Would you trust this man with the internet?

Earlier this week Mark Day wrote a piece for The Australian on the “internet filter” proposed by Stephen Conroy and the Rudd government.

One of the more interesting points that Day attempted to make was that the sites being blocked under the proposed scheme will be sites that are “Refused Classification”, which is the same classification system used in other forms of media.

Day contends that the internet shouldn’t be any different to other forms of media in this regard and it’s an argument that on the surface appears to have a certain amount of merit. After all, as Day suggests, one can’t reasonably claim that the Australian public finds child pornography in any way acceptable. These are materials that the vast majority of us have no desire to come into contact with, and that we rightly condemn as criminal in their nature.

The problem with Day’s argument arises in relation to the items that he does not include in his article. The list that was used as the basis of the recently concluded trial variously includes sites that contain information on subjects such as Euthanasia, Abortion and other topics that are at the very least, politically charged.

On top of this, there are severe and fundamental problems with how the current classification system operates in Australia. For years now Australian gamers have been lobbying for the introduction of an R18+ classification (in line with other media). This is no surprise given that the average age of Australian gamers is 30, they want and expect to be treated like the adults they are.

Unfortunately for gamers, any amendment to the classification system needs to be approved by the attorneys-general of all States. This means that Michael Atkinson is able to hold Australian gamers to ransom. Frustratingly, if the internet filter is approved, the classification system will apply to online games as well, meaning that a host of games routinely available worldwide will suddenly be blocked to Australians.

But that is not the biggest concern. Most frightening of all was the attempt by Michael Atkinson to directly censor political discourse within South Australia during an election. This stunningly ignorant blunder was quickly and resoundingly condemned around the country, with Mr Atkinson the next day conceding that he would repeal the legislation in a “humiliating” backdown. Fortunately in this instance, sanity and democracy prevailed, but I can’t help being concerned at how much influence Michael Atkinson will be able to wield if the Rudd government’s “internet filter” is implemented.