Reporters sans frontieres, the French agency who monitors freedom of the press around the globe, released a report on Wednesday called “Internet Enemies”. The report names Australia as a country to watch, thanks to the current Government’s plans to introduce a mandatory internet filter. And because the same report also mentions China and North Korea, the media is completely losing its shit.
Don’t get me wrong – I’m a vocal opponent to the Government’s policy, and the country’s name in the RSF report is valid and alarming at the same time. But reading through the report, at no point in time is Australia mentioned in the same breath as the two communist nations.
Australia is only mentioned twice in the entire report. Here are the relevant excerpts:
More and more states are enacting or considering repressive laws pertaining to the Web, or are applying those that already exist, which is the case with Jordan, Kazakhstan, and Iraq. Western democracies are not immune from the Net regulation trend. In the name of the fight against child pornography or the theft of intellectual property, laws and decrees have been adopted, or are being deliberated, notably in Australia, France, Italy and Great Britain. On a global scale, the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement (ACTA), whose aim is to fight counterfeiting, is being negotiated behind closed doors, without consulting NGOs and civil society. It could possibly introduce potentially liberticidal measures such as the option to implement a filtering system without a court decision.
Among the countries “under surveillance” are several democracies: Australia, because of the upcoming implementation of a highly developed Internet filtering system, and South Korea, where draconian laws are creating too many specific restrictions on Web users by challenging their anonymity and promoting selfcensorship.
This second mention is the one that matters. The agency lists Saudi Arabia, Burma, China, North Korea, Cuba, Egypt, Iran, Uzbekistan, Syria, Tunisia, Turkmenistan and Vietnam all as “enemies of the Internet”. Australia is not on that list. They have, however been placed “under surveillance”, alongside South Korea, Russia, Turkey United Arab Emirates, Belarus and Thailand.
So what does this all actually mean? It means that there’s a little bit more international attention on the Australian government’s policy for mandatory internet filtering. Maybe that attention will put pressure on them to shelve the idea, but probably not.
It’s important to understand that even though this filter is a huge mistake, we’re still a very long way from being on the same level as North Korea and Iran, despite what the media may infer. At least we have a choice to vote for our Government – something you should all remember come the next Federal election…