Australian Users Getting Better At Circumventing Censorship – Study

A study is looking into how Australian’s are handling Internet censorship. It seems more are getting better at skirting the site blocks.

As efforts continue to implement mass Internet censorship in Canada continues, it seems that more evidence is out suggesting that such efforts could be fruitless.

Years ago, Cory Doctorow once famously quipped that the Internet sees censorship as damage and routs around it accordingly. It seems that this scenario is being played out in Australia. A survey is suggesting that Australians are getting better at getting around censored content. From IT News Australia:

Australian internet users have become much more adept at circumventing blocked websites over the past year, new numbers released by the government show.

The numbers are contained in the fifth survey of online copyright infringement trends commissioned by the Department of Communications.

In the 2018 survey, “less than one percent” of survey respondents that encountered a blocked website were successful in circumventing it.

By March 2019, however, it was a different story.

“It was reported that less than one percent managed to bypass the blocked website in 2018, this increased significantly to 16 percent in 2019,” the new 2019 report states.

Ultimately, Australian’s are actively looking into trying to circumvent the censorship being forced onto them. It likely started with a few users figuring out effective ways of getting around ISP blocks. Then, that knowledge gets spread. Now, with the number of people saying that they bypassed a site block spiking to 16%, that number will likely only increase as knowledge gets passed around. Eventually, whatever methods are implemented by citizens, it will eventually be a requirement for users to get online. First, get a subscription for an ISP, then shop around for services that circumvent the mass censorship in the country, and once you are set, continue to enjoy the free and open Internet once again.

What this also suggests is that Australian’s are increasingly feeling that censorship is working against them and that it is increasingly a priority to get around the government mandate. This behaviour is, of course, predictable to anyone who wasn’t actively pushing for mass Internet censorship in the first place.

This continues the long running string of predictable outcomes for mass Internet censorship in a country. The saga, of course, started in 2014 when Australia passed laws saying that any site that has the primary purpose of copyright infringement should be blocked. Plenty of evidence was brought forward by experts saying that this idea is a bad one given that such blocks would ultimately be circumvented among other things. Australia actively chose to ignore the evidence and pass the laws anyway.

Fast forward to 2018 and lobbyists were seeing the results of even more lobbying. The government proposed modifying the laws to include websites that have a “primary effect” of piracy. Again, evidence was brought forward saying that this is a bad idea. The blocks would be circumvented. Furthermore, innocent websites would get rolled up on top of it all and would cause further damage to the Internet. Additionally, this is an open invitation to continually expand censorship into countless other areas. Again, the government chose to ignore all the evidence and pass the laws anyway.

As predicted, lobbyists came running back to government and convinced them to start blocking fansub sites. Then, Australia’s censorship creep expanded again when multinational corporate interests also demanded the inclusion of online conversion sites. Then, retailers began lobbying the government demanding that competing retailers be blocked. After that, interests groups demanded that “violent crime” content be blocked as well.

So, with censorship spiralling out of control in the country, it’s no surprise that Australian’s are increasingly finding ways to just bypassing the blocks anyway. This more recent study shows that circumventing censorship is now increasingly becoming the norm. With more and more types of content being placed on blacklists, it’s little surprise that citizens are fed up with it all.

Ultimately, this shows what happens when a country decides to put the blinders on and charge fully into the Chinese style Internet censorship business. People find ways of circumventing the censorship and the censorship simply keeps expanding. Ultimately, the average citizen simply gets trained on hiding their tracks as more and more of them slip through the governments fingers as the grip tightens. In the end, the government simply looks bag, the citizens arm themselves with anti-censorship tools, and everyone is worse off then ever before all the while nothing is getting solved. Just another piece of evidence that points out that Internet censorship is a horrible idea to begin with.

Drew Wilson on Twitter: @icecube85 and Facebook.

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