Australian Internet Censorship in the Media: EFA Chair on the Morning Show

Dale Clapperton, Chair of the Electronic Frontiers Australia (EFA), appeared briefly on Channel Seven’s Morning Show today, discussing internet censorship.

I didn’t manage to record the introduction, as I was caught by surprise and there was a chainsaw buzzing outside my window; but it involved the host (Larry Emdur) talking about how the system has been compared to censorship regimes in Iran, China and other countries. They then talked about a poll that the Morning Show ran, and moved into the interview.

Edit 29 Oct 08 7:30 pm: Now with video:


Larry Emdur: Making news this morning: The Federal government will make internet censorship compulsory for all Australians. The Daily Telegraph says controversial websites on euthanasia and anorexia could be banned, and that would put our level of ‘net censorship alongside places like China, Cuba, Iran, and North Korea.

Kylie Gillies: A poll on Sunrise this morning asked: ‘Should the government censor the internet?’, now 20% said ‘Yes’, and a whopping 80% said ‘No’.

Dale Clapperton is from Electronic Frontiers Australia, that’s a group dedicated to protecting online freedom. He joins us now from Brisbane. Good morning to you, Dale.”

Dale Clapperton: Good morning.

Kylie: Obviously you don’t think we need compulsory internet censorship for all Australians?

Dale: No. We’ve had the internet in Australia for about thirty years now. At various stages along the way, people have raised doomsday scenarios about what was going to happen if the internet was not censored. Most recently back in 1999, when the Howard government attempted legislation along these lines.

But what we really see now is people who have grown up with the internet understand it, understand its dangers. People who grew up with the internet as children now have children of their own, and they’re quite capable of making informed decisions about it.

Larry: Dale, do you have children?

Dale: No, I don’t.

Larry: Yeah, I’m just wondering: Do you think we need any kind of internet censorship at all?

Dale: Internet censorship for parents that want it is already available in the form of software that can be installed on their computers. It’s a useful tool that parents can use to control and monitor their children’s online access, in conjunction with appropriate supervision. This software is already available free of charge from the Commonwealth government, and has been for quite some time. We don’t see that there’s a case for forcing it on everybody at an ISP level.

Larry: Dale, my understanding of that is that people around the world spend their days and nights working out clever ways of getting around that. So kids can get round those pretty simply.

Dale: There are ample ways to get around these types of censorship systems; and, for that matter, children enjoy pushing boundaries. It’s something that they’re good at. And when children have got the degree of technical sophistication that they do these days, it will be fairly trivial to get around any kind of censorship system that the government tries to enforce. The only alternative would be making the system so restricted that it would really be unusable.

Kylie: OK. So why do you think the government is pushing for this, Dale?

Dale: Several reasons. First and foremost, they went to the election last year promising that they were going to do this, and now they’re determined to follow through.

There’s also the issue that the government needs the support of the Greens Senators and Senators Fielding and Xenophon, who’s an independent, and from Family First, to get any controversial legislation through the Senate. Senator Fielding from Family First has already said that, for example, he wants access to certain adult material, which would be most pornographic websites on the Internet, blocked for all Australians. And Senator Xenophon, who has an anti-gambling agenda, has said that he wants the system used to block gambling websites. So we’re really just seeing the start of the special interest groups weighing in on this debate with demands for their particular pet peeve to be banned.

Larry: Dale, thanks for your opinion this morning, appreciate your time.

Dale: Thankyou.


More: Sunrise has also tackled this issue, though, it seems, not with anyone who knows anything about it. They interview someone from Marie Claire and someone from Sky News, drum up tired culture wars instead of actually looking at the issue, and attempt to get a laugh by asking a woman why she doesn’t do the news naked.

Yet their audience is still voting 75% against internet censorship. Video here.


For background and further reading, see my censorship links roundup here.

Categories: law & order, Politics, technology

Tags: , , , , , , , ,

8 replies

  1. Visions of Brian Harridine again.

  2. I’ve never been able to figure out what net filtering protects kids from – can someone tell me?

  3. I’ve never been able to figure out what net filtering protects kids from – can someone tell me?

    The bogeyman?

  4. Lauredhel don’t be silly. Nothing can protect you from a really determined bogeyman.
    Francis Xavier Holdens last blog meat curry

  5. Protecting kids from the bogeyman is very easy. First you teach them that the monster goes away if they hide their heads under the blanket. Then you ask the kids what they think will happen if they put the blanket over the head of the bogeyman instead.
    Censoring internet feeds (unless it’s done by throwing a blanket over the computer providing them) isn’t likely to increase the anti-bogeyman capabilities of the average Australian household in the least.

  6. I have just read about this and am outraged! If Australia goes down this path, the precedent will be set for other western liberal democracies to follow suit.
    I would fear even more for freedoms in ”Big Brother” Britain, and elsewhere.

  7. NB: I’m studying Media Democracies at uni and have written the following to investigate MD and blogging.
    The Rudd Government’s ambitious plan to protect Australians through black-listing offensive websites has certainly ruffled a few feathers of late. Although I admire such a noble notion (re: child protection, and shielding the vulnerable from offensive material) we must question whether this infringes on the civil liberties of the average Australian citizen. Protecting children from graphic and disturbing sites such as porn is certainly a step in the right direction, but we must discover what classifications (if any) exist, and if the government has the legal right to block site access to all Australian’s. What features of a site equate to it being banned?
    The Chinese government is often criticised for its control over media, and over-whelming love of censorship. So we must ask whether the government is truly trying to protect its people, OR; does it use blacklists and censorship to its own advantage to support the interests of the state and NOT the people in it. I agree with many others who believe that freedom of speech and democracy go hand-in-hand, yet unlike America, Australia does not a Bill of Rights in which ‘The right to free speech’ is bound by the law. By banning offensive materials the Australian government believes that it is doing the right thing and protecting the people, yet who decides what material is offensive? What if we (the people) don’t agree with the government and don’t deem the material to be offensive or insulting? Whose perspective counts? Is a democracy with censorship still a democracy?


  1. Net censorship roundup: Fielding and Xenophon want filters to include legal material at Hoyden About Town
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