Do you trust your government to decide what you can see online?

I don’t think it’s going out on a limb to say that most of us wouldn’t want to check out websites containing images of graphic and disturbing sex abuse or detailed instructions for committing crimes. Most of us would find them abhorrent. But should those sorts of sites be censored from the internet altogether? And should your government be deciding what you should and shouldn’t see online?

It’s a topic being fiercely debated in Australia, where the Federal Government says it will pass laws for compulsory internet filtering – laws that will force internet service providers to block banned material. 

Some are calling it the “great firewall of Australia”. Online lobby group GetUp! has made a tongue-in-cheek ad campaigning against the laws – you can see it here.

Many have commented on The Australian’s website — some calling it an “absolute atrocity on free speech” and others making comparisons to China … which, incidentally, has just moved to ban individual web domain names.

Voices against the laws are galvanising on Twitter, with #nocleanfeed currently the third biggest trending topic as I write this – and that’s despite the fact that it’s overnight in Australia.

But of course there are many supporting the new laws.

Although the Opposition Greens are “deeply concerned” — this Greens candidate asks:  “What’s so special about the internet? All but the most unthinking libertarians accept censorship laws that limit sexual content in film, television, radio, books and magazines”. And he’s not alone. The laws also have the support of the Australian Christian Lobby .

What do you think? Do you trust the government to determine the boundaries of what you see online? Do you think some things are just too awful and too dangerous to be allowed online? What do you think your government’s role – if any – should be in this?

34 Responses to “Do you trust your government to decide what you can see online?”

  1. 1 steve
    December 15, 2009 at 20:13

    Well, you already let the government tell you you can’t smoke in a bar, or what food you can and cannot eat, why not this as well? You deserve to lose rights when you never questioned losing your rights.

  2. 2 JanB
    December 15, 2009 at 20:20

    Why can’t it be as easy as just eliminating things that are against current laws (child pornography, spam and malware?)

    Oh, that’s right, most politicians are semi-senile wrinkly 50-plus year olds who wouldn’t know a mouse apart from a keyboard. So they fear the internet and have this idea that if something appears on the internet or in a videogame its twice as bas as when it appears on tv or in a book.

    I propose an easy rule of thumb, even our ageing politicians could understand: if it could get published in a book under the current laws, then it should be allowed on the internet as well.

  3. 3 Dave
    December 15, 2009 at 21:14

    The Australian government is now following directly in the line of China, oppressing its citizens by imposing censorship. This is undemocratic, dangerous and to be avoided at all costs. True, but not censoring content some people will be able to view child porn, or racial hatred sites, but to be honest these people will get their stuff anyway, net censorship will push it further underground and make their habits even more dangerous (just look at the British problems with trafficed sex slaves because we won’t grow up and realise people will pay for prostitutes even when they are illegal, and by making them illegal you make it impossible to protect them).
    To allow a government to censor what its citizens can access is dangerous in the extreme – child porn today, opposition policies and world news tomorrow – its a slippery slope and the politicians will tell you there are safeguards – there is no such thing a wrong move is a wrong move.

    • 4 firemensaction
      December 17, 2009 at 02:00

      I totally agree that no democratic government which decides to inhibit freedom of speech or freedom of expression deserves to be viewed as other than autocratic.
      Britains politicians are bringing in tapping of phones and internet, are already labelling smokers obese, drinkers , which limits GB citizens ALREADY!!
      Britain has, as you all know, a government of scoundrels, hopefully they will all be unemployed next May. That would be a start, but a written constitution would be better to underwrite our freedoms, as it would be better than the “unwritten constitution” which protects no-one except civil servants and dishonest politicians!
      If we do not stand up for our freedoms, (which have disappeared under new labour as never before in peacetime), we will be much like China, Burma and Iran.
      We need freedom of speech to be protected under law along with freedom of expression.
      For too long has this present government assumed the country belongs to IT.
      We should remind them who they work for.
      As for trusting governments, you only have to look at them to see they are lying…their lips move!

    • 5 Rico
      December 18, 2009 at 19:45

      What the government in Australia is doing is NOT undemocratic because people elected them. The elections gave them the power to even adjust the national constitution if they so wish and can get the backing of the majority in Parliament.
      That is democracy 101, when you vote you are actually giving someone else your choice and telling them that they can decide for you.

      • January 22, 2010 at 07:18

        You realy never know who your voting for. They say things to get elected. It seems like a crap shoot to me. So much lieing , so much political BS that when we finally find and honest one, or one we think ‘s honest, many won’t trust him, because of the others. You can’t trust anyone now a days, too bad. I’m not going to waste what’s left of my life. Seem they just do what they want.
        Heck, I hate politics but watch it for some strange reason hoping things will change for the better but not waiting for it to do so. I’d rather go fishing but the government is screwing with that also, LOL

  4. 7 patti in cape coral
    December 15, 2009 at 21:27

    I once accidentally saw something on-line that I’m sure would be moderated out if I described it. I wished I had never seen it, and I couldn’t sleep for a long time after that, thinking that this type of thing could be happening to someone this very minute. I really hoped that it was staged.

    That being said, I have to say that no, I don’t think the government should decide what I can see online. However, if there were some way to make descriptions of things more accurate. For example, my daughter was once searching for help wtih her high school homework and somehow got to a website with pictures of cheerleaders in various modes of undress. I guess if you want to see that, fine, but it should have been labeled as such!

  5. 8 Peter in jamaica
    December 15, 2009 at 21:50


  6. December 15, 2009 at 22:32

    No! Goverments are mainly interested in the maintenance of power for their party. If we continue with having 3 Line Whips you will only get what a democratic majority would choose ,by accident or co-incidence.

  7. 10 Thomas Murray
    December 15, 2009 at 23:10

    Yes. It’s a dicey proposition.

    Information about explosives can be had in most good engineering libraries, but is not made easy to find.

    And I once wrote a short story about a home-made atomic bomb, describing it in lovingly accurate detail, when I stopped, and mutterd to myself “Murray, what ARE you doing?!?!” So I tricked it up, making it hopelessly goofy and complicated.

    The writer has an obligation not to be too accurate when faced with this kind of material.

    And the Internet is far too easy a channel to tap for information, so I can understand the Astrailian’s position about the matter.

    And child porn is just too twisted to even think about.

    –You Never find me in the USA. TM

  8. 11 Tom K in Mpls
    December 15, 2009 at 23:28

    I don’t trust my government in any way. When the US government was established, the founders set out to make it a tool *for* the people. Over the last century the government has managed to make most people forget that in the name of protection from _______ (fill in the blank).

    This is a censorship that the people don’t need. They can choose for themselves what to read and then what to ignore. If the government feels the need to secure itself, they can tighten their own security. Also, nobody mentions how much slower the overseas response times will be due to mass filtering. Lastly this will slow access to the undesirable data the average user can send or receive. But it cannot stop people that know how to repackage data packets or that use a private satellite link.

  9. 12 T
    December 15, 2009 at 23:53

    No I don’t.

    Consider also the number of companies in the States who have been caught doing this already. Add to that the govt. continuing to monitor all of our communications anyway. A very bad move.

  10. 13 T
    December 16, 2009 at 00:24

    Who makes the final decision on this? Does this mean that various countries that do implement this will have a new govt. agency for it? Or, does this mean that they’ll have a new Minister who will have the final say on it?

    FYI: Fairly recently in the States, someone in Congress tried to pass a law that would make it illegal to criticize govt. policy. If this isn’t thought control, then what is it?

  11. 14 wintergreen
    December 16, 2009 at 01:22

    I am sure the present government in the UK have been thinking long and hard about how to censor the internet. Especialy those nasty blogs that dont toe the party line.
    Google has already attempted to censor “Climategate” http://talkingabouttheweather.wordpress.com/2009/12/02/google-gate/
    I personaly wouldnt trust any form of government censorship, in the past when I have come across dubiuos content it has been reported, whether anybody acted upon this or not I dont know but for the government to take control of what I can or cant read is disgraceful, where will it end?
    Will government officials gain entry to everybodys home and search for un-approved reading matter? Will there be lists of banned books and fines or imprisonment for owning/reading them? Will 1984 be at the top of the list because the government dont want you to know where they get their ideas from?

  12. December 16, 2009 at 03:14

    In the age of new media, I really do not believe governments should try to carryout censorship on the media. In order to promote true understanding of people in this shrinking world with ever growning divesity, it would be good to allow people represent themselves through free media participation.

  13. 16 tanboontee
    December 16, 2009 at 04:18

    No government should decide what adults can see or read online.

    As for children, parents and teachers ought to provide the appropriate guideline and advice.

  14. 17 Roberto
    December 16, 2009 at 05:58

    RE “” Do you trust the government “”

    ———- The only thing I trust the government to do is raise taxes and grow fatter each year.

    In my country, it’s the Republican and Democratic voters who keep the same bankrupt political elite in power that have run the ship of state aground.

    I see no end to the above debacles. They seem bound and determined to prove democracy is an unworkable form of governance.

  15. 18 stephen/portland
    December 16, 2009 at 06:21

    I don’t want people to have access to things of an unsavory nature but where does the line stop with censorship of the Net and who decides what’s pure? Sounds way too much like Chinese Government policy.

    Not for me to comment on another country’s leader, but Kevin Rudd seems like a jolly nice bloke and a total lefty. Judging by the comments I have seen its not met with any support. I do have to say that the Christian involvement is a worrying trend.

    I think that when there is an attitude of “we know better than the great unwashed general public’, there is an arrogance in the decisions they make. Very much an attitude of “we are protecting you from yourselves as we know better than you.”

    The same thing in my opinion happened with the devolution in the Scots parliament. It became a think tank for political correctness and protecting their dumb ass subjects from harming themselves.

    By the Way Kevin, you apologized for many things that happened in Australia’s past so what about Rupert Murdoch and Mel Gibson?

  16. 19 Roberto
    December 16, 2009 at 11:31

    RE “” check out websites containing images of graphic and disturbing sex abuse “”

    ———– The way the system is set up, anyone can accidentally click on websites containing the above against their will.

    Happens all the time to me just moving the mouse around. Last nite I clicked on a utube link to see a storied strongman competitor make his boxing debut. There’s always “related” links to what you are viewing, but in this case after seeing the 45 sec short, it was a quick KO, I noticed the surrounding links were nothing but purported gay sex videos.

    The Googles of the world have created these dilemmas and have no software solutions. Utube seemingly has no censorship, so I no longer bother to read the comments regarding the boxing videos I watch, being so offensive and foul.

    The governments wanting to act as censors are elected by means of some of the most vicious lies and election riggings as imaginable, even worse outrages than what I detailed with google and utube. The net result is the one Hamlet contemplated, whether tis nobler to live with or not live against the formidable slings and arrows always aimed his way.

  17. 20 rick
    December 16, 2009 at 12:00

    yes, the internet should not be used to promote illegal activities. I live in Australia and under Australian law, why should internet activity be exempt? We are talking child porn, drug use, terrorist activity, hate speech and the like so who can advocate that good stuff? I am more than happy to have the criminals take their activities elsewhere.

  18. 21 Jennifer
    December 16, 2009 at 15:54

    Re: Do you trust your government to decide what you can see online?


  19. 22 John in Salem
    December 16, 2009 at 16:16

    No. You don’t fix problems by building walls in front of them so they can’t be seen.

  20. 23 Guido
    December 16, 2009 at 16:21

    If you want to censor the internet it should be done according the principles of (western) democracy. That means the parliament passes the law and sets a independent “internet police” to sites. The owner of the site has than the possibility to take legal steps against this ban, including challenging the bill before the constitutional court (e.g for being against the freedom of speech).

    Sounds complicated? – but is the only way to protect the rights of the people.

  21. 24 David
    December 16, 2009 at 17:34

    The real fear of Governments is not the citizens’ exposure to evil influences.

    What they really fear is the democratising influence of the internet.

    The internet…one of the last bastions of Free Speech.

  22. 25 Ibrahim in UK
    December 16, 2009 at 18:12

    We trust our current systems to decide the laws of our normal day-to-day life, the laws of tv, radio, newspapers etc, so the internet is a natural extension.
    But, the freedom of information and opinion on the internet is such a breath of fresh air that we are loathe to subject it to government control and censorship. It is, we fear, our own voice that would be censored.

  23. 26 T
    December 16, 2009 at 19:16

    If these Australian laws are implemented, then what? In the States, who would administer laws like this? Homeland Security?

  24. December 16, 2009 at 19:17


    But my government will be introducing internet monitoring and censorship for the purposes of preventing copyright infringement and child pornography.

    I don’t believe that information on its own is dangerous. And I certainly don’t appreciate other people deciding what information I can and cannot be trusted with.

    My position will be a minority in this country. I expect most people will be swayed by the mention of ‘child pornography’ to be in favour of monitoring and censorship.

  25. 28 viola
    December 16, 2009 at 19:36

    The only censorship I believe in is self-censorship. Offer internet users a way to block out sites that are offensive to them. Let the law enforcement agencies deal with those who use the internet in illegal ways for illegal purposes.

    As parents, don the mantle of leadership of your children and accept that they won’t actually hate you if you limit what they can access. They will just be angry.


  26. 29 T
    December 17, 2009 at 02:29

    Is this true? If the Tories win the next election, they’re considering doing away with Ofcom? If yes, is that connected to this in any way?

  27. 30 rick
    December 17, 2009 at 07:44

    to all you naysayers.

    your tv broadcasts, newspapers, radio broadcast, books and magazines always have been governed by local laws made by your governments but I don’t see anyone jumping up and down about that.You trust your government to make and enforce those laws, how is the internet any different?

    Censorship may be a catchy theme but all you are doing is giving the bad guys a leg up.

    • 31 Ronald Almeida
      December 17, 2009 at 12:47

      One should get mature enough to realise that there is neither an objective truth. It is only a point of view. Which is also the same with ‘Bad & Good’. Only an invidual can decide. Or else we’ll all turn out to be clones of one another. Individual freedom will be nothing but a joke.

  28. 32 scmehta
    December 17, 2009 at 07:47

    The governments, all around the world, must force internet service providers to block the banned material.

  29. 33 viola
    December 17, 2009 at 20:00

    Sometimes the censors are the bad guys. What then?

    I disagree with the notion that there is no objective truth. If I smack you a good one and then say it didn’t happen and that it is just your point of view that I smacked you, should you accept such an absurdity? Yet many arguments on many subjects revolve around just such absurdity when people cannot even agree that events that happened did happen.

    You cannot dig out the meaning or the consequences or the morality of anything that happens if you can’t even agree that it happened by insisting that everything is just someone’s point of view.

  30. 34 arczap
    January 20, 2010 at 09:21

    This topic is easier than most think. There has to balance

    Terrorism (bombs etc) and child porn, governments need to target the source. Shut the sites down; even perhaps punish the owner (if repeated). But do NOT monitor or punish viewers. (Perhaps only monitor viewers for the purpose to find these sites to shut down but no action be taken against the viewer). That is the balance, similar with drugs: authorities target drug dealers not drug users.

    On a different side: Public, media, public relations etc: they have to say their taking measures against material like child porn, because; to repel potential offenders (who might do it in real life), comfort for parents, to reduce unnecessary number of the sites and viewers etc. Its about the image.

    But i believe anyway behind close doors the government are targeting sites and not viewers. They only target some viewers for the news as means of a scapegoat to get their message across, which I think is ok. And if they not, if they have a system in place for large numbers- then this is unjust. simply because the individual is only a viewer- not a maker of a site or committing it real life. If some think the viewer will commit in ‘real life’ they are predicting the future, off an individual they do not know and have no right to know. So the prediction will be faulty, and itself no right to make.

    -Information itself has right of way over action-

    Let the Internet be chaotic, we’ll adapt. So will governments. Its INEVITABLE anyway, it only takes one rebellious web browser or search engine or a country with a looser law of information. Then watch the domino affect…

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: