Ever since the global success of the internet reached the ears of the governments of countries whom had access to such an incredible network, there has and always will be a drive to control that which seemed impossible to do before. While the famous ‘Great Firewall of China’ is known throughout the world due to the strict censorship in China, the rest of the world has mostly enjoyed the freedom of an unfiltered Internet for the majority of the 1990’s.
However, just as the media is filtered and censored, the Governments around the world have turned their attention to the last medium that needed to be censored – the internet.
Never before has the world seen a network that could be used globally to create a vast, powerful network of people who could communicate on a global scale at the click of a button. One could almost say that the internet is both the worlds greatest gift and also it’s greatest threat.
With the rise of peer-to-peer networking and sharing of data, with some of that being illegal content, such as video, music, program and game downloads, a crackdown on what could be distributed on the internet began. Though so far most attempts in the Western world have been unsuccessful due to a massive outcry from the public, some ISP’s (internet service providers) have begun to censor some websites of their own accord. A three strike rule is in place with most ISP’s in America, while some ISP’s voluntarily censor such content as child pornography and abuse/hate websites.
Other countries considering internet censorship, or already have it, lists in the 20’s in numbers. For Australia, the situation is currently listed as ‘changing’ by Reporters Without Borders due to the state government attempting to implement censorship, but without success. Due to the fact that there are still plans to possibly implement censorship laws, Reporters Without Borders has placed Australia on the watch list.
But what, exactly, would censorship mean for the internet?
Clearly two sides of the argument exist.
Firstly while some types of censorship are mutually accepted as a good idea (child pornography bans, highly explicit imagery and hate speech) a nationwide ban on other more harmless websites under the guise of protection of the public has been widely disputed due to fears of abuse. After all, the technology already exists to create a country wide filter (The Great Firewall of China) so many people are already aware that it’s possible.
Secondly, why some consider censorship bad is simple. An abuse of power by mega internet corporations, governments, countries and yes even legal institutions could lead to easily conquering the last tool that has complete free speech freedoms allowed. That, and filters such as those, often referred to as ‘nanny nets’, often target inappropriate targets for the filter, as they are not very precise. Many schools and businesses that use ‘nanny nets’ often complain of inappropriate targets, such as artistic nudity being banned.
In conclusion, today while many people continue to fight for their right to internet freedom in many countries across the globe, the battle is ongoing. Sites such as WikiLeaks, Reporters without Borders, and many social media sites advocate against the bans, especially, for many reasons, including invasion of privacy.
To this day, the war wages. Who will win remains unknown; It must be acknowledged the reality is both side have some merit to their arguments regarding censorship vs non censorship . However in Australia, our hearts hope the internet stays as free as possible. But our head knows it is only a matter of time before more censorship filters are put in place.