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Censoring criticism of government policies

Does flickr need an eyetest (freedom test)?

On October 1st, new laws came into effect in Australia that censor government officials from criticising government policy.

Censorship push raises ire of MPS

It’s the result of the Auditor-General’s criticism of a $300 million parliamentary entitlements scheme.  All government handouts now need to be cleared by the Department of Finance before being distributed.  The problem is, that the Department of Finance are including the editing of material to prevent criticism of government policies.

Since most of these government handouts are used to educate people about government mismanagement, by censoring them they’re preventing Australians from becoming aware of potential issues or problems within government policy.

How do you feel about this?

Where is it likely to go?  If it’s now illegal for the government to criticise government policies, how soon will it become illegal for the public to criticise government policy?

What are the implications of this?  Well, it would mean that the government can implement whatever it wants, and if anyone is critical about it, they can be censored so that people can’t know.

What if you criticise the government in a blog post, or comments in an online medium?  What if you have control over how material is presented to the public?

That control would have to be taken away from you, either through a banning of your internet access, or by arrest.

Which leads me to the next issue that Australia is currently involved in.

The Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement (ACTA).

The aim of this treaty, currently with 40-something countries in secret negotiations about how it’s going to work, is to protect copyrighted goods and prevent counterfeiting.  The Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade is one of those who have acknowledged participating in ACTA negotiations, but everyone is refusing to disclose anything about it.

It’s secret, and the public has no right to know what is being decided about how they’re going to be treated.

However, a document has been leaked that details possible provisions being considered.

Not only is counterfeiting and copyright being looked at by ACTA, but also ‘internet distribution and information technology’.

  • ISPs all around the world (in participating nations) will be forced to provide information about suspected copyright infringers. No warrants will be necessary.
  • searches can be conducted at borders and security checkpoints of laptops, mp3 players, and cellphones for illegally downloaded music or movies. Anyone with infringing content will be subject to a hefty fine AND have their devices confiscated or destroyed. (This is already in effect at US borders.)
  • all file sharing and file storage will be illegal, since it’s impossible to control what is shared or stored. This means all websites and internet tools that cater to file sharing and file storing will be illegal. No more Facebook, YouTube, Flickr, etc.  No more Google Documents, 3rd party online storage, etc.

There is also a ‘three strikes’ policy planned. Any person that violates ACTA three times will have their internet access banned – for the rest of their life. This will not only affect them, but their household, their family, their work, their entire life. They will not be allowed to access the internet at work…

What are your thoughts?

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