald sparked an angry response from the states two weeks ago. The states were furious that another candidate recommended by an advisory panel, who has not been named, was overlooked for Mr McDonald, who was not even on the nine-person shortlist.

Mr McDonald has never hidden his close, long-time friendship with Mr Howard, and the move is believed to be linked to the Howard Government's desire to take a firmer stance against literature that incites or instructs terrorism.

The states refused to approve Mr McDonald two weeks ago and Mr Ruddock promised to take notice of "considered views" opposing the appointment from the states.

But yesterday he wrote to state attorneys-general informing them that Governor-General Michael Jeffery had approved Mr McDonald's appointment.

"I am delighted that such an exceptional leader has agreed to head up the board," Mr Ruddock said.

"Mr McDonald has the right credentials for the role, given his broad experience in the entertainment field and his history of working with industry and governments of all persuasions.

"This background has also allowed him to develop an excellent understanding of the emerging issues facing the industry."

Victorian Attorney-General Rob Hulls lashed out at the Federal Government yesterday, describing Mr McDonald\rquote s appointment as "an absolute disgrace".

"The process and appointment of Mr McDonald stinks to high heaven and it shows that the Federal Government and the Attorney-General no longer even pretend to engage in a proper process," he said.

The role of chief censor has been filled by former Melbourne lord mayor Des Clark for seven years. The Office of Film and Literature Classification has recently been absorbed into the federal Attorney-General's office after being an independent body since its inception in 1995.

Mr McDonald was a director of the Sydney 2000 Olympic bid, a former chief executive of the Australian Opera and director of the Australian Tourist Commission, but is best known for his role as chairman of the ABC.

He was appointed chairman in 1996, served two five-year terms and was reappointed for six months until December 31 last year when he was replaced by another close friend of Mr Howard, Maurice Newman.

As if the above wasn't bad enough. only a few days earlier art was being censored at an exhibition. The article in The Age of 27 April 2007 tells the story:


Censorship is getting worse and worse, and the trouble is that there is not enough of an outcry about this further manifestation of our police state.

Ruddock has no regard for anybody else's opinion, and behaves in a dictatorial fashion in relation to everything he touches. The government he is part of needs to be got rid of at the next election, and should the ALP win government, it will have to be attacked on censorship issues from the very beginning.

The pressure must be maintained at all times. Eternal vigilance!!

9 MAY 2007

From the offices of the Victorian Government...

DATE: Sunday, April 29, 2007


The federal Attorney-General Philip Ruddock has backflipped and agreedto release a discussion paper on censorship laws this week in a movewelcomed by Victorian Attorney-General, Rob Hulls.

Mr Hulls said he was pleased that Mr Ruddock, rather than actingunilaterally, had eventually agreed with his state and territorycolleagues that any changes required proper community consultation.

"Censorship is a joint responsibility of the Commonwealth, State andTerritory Governments, and the current cooperative system strikes agood balance between considerations such as artistic merit andcommunity concerns about works that promote or incite violence," MrHulls said.

"I and my state and territory colleagues trust that we will not see arepeat of Mr Ruddock?s attack on the scheme?s cooperative intent andspirit at the Standing Committee of Attorneys-General (SCAG) meetingearlier this month.

"Mr Ruddock tried to force through draconian changes in censorshiplaws in a move that circumvented due process, including publicconsultation. In a democratic country like Australia, there is noplace for arrogant chief law officers who treat censorship as theirpersonal fiefdom.

"The federal Attorney-General has already shown his contempt for dueprocess and proper consultation with his unilateral decision toappoint the Prime Minister's friend, Donald McDonald, as the directorof the Classification Board.

"We all made it clear at SCAG that under the cooperative arrangement,Mr Ruddock needed to take into account the views of all states andterritories, and we all totally rejected this appointment.

"Yet he decided to ride roughshod over those concerns and go aheadwith this outrageous appointment."

Mr Hulls said any changes in censorship laws must strike a consideredbalance between freedom of expression and community concern overmaterial advocating terrorist acts.

The joint Commonwealth, State and Territory Government discussionpaper will seek views on whether amendments to Classification Code andGuidelines are required to make clear the basis on which material canbe banned.

Mr Hulls said the discussion paper reflected the needs of thedifferent jurisdictions to find a solution to this difficult issue,and he urged Mr Ruddock to abide by the spirit of cooperation andconsultation.

"No one wants a repeat of Mr Ruddock's attempts to unilaterally andcynically force his will on the people simply to score politicalpoints against colleagues in other jurisdictions," he said.

"I am sure that if we draw on the experience of anti-terrorism lawsand the censorship system from all jurisdictions, an effectivesolution can be found.

"We must be vigilant to ensure that any changes are clearly defined soas not to inadvertently catch materials which simply express differentpoints of view."

"If there are gaps in the laws with respect to material advocatingterrorist acts, they will be filled, but we also need to strike theright balance between stopping such material and maintaining ourfundamental freedoms.

"The Bracks Government is determined to ensure appropriate measuresare in place to stamp out materials advocating terrorism, while at thesame time respecting rights to freedom of speech."


The following article appeared in the New Internationalist of December 2006 - and we think OUR censors are mad!!!:

censorship in usa


The following was received by email and illustrates yet again the contempt held by this government of democratic processes. The story was published in The Australian newspaper:

Coonan seeks to censor the Web

by Karen Dearne September 20, 2007

THE Federal Police commissioner will have the power to block and ban websites believed to be crime or terrorism related under an internet censorship amendment bill introduced into Parliament today by Helen Coonan

Communications Minister Senator Helen Coonan proposes to include terrorism and cyber-crime sites on ACMA's hit list

The bombshell web ban bill was tabled in the Senate at 9:58am, without prior notice.

Communications Minister Senator Helen Coonan proposes to expand the "black list" of internet addresses (URLs) currently maintained by the Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA) to include terrorism and cyber-crime sites.

At present, ACMA has the power to act against websites containing pornography or offensive content.

Under the proposed amendment, Federal Police will inform ACMA of websites to be blocked, and the agency must then notify the relevant internet service providers. ISPs will be required to "take reasonable steps" to prevent users accessing the website or content.

Australian Privacy Foundation chair Roger Clarke expressed disbelief that "the government of any country in the free world could table a Billof this kind".

"Without warning, the Government, through Senator Coonan, is proposing to provide Federal Police with powers to censor the internet," Dr Clarkesaid.

"Even worse, ISPs throughout the country are to be the vehicle for censorship, by being required to block internet content."

Greens Senator Kerry Nettle said the Bill would give the Police Commissioner "enormous power over what political content Australians canlook at" on the web.

"This gives the Commissioner sweeping powers which could potentially be applied to millions of websites," she said. "The Government has dropped the Bill into the Senate on the eve of an election with virtually no explanation."

Senator Nettle said environmental organisations such as Greenpeace had been accused of crime or terrorism-related actions. "Will the Police Commissioner call for Greenpeace's website to be shut down?"

The requirement to filter or block content would impose another enormousburden on local ISPs at a time when the IT industry faced growing costs related to other national security legislation, she said.

Meanwhile, Senator Coonan today extended the Government's $189 million NetAlert - Protecting Australian Families Online program to agencies such as Medicare, Centrelink, Child Support and the Tax Office.

Information about internet filtering and the free content filters from NetAlert will be promoted through the agency shopfronts as part of the plan to prevent children accessing inappropriate material online.

4 OCTOBER 2007

The following article was in the Sydney Star Observer issue 887, and shows, yet again, how the federal government functions with the religious right making the agenda and calling the shots. It is yet another example of this government's retreat backwards to the late 19th, early 20th centuries, and indicates what you should expect more of if the government is re-elected at the next federal election, due before the end of 2007. Having said that, you can expect no difference if the Alternative Liberal Party (ALP) under Kevin Rudd is elected - they will not change or challenge anything Howard's government has perpetrated for the last 12 years:


by Harley Dennett

A second Melbourne store stocking imported gay and lesbian films has been ordered to empty its shelves after being targeted by the federal Attorney-General’s Department.

Rowland Thomson, owner of gay bookshop Hares and Hyenas, received a letter from the department ordering him to remove 10 DVD titles, including television soaps and critically acclaimed documentaries.

“They got the titles from the website,” Thomson said. “Things like Boy Meets Boy; Noah’s Arc; and The Aggressives, a documentary about butch New York lesbians.”

Also on the list was the 1997 film Bent, about the suffering of gay men in Nazi concentration camps, which has also been performed as a stage play in Australia for the last 20 years.

“Could you imagine if books had to be presented for classification? It’s a class thing; film being a more popular medium. We can sell the French Rugby calendar, but we can’t sell the Making Of DVD,” he said.

“This is a censorship due to minority interests.”

The cost to classify a three-hour film was quoted at $2,500, and came under attack in The Age earlier this week for unfairly hurting minority groups.

OutVideo owner Paul Hollingworth, who last month received a similar order from the department and faces removing more than half his stock, said feedback had been mixed

Adult stores have been able to stock unclassified material by ignoring the department’s warnings, but Hollingworth said that wasn’t the answer.

“Something needs to change; maybe an American-style system of voluntary classification that’s just a parenting advisory,” he said.

“It doesn’t only affect us. A lot of the foreign communities, with maybe only a few thousand people living here, still want to see something from their country.”

A spokeswoman for Attorney-General Philip Ruddock said the department was simply enforcing the law.

10 JANUARY 2008

Mannie De Saxe PO Box 1675, Preston South, Vic 3072. Australia.

I am 81 years old, and have lived through and read the whole story of the Chatterley books and the trial of Penguin.

That was 1960 and this is 2008, some 48 years later, and the BBC is censoring an interview with someone who has produced for the BBC a story called The Chatterley Affair using all the words now being self-censored by the BBC.

What is going on?

Mannie De Saxe

Isn't this what the Trial of Lady Chatterley was supposed to be about?

BBC Four: As you say, there's some swearing in the drama.

Andrew Davies: The funny thing is that most of the swearwords are spoken by Melvyn Griffith-Jones, the prosecutor, who's about as straight as you can get. It's wonderful the way he comes out and says, "F*** occurs 30 times, C*** 14" as if he's ticking them off a list. I will be fascinated to see what the reaction to the play is. Certainly, watching it myself, some of the sex scenes feel pretty real and pretty raw and slightly uncomfortable because of that. They have the awkwardness and embarrassment of real sex.

An email was sent with this information: Page reference: bbcfour/cinema/features/chatterley- davies.shtml

Friend's Email: josken1_at_pacific_net_au

Your Email: josken_at_zipworld_com_au

Subject: BBC's self-censorship This item has been censored by the BBC because, in its interview of Andrew Davies, the BBC has asterisked out the words **** and **** The BBC is stuck in some time warp, and one wonders how it manages to function in the 21st century! How pathetic can it get?

If the BBC is not responsible for what I have said in the email, why the censorship? I assume that the BBC is still embarrassed by the use of the words FUCK and CUNT! They should read all three versions of DH Lawrence's books about Lady Chatterley.

Mannie De Saxe

Disclaimer: This message was sent to you using the "Email a friend" facility on the BBC's WWW site, If you wish to complain about this email, please forward it in its entirety to The BBC is not responsible for the content of this email, and anything said in this email does not necessarily reflect the BBC's views.

15 MAY 2008


The following item was sent to us by the Middle East News Service and is from an article which appeared in the Sydney Morning Herald.

Who else, other than zionists in Sydney, would have complained about a Palestinian exhibition being held in Leichhardt? And who else, other than zionists in Sydney, would pull out all stops to ensure the exhibition did not take place.

And Leichhardt Council allowing itself to be so intimidated that it pulled the plug? The whole story is disgraceful and smacks of intimidation of one section of the community by another - scandalous in every way!

Exhibition axed after police visit

Arjun Ramachandran
May 14, 2008

THE decision by a Sydney library to dump an exhibition about Palestinian refugees after a visit by counter-terrorism police the night before it opened has been criticised as an act of censorship.

Leichhardt municipal library was to launch the Al-Nakba pictorial exhibition last Friday. A local community group, Friends of Hebron, had developed the display of photos, poems and articles over eight months.

"We set up the exhibition at the library on Thursday night and the librarian … approved the exhibition, and said that it could be seen by children and other people who come into the library," said Carole Lawson, a Friends of Hebron member.

But that night, shortly before the library closed at 8pm, officers from the police counter-terrorism operations arrived at the library.

A police spokesman said the officers were from the operations' community contact unit and had come only to "say hi" to Friends of Hebron members. "They went to introduce themselves just to let them know who they are and what they are about. [Speaking with community groups] is part of their charter,"he said. "When they got there the librarian was the only one there … they just had a quick chat to the librarian."

But Ms Lawson said: "They wanted to put the fear of god into the library staff and wanted the staff to feel threatened."

The librarian, Marilyn Taylor, would not speak publicly. But the Mayor of Leichhardt, Carolyn Allen, confirmed Ms Taylor later contacted her boss, the council's director of corporate services, David Marshall, on Thursday evening to discuss the exhibit.

They arranged a meeting for the next morning, and a decision was made to cancel the exhibition at about 9.30am.

Ms Lawson was informed of the decision later that morning. "It's the censorship of Palestine - apparently the anti-terrorism squad decides what we can see on the public walls of a library," she said.

The president of the Australian Council for Civil Liberties, Terry O'Gorman, said it was clear the police visit on the eve of the exhibition had influenced the council's decision. "The terrorism unit's explanation [of coming to introduce themselves] is unacceptable," he said. "The fact that they turn up as a display is being mounted is entitled to be interpreted as a threat."

Cr Allen maintains the decision was made by the council and the library, and not influenced by police. The council had decided last year that exhibitions such as Al-Nakba would need to be assessed by a panel of councillors to ensure they were not divisive, she said. This had not happened earlier with Al-Nakba because of a "a breakdown of managerial process".

But Mr O'Gorman criticised the library for being "too-ready [with] self-censorship". .

Shane McArdle, a council spokesman present when the decision to cancel was made, said some photo captions were deemed capable of causing anxiety and "undue angst".

But Ms Lawson said there was nothing alarming in the exhibition and that it merely highlighted the plight of many Palestinian refugees in Hebron, about 30 kilometres south of Jerusalem.

"The exhibition was taken down because it was about Palestine, the dispossession of Palestinians and what's going on in Hebron," she said.

She said the group would now look to hold the exhibition at another venue, promoting it as "the exhibition the council didn't want you to see".

25 MAY 2008


A new international television series has been launched to universal acclaim. The series is called “Hetty Johnson Investigates” and features a woman who has a grudge against society and is determined to right the wrongs she sees around her.

Episode 1 features our intrepid hero tackling art exhibitions which feature nudes – female actually, not male, and her success sets her out on an international crusade to stop child pornography in areas such as Africa where child soldiers are imprisoned as regulars to fight illegal and terrorizing wars. The other African area this intrepid fighter is involved with in her fight for universal justice for young people is in South Africa, where men have sex with 3 month old female babies because they believe it will prevent them from acquiring HIV or, if they are already infected, it will “cure” them!

We can’t say too much about other incidents in the first episode because it will give too much away. Suffice to say Johnson goes into battle with all flags flying and banners blowing in the wind!

Future episodes planned involve:

1) Melbourne University’s gagging of a public transport spokesperson because he told the truth,
2) Melbourne’s lord mayor Soho, who has banned the showing of two art works because he “disapproves”,
3) Leichhardt Council’s removal of an exhibition from its library because the zionists didn’t like the fact that the exhibition was about Palestine and the Palestinians,
4) the University of Western Sydney because it closed down the communications and media faculty because one of the lecturers was teaching people to seek the truth in the media and not accept everything on face value,
5) the University of New South Wales because it behaved with a brutality unseen in many years to a protester who was complaining about the presence at a conference on “terrorism and the law” of the federal attorney general who was promulgating the laws.

There are so many other features of this new series which make it so attractive, one of the main ones being that it has the total support of the current prime minister, the current leader of the federal opposition, the New South Wales premier and opposition leader, the festival of light (read darkness) leaders and several other “top honchos” of Australian cultural society, or as Jean Brodie would have said, the “crème de la crème”.

With this new series, Australia is advancing backwards into the 19th century at a rate of knots, or as we used to be advised when landing from a plane at Jan Smuts airport during the apartheid years “We are about to land at Jan Smuts airport. Please turn your clocks back 300 years”!

In a Churchillian quote we would say, “Never has so much been censored in so short a time by so few for so many”!

And of course we invite all who are interested in this new series to read the book “The Shock Doctrine” by Naomi Klein, which will explain how the world we live in thinks and acts.

They can censor what we see, hear, read, but they cannot censor our minds!

The following quotation is from Sarah, who contributes to the anti-censorship email list on a regular basis. In this one sentence, she says it all!!!

They are developing the technology and gaining world wide support using child porn as an excuse. Then when they are ready they will start clamping down on what they are really afraid of, and that is the common person having forums to whip up anti government support whatever the reason.


Naked Girl – Letter in The Age 26 May 2008:

I can’t wait for the painting over of the Sistine Chapel ceiling. Not only does it contain images of nude children but it was foisted upon us by a homosexual! What an abomination.

Brendan L Strauch, Moorabbin

28 MAY 2008


When I got up today (Wednesday 28 May 2008) and saw the main news item on the front page of The Age newspaper concerning the ongoing censorship of Bill Henson's art work I felt personally violated. It seems that people in Australia are living in the nanny state extended and intensified by John Howard from 1996 onwards, and which we had hoped against hope would change with the change of government to Kevin Rudd and his cohorts.

How wrong can one be - or how wrong one can be!! We did believe that there would not be significant social changes under a Rudd government, but to end up going backwards and finding oneself living, yet again, in a police state such as the one I left in 1978 (South Africa), is a total violation of one's freedoms as a human being - known as human rights.

It seems as if some of those present at KRudd's talkfest 2020 have felt equally violated, believing that something better would come out of this new government that seemed to offer to listen to "the people", and discuss the social, politcal and economic way forward, but KRudd is just another megalomaniac of the Howard, Keating, Hawke, Fraser, Whitlam, Menzies types with which Australia seems to be overpopulated in 2008.

Censorship establishes regimens of thinking, seeing, hearing, controlled by Big Brother to ensure conformity and brainwashing at the lowest levels of intellectual challenge.

Not only did the Sydney exhibition, raided by the NSW police farce, get closed down, subsequent raids in Newcastle, Albury and other places have resulted in similar outcomes.

We even have the spectacle that as many of the country's politicians as possible are getting in on the act to destroy a famous artist, the Victorian premier being the latest - and everybody knows he is already as unpopular as Paul Lennon!

This has all happened before - very much in the 20th century by all the dictators that century produced - but also by so-called democratically elected governments around the world.

To see it all in perspective is to necessitate reading Naomi Klein's book "The Shock Doctrine" because so much of what happens to us in our daily lives is explained by her analysis of the politics of the world dictated to a great degree by that greatest of democracies, the United States of America!

If it wasn't for the fact that in all my 81 years I have retained some measure of optimism for the future of the world, and also because my personal daily life is one I would not be anxious to leave, I would ask: what is the point of it all?

We feel in some small way we are able to contribute to the struggle to improve the circumstances in which we live, and the mere fact that we have this fantastic tool called the World Wide Web means we are able to be in touch with anybody and everybody in the hope that we may be able to convince some doubters about the rights and wrongs of the global village in which we live.

The above item was posted on my blog on 28 May 2008. The reply below was posted on my blog in response on the same day:

Child exploitation is not art 28.5.2008

I agree with many of your views, but I could not disagree more strongly on this issue. Your openning paragraph says you feel violated by the closure of Henson's exhibition. I felt violated when I saw those images! I wouldn't expect an 81 year old man, no matter how liberal-minded you may be, to understand that adolescent girls are very vulnerable, and the children who are Henson's subjects are far too young to be giving "informed consent" to the exposure of their bodies to all and sundry, all over the world. Their right to the privacy of their own body has been horribly violated. What kind of misguided parent would permit such disregard for their child's right to privacy?

No doubt, the images posted on the gallery's website have made many pedophiles very happy to have these freebies handed to them. In my opinion, Henson is a pedophile who is hiding under the cloak of "art". This is NOT about censorship, its about protecting the most vulnerable members of our society from sexual exploitation. I am waiting in hope that Henson is charged.

Tony Abbott, just interviewed on ABC's Lateline, pointed out the hypocrisy of prosecuting Joe Average for having images like these on his computer, yet hanging in an art gallery, the art-elite call it "art", and think its immune from prosecution. These out-of-touch, sexist elitists cry fowl when a spade is called a spade - that is that Henson is a pedophile. As the saying goes.... if it walks like a duck, quacks like a duck......

I know child exploitation when I see it and its NOT art. The media have a huge offense to answer for in this whole fiasco. They plastered this child's face all over the news, thinking that it was OK because they blacked out her breasts. The child was standing naked, and despite the little black bar across her breasts, the news media thinks its OK to plaster her face all over the national news!!! They should be prosecuted along with Henson. Who is the more exploitative - Henson or the media? If the media isn't prosecuted, then the child needs to have a guardian ad litem appointed (her parents obviously can't make decisions in their daughter's best interests), and sue the media for the gross invasion of this child's privacy. Then the guardian ad litem should take out a civil suit against Henson for the emotional and sexual abuse she's been subjected to in this exploitative art show.

This case does not harken back to the censorship cases of old. Its about a child's right to the privacy of her own body, and its about exploitation. Me thinks the cries of censorship by the art-elitists is a case of "the emporer has no clothes". Someone needs to give them a reality check, and I applaud Kevin Rudd for expressing what the vast bulk of decent, child-loving people think of Henson's work.

I agree with you that we struggle to improve this world in which we live. Personally I prefer to put my efforts into protecting the vulnerable, than those who prey on them for their own fame and fortune. What would Henson sell these "art" works for? How much would the little girl who had her privacy completely and utterly violated, get out of it? I'll bet she would have gotten absolutely nothing. And had he paid her???? Well then her parents have been paid for pimping out their child. Shame on them.

Your elitist attitude implies that anyone who doesn't agree that Henson's work is "art" (instead of pedophilic soft porn), must be an intellectual cripple or a Luddite. I think if you read my blog at, you'll see that I am solidly on the side of the under-dog, the environment, against corporations and their obscenely overpaid CEO's, and thoughtfully analyze a wide array of public issues.

This is not a censorship issue. Its a child protection issue. I worked as a child psychologist with child sexual assault victims, for many years, and in my professional opinion, this child was exploited and abused. The question everyone should ask themself: would you let YOUR child pose naked for a middle-aged man? I don't know anyone who would put their child through such a violation of their innate human right to the privacy of their own body. This is a HUMAN RIGHTS issue, not a censorship issue.

I am a "card-carrying ACLU" member (American Civil Liberties Union). They have fought many controversial First Amendment/censorship battles over the past several decades, and I support everyone's right to Free speech, and freedom of expression - but never the exploitation of a vulnerable child under the despicable claim that their child pornography is "art".

If the politicians and police have any guts whatsoever, they WILL charge Henson. Since several politicians, law society, etc. have expressed doubts about the success of a prosecution, I say, "there's more ways than one to skin a cat". Henson has clearly violated numerous laws, so charge him with all of them. Put this pedophile where he belongs. There will be plenty of opportunity for him to do his "art" work in jail.

Posted by Janice Brooks (

Below is my response to Janice Brooks:


Selective moral outrage blinds people to the realities of the world around us, and they are aided and abetted in their outrage by the media who begin a feeding frenzy when they smell a scandal brewing.

Where is the outrage over wars which are the ultimate pornography? Thousands of women and children are raped on a daily basis, but as war crimes these are seldom reported. They don’t make headlines and are not sensational enough to get into the media.

Cluster bombs which kill and maim mainly women and children in combat zones are not yet banned in our weapons arsenals. Depleted uranium warheads are used by armies such as the US and its “allies” in all the atrocious wars they are responsible for. Child soldiers are forced into armies by being kidnapped, raped and tortured.

Child prostitutes and child brides are in the countries where our tourists go and who are our trading partners.

The media uses its outrage in a selective manner designed to create the maximum outrage over whatever will sell their media to the fawning masses who can’t get enough of the scandalous stories.

And then there is the age of consent issue – do children know and understand what is happening regarding sex and sexuality? What are they surrounded by and hammered with by the adults around them?

The age of consent is 13 in Spain and South Korea, 14 in such diverse countries as Peru, Germany, Hungary, Bosnia, Croatia, Portugal, Italy.

What is violating in the images of Bill Henson is in the eye of those beholders who are religion-driven in their approaches to the human form, and the fact of nakedness is something they cannot handle. How they manage to have sex by being naked is impossible to contemplate.

And who is judging the parents and by what right? And what is a paedophile and who sits in judgement?

Hetty Johnson went to that exhibition to stop it happening because her own morals are themselves corrupted by her belief systems.

I don’t see or hear of all these outraged citizens dashing off to the far forgotten corners of Australia to protect the young in this country from starvation, malnutrition, diseases, deaths between birth and 5 because they belong to the most downtrodden and neglected members of the Australian communities. I don’t hear their shouts of outrage at these early deaths.

To be on the side of the underdog is not to support such politicians as Hillary Clinton who supported the immoral war in Iraq in which hundreds and thousands of women and children have been killed, maimed, raped and assaulted. I don’t think Clinton is supporting the Palestinian women and children who are likewise raped and murdered by the Israelis on a daily basis because all these American politicians support the Israeli terrorists.

What is despicable is the response of people such as yourself who claim the moral high ground because there have been children abused by people in the community, and as a child psychologist you think you have all the answers.

Have you spoken to the child, the parents, the artist? Oh, you wouldn’t do that – he is, by your definition a paedophile!

Civil liberties? I don’t think you have the slightest understanding about what civil liberties are and how they have been eroded by all those on their moral, religious, economic rationalist high ground, and how they have tried to suppress what we see, hear, even think. But in this they can’t succeed. They can try and bend our minds, and they are doing this by torture and rendition such as Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo and other select areas around the world, but to suggest that here in Australia when one person takes photos of a young naked girl and puts them on at an exhibition – where admission has to be paid – that a crime has been committed and paedophilia exists is really outrageous!

If my children had wanted to pose for a middle-aged man and were happy to do so, it would not have been for me to stand in their way. I would be much more concerned if they were into drugs and criminal activities.

I hardly think you are in a position to lecture me about my elitist attitude. Who do you think you are that you presume to lecture me? If you wanted to make your points by unemotional discussion and rational arguments, you would have been in a better position to make your points, but to presume that your elitist attitude is the correct and only one is to be as pompous and hypocritical as it is possible to be.

One does not make one’s points by exaggeration and hyperbole, so don’t try and teach your grandmother – or in my case your grandfather – to suck eggs!

You and your ilk are so afraid of sex and sexuality that life must be very hard to live on a daily basis.

27 MAY 2008

Mannie De Saxe
2/12 Murphy Grove
Vic 3072
Phone: 03 9471 4878

Censorship - then and now!

Back in the apartheid years if one arrived by air in South Africa and landed at Jan Smuts airport, the announcement on the plane said: "We are about to land at Jan Smuts airport. Please turn your clocks back 100 years." This was in the era when the book "Black Beauty" was banned. Ah, yes, Lady Chatterley's Lover too!

In 2008, when landing at an international airport in Australia, the announcement on the plane is similar: "We are about to land at ---------- international airport. Please turn your clocks back 100 years". This is in the era when ANYTHING is banned with the approval of the country's prime minister and other federal, state and local government politicians. This is in an era when anything can be banned and censorship takes hold of the fear-ridden country. Talk about spooks and ghosts!

Welcome to 21st century Australia.

Mannie De Saxe

22 MAY 2008

The problem with porn ...

May 22, 2008

Seth Finkelstein looks at the insidious control that governments and corporations want over your internet use.

CENSORWARE was never just about teens looking at porn or workers goofing off.The issue of whether the internet can be censored and how governments try to do it is being fought around the world.

The OpenNet Initiative (, a partnership of four leading academic institutions, has published an analysis, Access Denied: The Practice and Policy of Global Internet Filtering (

It's a primer in methods and an atlas of studies, and prohibitions are examined across dozens of countries.

The results show that the idea of the internet destroying nations, arguably nations are domesticating the internet - or at least trying hard. As one telling sentence puts it: "A key aspect of control online is that states have, on an individual basis, defied the cyber libertarians by asserting control over the online acts of their own citizens in their own states."

In 1996, during a conference on Computers, Freedom and Privacy, I literally talked myself hoarse trying to convince civil libertarians that censorware (a more accurate term than "filters") would be a serious threat to free speech (

Prevailing views at the time were an odd doublethink - that censorware should be touted as a solution for parents who wanted to prevent their kids reading forbidden material but that the internet couldn't be censored by governments. More than a decade on, this book details how extensively governments have been attempting internet censorship.

The book's very existence is a milestone. Over time an issue can work its way up the political food chain from often-ignored grassroots activists to marginal but significant mentions in white papers by think-tanks, to full-scale consideration by policymakers.

And the issues here encompass everything from the complicity of US censorware companies with censorious regimes to the collaboration of information storage giants such as Google and Yahoo! with repressive state actions.

When I speak about censorware, I often try to impress on people that technical architecture is different from personal values. That is, if parents can limit what teenagers can see, then governments can limit what citizens see. And the other side is if citizens can circumvent governments, teenagers can circumvent parents.

But there's a refinement I usually don't have room to discuss. That is, it's arguably futile to try to eliminate sexual material in general due to the sheer amount and possible interest by virtually all (male) adolescents and adults. The number of people interested in, say, independence of Tibet from China or dissent in Burma is by contrast much smaller.

And that difference may make for a far more manageable banning problem. The details of how human rights reports or opposition sites have been blocked are putting this speculation to a practical test. Although it would be ironic if, at ground level, pornography-seeking uses of projects such as the Psiphon ( social networks-based program or the Tor anonymity system ( ended up popularising the programs for political uses.It's sometimes suggested that we are entering a new internet era with blogs and syndication feeds and massive digital sharecropping sites that will, on the whole, be more difficult to censor.

My response is to remind people that identical rhetoric was heard at the start of the internet's popularisation. And we're all witnessing how wrong those predictions were.

Indeed, there's every reason to expect that similar trends such as centralisation, willingness of corporations to collaborate, the power of the market for repression and so on will be applied to these forms of communication.

The failure of technological determinism just a short while ago should argue strongly against such baseless optimism.

Access Denied will certainly become a standard reference. But it's sadly not clear whether it will be more as a foundation for anti-censorship efforts or as an initial chronicle of how visions of freedom turned into realities of control.


6 JUNE 2008

Henson photo not porn, says censor

By David Marr
June 6, 2008

IT'S official. The picture of the naked girl that sparked the Bill Henson fuss is not pornography.

The sight of her on an invitation to the photographer's Sydney exhibition two weeks ago provoked shock and outrage, but the Classifications Board has now declared the picture "mild" and safe for many children.

Yesterday the Herald also learned that the Director of Public Prosecutions was on the verge of advising NSW police that any prosecution of Henson was unlikely to succeed. In Canberra, Federal Police also announced that no charges would be laid over photographs in the Australian National Gallery.

The Henson affair appears close to collapse.

Police seized 32 of his photographs from the Roslyn Oxley9 gallery in Paddington on May 23 following uproar on talkback radio. The Premier, Morris Iemma, declared the pictures "offensive and disgusting" and the Prime Minister, Kevin Rudd, called them "absolutely revolting".

Since then, Henson photographs have been removed from the walls of two regional NSW galleries and impounded at the National Gallery. Stacks of the invitation, along with copies of Art World, a new magazine containing Henson images, have also been seized by NSW police.

But the Classification Board, under its new chief, former ABC head Donald McDonald, is far less troubled by Henson's work. Earlier this week it cleared five images - four of them had been partly censored - and it has now given the young girl on the invitation a rating of PG.The board's guidelines state: "Material classified PG may contain material which some children find confusing or upsetting, and may require the guidance of parents or guardians. It is not recommended for viewing or playing by persons under 15 without guidance from parents or guardians."

The picture came to the board for classification when it was found in a blog discussing pornography and the sexualisation of children. The classifiers found the "image of breast nudity … creates a viewing impact that is mild and justified by context … and is not sexualised to any degree".

While a minority of the board thought the impact of the picture was "moderate", none of the classifiers called for any restriction on its display.

17 OCTOBER 2008

Australia embraces web censorship

Published by Antony Loewenstein17 October 2008

My following article appears on the Global Voices Advocacy site:

The issue of internet censorship generally involves countries deemed non-democratic or “repressive” (something I discuss in my new book, The Blogging Revolution.) We regularly read reports about the regimes in China or Iran blocking countless “subversive” websites for overtly political gain.

Alas, a growing number of nations in the West are examining the possibility of censoring sites that allegedly harm society. France and Germany are leading the way and the United States is not far behind.

We can now add Australia to the list.

The OpenNet Initiative reported this week:

Australians will be unable to opt-out of the government’s pending Internet content filtering scheme, and will instead be placed on a watered-down blacklist, experts say.

Under the government’s $125.8 million Plan for Cyber-Safety, users can switch between two blacklists which block content inappropriate for children, and a separate list which blocks illegal material.

Pundits say consumers have been lulled into believing the opt-out proviso would remove content filtering altogether.

The government will iron-out policy and implementation of the Internet content filtering software following an upcoming trial of the technology, according to the Department of Broadband, Communications and the Digital Economy.

A spokesman for Communications Minister Stephen Conroy said the filters will be mandatory for all Australians.

Ever since Australia elected a new Prime Minister in late 2007, leader Kevin Rudd has openly discussed introducing such proposals (something I explained in more detail during my speech to the Global Voices Citizen Media Summit in Budapest this year.)

The primary problem with the proposal is its inefficiency and lack of flexibility (something already argued by watchers.) To make matters worse, the government has trialled this web filtering in certain states and failure was the result.

So why move forward? Leading Australian blogger on this issue, Somebody Think of the Children, says it best:

Criminals accessing child abuse websites will still be able to do so and the horrendous production and distribution of child abuse material online and off will continue. Why does the government think censors are the ones who can fix this and not law enforcement? Mandatory ISP filtering is about protecting votes, not children.

Disturbingly, the proposals have received virtually no media attention in Australia though ISPs are reportedly unsure whether to participate in the program, “depending on the nature of the trials”, according to one major player.

Vigilance on internet censorship is required across the globe, even in “democratic” nations.

24 OCTOBER 2008

And the censorship of Australia's web sites grows apace...........



Filtering out the fury: how government tried to gag web censor critics

Asher Moses

The Federal Government is attempting to silence critics of its controversial plan to censor the internet, which experts say will break the internet while doing little to stop people from accessing illegal material such as child pornography.

Internet providers and the government's own tests have found that presently available filters are not capable of adequately distinguishingbetween legal and illegal content and can degrade internet speeds by up to 86 per cent.

Documents obtained by the Herald show the office of the Communications Minister, Stephen Conroy, tried to bully ISP staff into suppressing their criticisms of the plan.

Senator Conroy has since last year's election victory remained tight-lipped on the specifics of his $44.2 million policy but, grilled by a Senate Estimates committee this week, he said the Government was looking at forcing ISPs to implement a two-tiered filtering system.

The first tier, which internet users would not be able to opt out of, would block all "illegal material". Senator Conroy has previously said Australians would be able to opt out of any filters to obtain "uncensored access to the internet".

The second tier, which is optional, would filter out content deemed inappropriate for children, such as pornography.

But neither filter tier will be capable of censoring content obtained over peer-to-peer file sharing networks, which account for an estimated 60 per cent of internet traffic.

Senator Conroy said Britain, Sweden, Canada and New Zealand had all implemented similar filtering systems. However, in all cases, participation by ISPs was optional and the filtering was limited in scope to predominantly child pornography.

Colin Jacobs, chair of the online users' lobby group Electronic Frontiers Australia said: "I'm not exaggerating when I say that this model involves more technical interference in the internet infrastructure than what is attempted in Iran, one of the most repressive and regressive censorship regimes in the world."

Critics of the ISP-level filtering plan say software filters installed by the user on their PC, which are already provided by the government for free at, are more than adequate.

Mark Newton, an engineer at Internode, has heavily criticised the Government and its filtering policy on the Whirlpool broadband communityforum, going as far as saying it would enable child abuse.

He said the plan would inevitably result in significant false positives and degrade internet speeds tremendously. Those views were subsequently widely reported by technology media and blogs.

Although Newton identified himself as an employee of Internode - as Whirlpool's rules stipulate - he always maintained his views were personal opinions and not necessarily shared by the company.

On Tuesday, a policy advisor for Senator Conroy, Belinda Dennett, wrote an email to Internet Industry Association (IIA) board member Carolyn Dalton in an attempt to pressure Newton into reining in his dissent.

"In your capacity as a board member of the IIA I would like to express my serious concern that a IIA member would be sending out this sort of message. I have also advised [IIA chief executive] Peter Coroneos of my disappointment in this sort of irresponsible behaviour ," the email, seen by the Herald, read.

It is understood the email was accompanied by a phone call demanding that the message be passed on to senior Internode management.

Newton said he found the bullying "outrageous" and Senator Conroy was "misusing his influence as a Commonwealth Minister to intimidate a private dissenting citizen into silencing his political views".

A spokesman for Senator Conroy said Newton's accusation that the Government was promoting child abuse was "disappointing and irresponsible". He said the purpose of the email was "to establish whether Mr Newton's views were consistent with the IIA position".

Ironically, Senator Conroy has himself accused critics of his filtering policy of supporting child pornography - including Greens Senator Scott Ludlam in Senate Estimates this week.

ACMA released a report in July detailing the results of laboratory testsof six unnamed ISP-level filters.

Only one of the filters tested resulted in an acceptable speed reductionof 2 per cent or less. The others caused drops in speed between 21 per cent and 86 per cent.

The tests showed the more accurate the filtering, the bigger the impact on network performance.

However, none of the filters were completely accurate. They allowed access to between 2 per cent and 13 per cent of material that should have been blocked, and wrongly blocked between 1.3 per cent and 7.8 per cent of websites that should have been allowed.

"Why would you want to damage the performance and utility of the internet and not actually keep the bad stuff out anyway," said John Lindsay, carrier relations manager at Internode.

In Senate Estimates, Senator Ludlam expressed concern that all sorts of politically-sensitive material could be added to the block list and otherwise legitimate sites - for example, YouTube - could be rendered inaccessible based on content published by users.

"The black list ... can become very grey depending on how expansive the list becomes - euthanasia material, politically related material, material about anorexia. There is a lot of distasteful stuff on the internet," he said.

Despite this, the Government - which distanced itself from the tests by saying they were initiated by the previous government - is pressing ahead with live trials of the filtering system and will shortly seek expressions of interest from ISPs keen to participate.


and this item comes from the ABC:

The high price of internet filtering

By Michael Meloni
Labor's high-speed National Broadband Network is a step in the right direction, but their plan to block inappropriate websites by forcing ISPs to install content filtering systems will slow down internet accessand raise the cost of service.

Unlike website filters installed on your personal computer, filters installed at your ISP need to check hundreds of thousands of websites and then decide whether they're pornographic or inappropriate. As it stands, no technology capable of doing this accurately exists. Current filters are of varying accuracy and severely affect internet performance- and the Government knows it.

A recent ACMA report on ISP filtering products showed that all of the products tested degraded Internet performance, with two of them reducingspeed by more than 75 per cent. One filter reduced network speed by only2 per cent, but it was one of the least accurate at identifying inappropriate and illegal websites. It also mistakenly blocked many innocent sites. The Minister for Broadband, Communications and the Digital Economy, Senator Stephen Conroy, seemed oblivious to this and hailed the trial a success.

Senator Conroy insists mandatory filtering will protect children from violent and pornographic content online, but that's simply untrue. It's rare that surfing the web will unwillingly land you head first in illicit pictures and movies. On most occasions you need to be searching for risqué material to find it and that won't change with a filter in place. Nor will access to it as circumvention can be easily achieved within minutes. For those occasions when you do accidently stumble across pornography, there's no guarantee a filter would block it anyway.

As for banning websites that are 'inappropriate', is the Government really in the best position to decide what that is? Does inappropriate include information on sexual health, breast-feeding, drugs and abortion? The one size fits all approach of filtering at ISP level causes problems because young children, teenagers and adults often use the same family computer. Material inappropriate in one household might be appropriate in another, but the Government's scheme doesn't allow forany fine-tuning. It's a poor substitute for the discretion and attentionof parents.

A combination of supervision, education and empowerment is the only way we can be sure children are equipped to navigate the web responsibly. Arguments that filtering is worth trying, even if it doesn't work, show complete disregard for the well being of young Australians and their future standing as technology leaders.

Meanwhile, extra ISP infrastructure needed to meet the burden of filtering will drive up the cost of your internet service bill. Network engineer Mark Newton says ISPs will also require more call centre staff to deal with angry customers who can't access websites.

Large operators may be able to absorb these costs, but small ISPs risk going under and consumer choice becoming limited. As a matter of fact, all businesses risk losing out under the Government's plan. Given the rate the tested filters block innocent websites, a whopping 10,000 out of every one million at best, it won't take long for sites belonging to the local plumber or GP to be mistaken and banned. Any loss of income due to website downtime is inexcusable and it's still not clear if or how we'll be able to appeal a decision.

There's also the issue of filtering HTTPS web traffic - the protocol used for online banking transactions. Five of the filters tested for ACMA could intercept HTTPS traffic, a worrying prospect if the Government intends to use one for blocking secure websites that are inappropriate or illegal. A filter inspecting secure banking data and online purchases for unsavory content effectively opens the door to fraudsters and undermines the entire e-commerce process.

To provide a safer environment for children online we need to focus on areas posing a real threat to young Australians like cyber-bullying, identity theft and online predators. Filtering does nothing to reduce these risks. Just like we educate children about staying safe outside, we need to educate them about staying safe online. Walk them through it just like we'd walk them to the park. If that means educating parents unfamiliar with the Internet as well, then let's do it.

Despite all the shortcomings in the ACMA report, the Government is progressing to live ISPs trials using real customers. Senator Conroy andhis department are unwilling to acknowledge that ISP filtering is unworkable and find themselves in a position where it seems hard to turnback, though not impossible. Instead his office prefers to brand those who object as presenting extreme views or equating freedom of speech with watching child pornography. I'm sure Labor's time would be better spent implementing their other cyber-safety promises aimed at actually benefiting children.

To make matters worse, Senator Conroy's office now says filters will be mandatory for all internet users.

Australians will pay for ISP filtering with decreased performance and higher charges, but to limit the free flow of information that makes theInternet the most valuable communication and education tool of our time,means we'll pay a much larger price in the long term.

11 NOVEMBER 2008


Censorship has failed in the past, is failing now, and will fail in the future. When people want material that governments decide is not in the communities’ interest for them to have, people will work out methods to circumvent the laws which stop them having that material.

In the interests of pointing out to you the futility of attempts to censor the Internet, you should know that the South African apartheid censors, in their ignorance and stupidity, censored a book called ‘Black Beauty”. After the outcry at their crass stupidity, the book was ultimately unbanned.

Political and fiction and non-fiction books and similar material in the form of magazines and journals were taken into South Africa from Mozambique and Swaziland, where such material, particularly in the English language, were not banned.

Australia has a long history of censorship, and most of the attempts of censors here have failed because people are able to obtain items which governments are determined to prevent them from having.

There are so many loopholes in all attempts at censorship that one wonders why governments persist in behaving like big brother and/or nanny.

If you want to control what is available in Australia on the Internet you will have to ultimately close down people’s ability to have the Internet, whether it is broadband or any other way of receiving what is out there.

It may be a good idea for would-be censors to read Antony Loewenstein’s recently published book, “The Blogging Revolution” and see what happens in totalitarian states around the world. Loewenstein’s latest article in The Age online (10 November 2008) included below gives a very good illustration of the hypocrisy of politicians in the realm of censorship. In fact, Kevin Rudd outdid himself yet again today, 11 November 2008, when he spoke about remembering those who have died defending their countries, and that the 21st century should be one of peace and not war. This is the same politician who is sending more troops to Afghanistan to fight in what has been labelled by those who are involved in fighting there as unwinnable.

The same may be said of your attempts at filtering what may or may not be available on the Internet – you are fighting an unwinnable war, and the sensible approach would be to quit while you are still ahead – if ahead you actually are!

And most interesting of all is the fact that violence is censored in Australia far, far less than anything with the word “sex” in it or relating to it. What are you going to do about web sites which discuss sexual matters in all their shapes and forms – ban them all from the Internet??

Mannie De Saxe, Lesbian and Gay Solidarity Melbourne
PO Box 1675
Preston South
Vic 3072

Government uploads hypocrisy with internet censorship

· Antony Loewenstein
· November 10, 2008

BEFORE this year's Beijing Olympic Games, Prime Minister Kevin Rudd chastised the Chinese authorities for blocking full access to the internet for the assembled world media: "My attitude to our friends in China is very simple", he said. "They should have nothing to fear by open digital links with the rest of the world during this important international celebration of sport."

Although Rudd expressed no concern for the average Chinese web user being unable to view tens of thousands of banned websites, his intervention was nevertheless a welcome call for transparency and greater democracy.

But now the Rudd government is working towards implementing an unworkable filtering process in Australia that suggests a misguided understanding of the internet and worrying tendency to censor an inherently anarchic system.

Communications Minister Stephen Conroy told Radio National's Media Report recently that the aim of the project is to "protect Australian families and kids from some material that is currently on the net . . . such as child pornography and ultra-violent sites".

Conroy tried to assure a sceptical interviewer that although the idea had been ALP policy for years, "we are committed to work with the industry to see if it is technically feasible".

He further claimed that similar kinds of filtering already exist in UK, Sweden, Norway, France and New Zealand and "there has been no detrimental effect on internet speed or performance".

But Conroy is and ignoring the wider social, moral and political implications of the issue. A number of politicians, including Family First Steve Fielding and independent Nick Xenophon, have advocated blocking online gaming sites and general pornography sites. What next?

It is not hard to imagine a push to block sites that allegedly "support" terrorism. Take Hamas, the democratically elected party in Palestine and yet regarded as a terrorist group by much of the West. For many individuals around the world, myself included, Hamas is not a terrorist entity and should be engaged. But will over-zealous politicians make it illegal to view the organisation's websites?

This is a feasible scenario, as US Democratic Senator Joe Lieberman this year successfully pressured YouTube owners Google to remove videos from "Islamist terrorist organisations".

Many in the Australian gay community are equally concerned about the current proposals. The Australian Coalition for Equality (ACE), which advocates for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people, has called on the Rudd government to guarantee "websites will not be accidentally filtered out purely because they contain the words poof, fag or dyke".

Technologically, the ability for internet service providers to successfully censor banned websites is arguably impossible. Three of the country's leading players, Telstra Media's Justin Milne, iiNet's Michael Malone and Internode's Simon Hackett, have all spoken on the record about the difficulties of implementing ISP-level filtering.

Hackett imagines a future where the government mandates a blacklist of IP addresses that by law an ISP is not permitted to serve to a customer. "Two problems with that", he argues. "One is collateral damage. What if that IP address is a virtual host with 2000 web sites on it and only one of them doesn't follow the government's morality? The other (problem) is, what if it's done by mistake? (What) if the IP address is just straight out wrong? Another obvious (problem) is that the internet is full of anonymous proxies. None of this stuff actually works."

Numerous programs such as TOR are used by users in repressive nations to communicate anonymously and without detection and are likely to be used by people in Australia.

Perhaps most worryingly, should we feel comfortable with the idea of privately owned ISPs being the gatekeeper of administering the law of permissible and blocked websites? Telstra's Milne rightly believes it should be the police implementing the rules of the land.

Furthermore, has the government even considered the massive financial burden on ISPs, especially the smaller ones, forced to play the role of Big Brother for Rudd's obsession with "protecting the children"? It seems clear that the will of small, unrepresentative Christian groups, including the Australian Family Association and the Australian Christian Lobby, are increasingly able to dictate social policy to Rudd ministers with little transparency as to their real role and influence.

The government completed a closed trial of web filtering products at a Telstra laboratory in Tasmania in June. The results were largely negative and found that most filters could not identify illegal or inappropriate content. It is not surprising that many industry insiders fear the government's moves are little more than populism dressed up as courageous social policy.

Colin Jacobs, chair of the online users' lobby group Electronic Frontiers Australia, said recently that Rudd's "model involves more technical interference in the internet infrastructure than what is attempted in Iran, one of the most repressive and regressive censorship regimes in the world."

This is certainly unnecessary rhetoric - I examine a host of authoritarian regimes in my book The Blogging Revolution, including Iran, and the Islamic Republic's censorship is far more extreme and life threatening than anything proposed by Rudd. But Jacobs is right to raise the alarm about the path Australia appears to be embracing.

Free speech is never absolute in any Western country but vigorous public debate should be the pre-cursor to any profound shift in freedom of the internet. History teaches us that governments have an unhealthy tendency to ban material deemed inappropriate for groups allegedly exposed. In this day and age, young children are seen as the most vulnerable. Cynicism is the only healthy response.

Antony Loewenstein is the author of The Blogging Revolution, published by Melbourne University Press.

See also:

Censorship Part 1

Censorship Part 2

Censorship Part 3

Censorship Part 5

Censorship Part 6


Mannie De Saxe also has a personal web site, which may be found by clicking on the link: RED JOS: HUMAN RIGHTS ACTIVISM

Mannie's blogs may be accessed by clicking on to the following links:

MannieBlog (from 1 August 2003 to 31 December 2005)

Activist Kicks Backs - Blognow archive re-housed - 2005-2009

RED JOS BLOGSPOT (from January 2009 onwards)

This page updated 29 FEBRUARY 2016 and again on 4 JULY 2021