The great firewall of Australia

As most folks know, I’ve long railed against the Chinese government’s internet censorship regime, commonly referred to as the “Great Firewall of China”.

Seems that the fight is about to take off in earnest to stop Australia from introducing a similar scheme.

The Australian Government has announced that they will introduce filtering for all Australians. Ostensibly this is to stop child pornography, but don’t be fooled – this is not what it’s about. Crikey explains it well:

The Government is fond of yelling kiddie p-rn every time anyone disagrees with their censorship policies, but there’s always been a problem with that line: that content is already illegal, and the AFP works with international agencies to target that content at its source, and to target Australians who view it. The real problem with the censorship regime (besides the economic burdens it will cause) is the extent to which the Government wishes to control what Australians can view online, and its chilling effects on free speech.

What the Government has proposed is a blanket censorship regime with no “official” opt-out (these measures are likely easily circumventable using TOR or similar anonymous proxy services). The censorship extends to anything deemed “illegal”.

Need we be reminded of the sedition laws that are in force currently, a result of the alarmist response of the Howard regime to the London bombings. The following excerpt from Sedition Law in Australia published on the Arts Law website:

The classic definition of sedition is that it is a political crime that punishes certain communications critical of the established order. Sedition crimes have been enshrined in state and territory based Australian laws since before federation and inserted into the Commonwealth Crimes Act in 1920. Under the Commonwealth Act, seditious behaviour that intended to: (i) bring the government into hatred or contempt; (ii) excite disaffection against the government, constitution, UK parliament and Kings Dominions; and (iii) bring about change to those institutions unlawfully, was criminalised.

One reading of this suggests that content on this blog, and many others, could be considered “seditious”. Some may argue that this is absurd and that it would never happen.

Supposedly we’re meant to set aside the fact that the “absurdity” of other anti-terrorism laws being used for political purposes was also claimed. Need we mention Hanneef?

The fact is, there should not even be the possibility of free speech being curtailed in such a fashion.

Even if we concede (which I clearly don’t) that we need a filtering mechanism in place, the best place for this is in the home – in a decentralised manner, and by educating parents on how best to protect their kids. The choice is a parental one, not one for the state.

Update: just came across the No Clean Feed site that provides some actions (and a sample letter) if you oppose this legislation.

Expression = prison

Amnesty International: Expression = prison: Hu Jia.

Tibet has (rightly) been in the spotlight of late, but this is a timeline reminder that these human rights abuses continue to occur throughout the country. I dearly hope that the spotlight remains firmly on these abuses in the leadup to the Olympics.

It is these kind of sentences that create the culture of self-censorship within the Chinese community.

Rebecca McKinnon suggests that we can’t expect too much to change – I hope that at least the embarrassments and increased pressure do at least help move things for the better, at least in some way.

Uncensor China

This is a cross-post from the Zumio blog.

Just a quick note to mention that yesterday, Amnesty International Australia’s Uncensor site was launched. This is the project I’ve been involved in, though the work I’m doing isn’t on the site yet.

The site is part of Amnesty’s campaign in the lead up to the Olympics being held in August in China, focusing on internet censorship and repression. I’ve been following the blog for a couple of days now and the writing there is excellent – really informative.

The “Search for Freedom” function (in the right sidebar) shows first hand China’s censorship regime at work, and clearly highlights how Google is participating in the “Golden Shield” system.

You may have heard about the Fuwa, the Chinese Olympics mascot. Well it seems that they left someone out – meet Nu Wa the Uncensor mascot. Nu Wa (who’s name means “outraged, angry young boy”, wants to set the record straight by speaking about the human rights abuses suffered by people in China.

I really dig the site, as does Priscilla. Well worth checking out…

China internet censorship and Tibet

I was a bit late to the news about Tibet, finding out only yesterday about what’s been happening. A brief news snippet on JJJ said that the Chinese government says that about 16 “innocent civilians” were killed, but the Tibetan government in exile claims more than 60.

Of course, no-one knows because, in typical fashion, the Chinese government have shut-down media in Lhasa. Internet censorship continues, with YouTube blocked for posting foreign news reports on the riots and Chinese response.

Also on that JJJ news snippet, they stated the Chinese government also claims that it has been exercising “extreme restraint” in its response to protests – if this is extreme restraint, I’d hate to see what they are really capable of.

Rebecca McKinnon has a good post that touches on a variety of issues around internet censorship and engagement. But I just wanted to highlight her first point:

The Chinese system of Internet censorship and media propaganda may have a lot of holes, but when tested by events like the Tibet unrest this past week, so far it’s holding up well enough for the regime’s purpose.

I’m privileged to be working on a project at the moment for Amnesty International Australia that highlights the issue of Chinese internet censorship and its effect on human rights. Hopefully this action will help bring about change so that Chinese netizens can get an unfiltered view of their Government’s actions (more on that later).

She points to the Davesgonechina blog, highlighting the following point (among others):

Watching the build up to the Olympics has been, for me, like watching the world’s biggest, slowest traffic accident. For a while now its been pretty obvious that alot of contentious issues about China were going to come to the front as we approach August 8th, but the problem is that there are two completely separate parallel worlds on these issues: the Chinese one, and the rest of us. Westerners have been exposed to rhetoric and information about Tibetan discontent, Darfur’s international and Chinese dimensions, and of course old chestnuts like Tiananmen provide a larger context of long term, ongoing problems. Meanwhile, Chinese mainlanders by and large have no knowledge of these events or issues. While for the rest of the world the Olympics will be largely a referendum on China’s ability to deal with what everyone else has talked about for years, for Chinese citizens it will be about China winning a beauty pageant of sorts.

Two Worlds, Two Dreams: prepare for the SchizOlympics.

It’s an interesting take on the situation – one that is likely to get more heated as the Games draw near.