From January the 20th new laws will come into effect after the South Australian government voted to put new censorship laws on the net. This will mainly affect entertainment companies who sell content but may affect content already on the world wide web.
Essentially, content providers will have to check the age of a user where necessary, i.e. whether a person is above 15 or 18, depending on the material being viewed. The Australian Communications and Media Authority will be able to force providers to remove content as well as links being deleted.
The restrictions apply to chatrooms, websites and mobile phone content. It has been stated that there will be an ‘opt out’ option for the restrictions, how this will be implemented however remains to be seen.
As part of a wider discourse on the web and how it should be used, I’m all for protecting children. However, surely the best form of protection would be to have an adult viewing material with their child? Chatrooms in particular are demonised on the internet – due to the fear of ‘predators’ lurking behind pseudonyms and fake i.d’s.
I’m all for protecting children as I said, however there are smarter ways to do it than putting a blanket like this over the internet. It also makes me concerned that more and more countries around the world are putting in place some kind of restriction on what we should view and read, and how we should interact with this information.
Reporters Without Borders is a group that hilights the ways in which the freedom of the press can be limited. This certainly applies to the internet, one of, historically, the most free arenas on Earth to state your beliefs.
The web is a genuinely amazing place. It has changed the way we communicate with one another whether it is through blogs, social networks, chat forums or even online phone calls like Skype. Nonetheless, governments haven’t been slow to see the trend, and many have already decided to use it to their own ends.
One example from Iran is the case of Mojtaba Saminejad, imprisoned since February 2005 for making available online material that is offensive to Islam. Of course, Iran being a Muslim state, one could argue that extra care is needed when being a digital (or other) author. But it begs the question of how are the government can go?
China however is the nation that continues to come under fire for particularly harsh regulations and restrictions on the internet. Originally, China was merely using a range of technologically high-tech means to monitor citizens (and in particular political dissidence) on the internet. However, this has recently changed.
More than 130 Chinese citizens have access to the internet, but rumour has it that more than 62 people (and some say this is an extremely conservative estimate) have been jailed for their views online. Unfortunately, Zimbabwe (not known for freedom of speech, press and human rights) is not in the due process required to purchase monitoring/censoring equipment from China.
A number of other nations are now at work to develop technology that bars pornography, political dissidence, web email systems, religious criticism and more. Ironically, the West even came in for criticism for shipping material that could be used to control citizens of other nations.
I truly believe in freedom of choice and expression and so I really do feel that this is a worrying trend – but it is one that is set to continue apace around the world.