Tuesday, 30 August 2011

The Problem with an ISP Filter is                                                  

At what point is the line drawn between protection and ‘individual’ repression?
At the point where an ISP filter is put in place to limit our access to information the government is beginning to over step this line. However, at the point where the blacklisted sites are not disclosed to the public it is clear that that line has not only been crossed but has been left far behind, sitting alongside our democratic rights and free speech. This line has been somewhat blurred by the constant reminder of the existence of child pornography that while already illegal would be blocked by the ISP filter. It is crucial that we look beyond this one example though and examine the myriad of sites and opinions that would be repressed by an ISP filter.  Websites that have a Refused Classification (RC) would include a number of sites from child pornography to sites endorsing terrorist activities. These sites as a result all end up on a black list, that should more accurately be named an invisible list, as it will never be subject to public scrutiny. If the government is asking for the Australian public to put its trust in a governing body, with its own political agendas, to determine what adults of a free country can and can not see they are overstretching their roles and undermining the capabilities of the Australian public to individually filter material on it’s merits and legality. The chance for the government to filter without having to justify or even present the list of sites is an open doorway to corruption and transparency issues already permeating political culture.

Sites included among a leaked blacklist of sites was a graphic anti-abortion website with images of fetuses. This kind of political censorship, in a society that lacks appropriate campaign finance restrictions, is dictating what information is able to reach and inform the Australian public. Political groups that struggle to make an impact due to the high price of professional lobbying in Australia are again disadvantaged as possibly their only means to convey a message is gagged and then secretly discarded along with other sites deemed too graphic by the Australian government. It is becoming more and more apparent through acts such as this that money is not free speech but a requirement for speech as speech and the sharing of information in its most simple form are being restricted. Political views such as those displayed on the anti-abortion website while being viewed by many as ‘extreme’ hold an integral part in maintaining democracy. Limitations placed on any political site seriously infringes on our ability as a citizen to not only vote but to participate in the political process. If Isaiah Berlin is correct that in valuing liberty we are “free to choose and not be chosen for” then an ISP filter with a secret blacklist is not only abolishing this liberty but also taking away any right we have to an openly informed society and any chance we have for a democratic political system. 

By Samantha Dixon 

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