Tonight's blog chat is one I have been meaning to write for some time, it is something that gets my eldest son very worked up about and I am trying to decided what I think. I would be very interested in your views.
What do people think of censorship on the internet? Should governments (as in China, Iran and Thailand) decide what we can view on the internet or should we as parents decided what our children can view?
The Australian Government is currently formulating a Bill that will censor the internet. This does sound scary, most people do not like the word censorship. What are they planning? The Government wants to create a mandatory content filtering system on the net forcing ISPs from hosting a range of sites that have been placed on the “black list”. The Government tells us the purpose is to protect children and adults from what the they have deemed as unsuitable.
Sites the Governed are wanting to Black list include:
- child pornography
- sexual violence
- sites that promote, incite or instruct in the matter of violence that is unlawful (including euthanasia, assisted suicide and graffiti),
- sexual activities between consenting adults (fetishes etc..)
- cruelty, addiction, advocating terrorist etc..
No one would argue that these a horrible sites, damaging to our young, evil and no one needs them at all.
However it could also include “educational sites” such as drug use, abortion and euthanasia sites. Should anti and pro abortion sites or similar euthanasia sites be blocked? The list could be expand depending on what Government we had in power.
One academic argued “The most effective way to preserve democratic society is by making available the widest possible range of viewpoints, opinions and ideas so that all individuals have the opportunity to be informed." Does this mean ALL sites, not matter their content? I can not see how child pornography can be considered a "something" that we need to have available, as it is firstly a criminal act and secondly it is consider by most as being abhorrent.
A recent national phone poll that was commissioned by GetUP! found only 4 per cent of Australians
want the Government to be responsible for protecting children online. Nanny-states are not popular.
From an article in the Sydney Morning Herald, according to technology writer Kathryn Small, the concern is not what will and will not be blocked, but who will and will not be able to get around it. "Conroy will not be censoring the internet. He'll be censoring people who do not know much about the internet." If you are computer savy you can get around the blocks. The irony is that it is children and young people who will be most likely to get around the blocks. Children are more computer-savvy and literate than any other generation, precisely because they have grown up with computers. This was demonstrated in 2007 when a 16-year-old, Tom Wood, took just 30 minutes to crack the Government's super-filter that cost a whopping $84 million to develop. A very interesting point.
The Government is also considering placing pressure on You Tube into voluntarily blocking content, could this become the start of more government interference and re-enforcing the “nanny state”. They have said no as long as it falls within their guidelines.
This is being pushed by the Australian Christian Lobby (who have been briefed by the government, no other lobby groups has) - is this democracy in action, no it isn’t. But one could argue that the Australian Christian Lobby are the only lobby group willing to stand up and say "enough is enough".
My thoughts are:
- Spend the time and resources fighting those who are in the “business” of child pornography and deal with them - this would mean an international approach. Governments need to close down their networks, blocking their sites will only make them go under ground and find other methods of sharing their wares. They won’t stop because of the filters.
- Education parents to look out for what their children are doing on the net, this may mean teaching parents how to use the net - become more computer savvy. Encourage them to move the computer to a public space in the house so the parents can better see what is going on.
- Educate children into the dangers of what is on the net. I have to say that when my son looked a couple of questionable sites, we spoke to him, but he wasn’t interested after the first look - these sites are pretty boring to most kids.
I don’t visit these sites and I never will. However I am still not sure about Governments in democratic countries censoring the internet, it is a dangerous precedent. However as a Christian, these sites and many other forms of media (magazines, books and TV/movies) all contain images and information that are works of Satan and sadly reflect the non-Christan worldly society we live in.
For those in the USA, Hilary Clinton in a recent speech said that there should be internet freedom and it should be available to all. No censorship.
What do you think?