Today Australia’s minister for broadband, communications and the digital economy, Stephen Conroy, had a press release detailing plans to “improve safety of the Internet for families.” Essentially announcing that Australia would now force Internet service providers to filter websites which contain RC(Refused Classification)-rated material. From the press release, RC-rated material includes “child sex abuse content, bestiality, sexual violence including rape, and the detailed instruction of crime or drug use.”
The new plans are part of a continuing trend of censorship by the Australian government. Already content that receives an RC rating is subject to a take-down notice if it’s hosted in Australia, and it is illegal to “distribute, sell or make available for hire RC-rated films, computer games and publications”. From the description of RC-rated material above it may seem like the censorship is only affecting media that most normal people wouldn’t watch or play anyway. However even Left 4 Dead 2, a first-person shooter which sold over 2 million units in two weeks, initially received an RC rating. The Australian version has now been modified to only receive MA15+, but it still shows that a game that millions of people find acceptable to play uncensored, has to be censored in order to be sold in Australia.
To tell the truth I find this continuing trend of censorship in Australia disconcerting. I believe that censorship in general is wrong, and agree with Mill when he says, “The liberty of the individual must be thus far limited; he must not make himself a nuisance to other people. But if he refrains from molesting others in what concerns them, and merely acts according to his own inclination and judgment in things which concern himself, the same reasons which show that opinion should be free, prove also that he should be allowed, without molestation, to carry his opinions into practice at his own cost”. People viewing content on the internet isn’t directly harming anyone else, and so shouldn’t be restricted.
It could be argued that people viewing this content and then it makes them commit crimes. For example viewing detailed instructions on crime may lead some people to go on and commit those crimes. However, I believe that the individuals who would actually commit the crimes would likely not be stopped by a filter. Proxies allow you to get around just about any simple filter, and if the government tries to start blocking proxies then it just becomes a back and forth between the government filter and the people trying to circumvent the filter. This same back and forth can be seen in virus writers and anti-virus software writers. No matter how good the anti-virus software gets, people with nasty intentions will always circumvent it. Besides, even “good guys” like the University of Michigan’s own Jon Oberheide will try and circumvent possible censorship.
In conclusion, I feel that the growing censorship in Australia is morally wrong. It can potentially be used to restrict access to sites that many people may not find offensive, and since it’s controlled by a small group, it’s open to abuse. Furthermore I don’t feel that it will actually stop people with ill intentions as there are many ways to circumvent any possible filter.
 “Measures to improve safety of the internet for families”
 “Left 4 Dead 2 Sales Explode Over Holiday Weekend”
 J.S. Mill, On Liberty, Chapter 3
 “Hacker ships tool to circumvent China’s Green Dam filter”