Filtering in oz: Australia's foray into Internet censorship

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

11 Scopus citations

Abstract

Australia's decision to implement Internet censorship using technological means creates a natural experiment: it can become the first Western democracy to mandate filtering legislatively and to retrofit it to a decentralized network. But are the proposed restrictions legitimate? The new restraints derive from the Labor Party's pro-filtering electoral campaign, though minority politicians have considerable influence over policy. The country has a well-defined statutory censorship system that may, however, be undercut by relying on foreign and third-party lists of sites to be blocked. While Australia is open about its filtering goals, the government's transparency about what content is to be blocked is poor. Initial tests show that how effective censorship is at filtering prohibited content-and only that content-will vary based on what method ISPs use. Though Australia's decision-makers are formally accountable, efforts to silence dissenters, outsourcing of blocking decisions, and filtering's inevitable transfer of power to technicians undercut accountability. This Article argues that Australia represents a shift by Western democracies towards legitimating Internet filtering and away from robust consideration of the alternatives available to combat undesirable information.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)493-530
Number of pages38
JournalUniversity of Pennsylvania Journal of International Economic Law
Volume31
Issue number2
StatePublished - Dec 1 2009
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Economics, Econometrics and Finance (miscellaneous)
  • Law

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