In Rushed Process, Australia Passes Increasing Internet Censorship

Free speech took a hit in Australia. Despite the opposition, the government passed the increasing of Internet censorship.

The Australian government has received numerous messages from the public saying that increasing Internet censorship is no solution to combating alleged copyright infringement. Those messages have come from both citizens and organizations operating in the country alike. Unfortunately, it seems that the Australian government is simply choosing to ignore those calls and, instead, choosing to listen almost exclusively to major foreign corporations.

The latest battle over free speech in the country started in 2015 when the Australian government announced its intention of bringing in Internet censorship laws. At that time, many were opposed to it. One of those fears was that once one thing began getting censored, more targets would get hit with demands for censorship as well. Unfortunately, the government chose to ignore all the evidence and research. Instead, they chose to listen only to backroom lobbyists and major foreign corporate interests.

Like clockwork, and as critics accurately predicted, other targets began being placed on the list of things to be censored in the country. Fan-sub sites which don’t technically host copyrighted material also got hit as well for instance.

Of course, the theory pushed by major corporate interests is that if users encountered blocks to allegedly infringing sites, they would magically give up and go running back to the music store to continue buying cassettes and LPs. Of course, reality hit in the form of a study which pointed out that the effects of censorship wound up being rising piracy rates and falling consumer spending.

The revelation wound up being extremely embarrassing for the Australian government. All their critics were right and the backroom lobbyists were once again proven to have nothing but failed policies and wild theories.

So, in response, the Australian government wound up choosing to double-down on the theory that governments should continue listening to backroom lobbyists while ignoring public input. Last month, the Austrlian government announced that they would be increasing Internet censorship in the country. To do so, they would change the language of “primary purpose” to “primary effect”. Experts examined the impact of such a change in language and concluded that any site that allows user comments or user generated content could not be subject to the ban.

Still, the Australian government continued to operate under the theory of if some censorship is bad, then more censorship must be great. During hearings, critics pointed out that there is no evidence to suggest that more Internet censorship was the right policy decision to make. Critical also pointed out that the process is also being rushed.

Unfortunately, it seems that the Australian government doesn’t care.

Reports are surfacing saying that the Australian government has passed the laws. From Forbes:

The Australian parliament has now passed a new law expanding site-blocking measures.

Passed by the lower house last month, the Copyright Amendment (Online Infringement) Bill 2018 has now made it through the Senate.

It widens the country’s existing website-blocking system by allowing copyright owners to apply for injunctions to force ISPs to prevent their customers from accessing pirate sites.

Once an injunction has been granted, the ISP can block mirror and proxy sites without needing to return to court.

Meanwhile, search engines such as Google and Bing are also to be held responsible for linking to banned sites, and will now be required to remove links to them, again with mirror and proxy sites included.

The move comes as Australia is engaged in another heated debate over encryption. Currently, Australia is considering legislation mandating companies weaken all encryption in the country. Innovators and small businesses are warning that if such laws are passed, they may end up fleeing the country.

So, more broadly speaking, it’s almost as if the Australian government is basically declaring war on the future, technology, and the Internet. All this despite the wide-ranging economic benefits all of this has brought to the country.

From the citizens perspective, there is a very real prospect that the economic prospects of the country could be hamstrung by government policy. Already, we are seeing companies preparing to leave the country because it would be legally questionable if they can compete on the world stage. Innovative services could also be blocked at any given time on top of it all. All this could be great news for VPN services from overseas, but it certainly signals dark days ahead for ordinary citizens.

Drew Wilson on Twitter: @icecube85 and Google+.

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