For decades governments of western nations have granted permission for media licenses but also regulated the general nature of media content, deciding what can and can’t be offered to the public.
The Internet has been the one form of media that seemed to escape regulation. The ease of content creation and distribution online has allowed the Internet to become the most lawless media, with our own common sense and decency being the main filters.
Clearly this unregulated and uncensored media has been a concern to governments around the world. Strict nations, such as Iran and China, with a history of cracking down on free speech have imposed strong filters to prevent their people from accessing material not deemed acceptable, but recently it seems that countries usually associated with free speech are now getting into the act.
The Australian government plans to introduce an Internet filter to “protect” us from the less morally acceptable material that can be accessed online. This is meant to refer to things like extreme pornography and militant bomb making sites.
But the question is how far are we willing to go in letting our leaders decide what is morally acceptable? And what if a website was perceived to be a danger to Australia’s or the government of the day’s best interests?
That’s appears to be the case now in America where reports are emerging of an effort by the US government to crack down on the WikiLeaks website allegedly run by Australian Julian Assange.
The Sydney Morning Herald reports today that Assange is in hiding overseas and the US is now desperate to find him before he “leaks thousands of hugely embarrassing state diplomatic cables, which are believed to discuss the Middle East, its governments and leaders” via WikiLeaks. It follows the arrest of a US soldier who allegedly leaked the now infamous video of a US helicopter gunning down civilians in Iraq.
Will communications minister Stephen Conroy and the Australian government use Assange and Wikileaks as an example of the potentially sensitive material that could be filtered or censored in years to come? If so, how far could Internet censorship end up being taken in the name of the “national interest?”
It seems that Western governments may also be trying to reel in the Internet and impose some sort of control over it in the way they have with traditional media in the past. The question is, should we accept it?
What do you think: Is Internet censorship inevitable? Is it necessary? Should the Government be able to step in to protect national interests?