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Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Australian Censorship: Google Vs. The Communications Minister
By Roger Browne

In a radio interview on 29 March, Australia’s communications minister Stephen Conroy had some strong things to say about Google:

“Notwithstanding their alleged ’do no evil’ policy, they recently created something called Buzz and there was a reaction. People said ’well, look aren’t you publishing private information?’,” Senator Conroy said.

The founder of Google said the following: ’If you have something that you don’t want anyone to know, maybe you shouldn’t be doing it in the first place’. He also said recently to Wall Street analysts: ’We love cash’.

So when people say ’shouldn’t we just leave it up to the Googles of this world to determine what the filtering policy should be?’ - make no mistake, anybody who wants to go onto Google’s sites now and look up their filtering policy will actually find they filter more material and a broader range of topics than we are proposing to put forward.

I’ll back our Parliament to stand fast on these issues from Google.”

Google and the Australian Government haven’t been seeing eye-to-eye recently on matters relating to censorship.

In January, Google said that it would not “voluntarily” comply with the Australian government’s request to censor YouTube videos in accordance with the government’s broad content rules.

Communications Minister Stephen Conroy referred to Google’s censorship on behalf of the Chinese and Thai governments when he made his case for Google to impose censorship in Australia.

A week later, Google caved. In response to a complaint that a page on Encyclopedia Dramatica violated the Australian Anti Discrimination Act, Google “removed the website from”.

The government recently invited submissions relating to its proposals for mandatory internet filtering, and the submissions have now been published. Google submitted a 24-page document (pdf), in which Google made the following points:

On the assumption that internet filtering is likely to be introduced, Google then proposes in considerable detail how to minimise the harm it causes. Google proposes prior notice to the site owner, a period to implement takedown before filtering is imposed, an appeal process, regular review and audit, and transparency as to how much content of each category has been blocked.

Throughout the proposal, I get the impression that Google is particularly concerned about the effect of mandatory internet filtering on YouTube. One blocked video would force access to the whole of YouTube through a proxy server, with massive performance implications.


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