Electronic Frontiers Australia (EFA) chair Colin Jacobs has accused Communications Minister Stephen Conroy of tying himself in knots over Australia's free speech while at the same time advocating for mandatory internet filtering.
In a blog post yesterday, Jacobs said that internet freedom "is doing a roaring trade these days", highlighting Wikileaks and its testing of free speech in nations across the globe. He said the protests in Egypt highlighted the important role of Twitter, Facebook and other internet tools played in democracy.
"They have proven more effective than a container load of AK-47s could ever be, because they allow and promote an undeniable expression of the will of the people that robs the violence of repression of any legitimacy," he said.
However, Jacobs took umbrage at remarks made by Conroy yesterday where he dismissed the possibility of Australians being cut off from their internet in a similar scenario to what took place in Egypt because "Australia's a vibrant democracy, where the government doesn't control the internet".
"Barring a superhuman capacity for doublethink, it's impossible to reconcile this statement with the government's stated policy of internet censorship. A system that involves a secret, government-controlled blacklist of websites, even well intentioned, definitely amounts to 'government control of the internet'," Jacobs said.
"If the government wishes to place Australia on the wrong side of history by going down the path of internet censorship, then have the courage to say so," he added. "Trying to do so while paying lip service to the ideals of free speech that censorship — by definition — contradicts, well, it's not fooling anybody."
While the EFA continues to fight for an open internet, one group is calling for content restrictions. In its submission (PDF) to a Joint Senate Select Committee on cyber-safety, which got underway yesterday, Christian lobby group FamilyVoice Australia has called for the Federal Government to consider expanding the reach of its planned internet service provider (ISP) level filter from blocking just refused classification content to only allowing "family-friendly" material to be accessible by default.
"Consideration should be given to future enhancements of the scheme to make the default-filtered ISP service family-friendly, by filtering all MA15+, R18+ and X18+ material. MA15+ and R18+ should be available on an opt-in basis with appropriate age verification," FamilyVoice said.