The federal government of Australia is considering banning its citizens from viewing a list of 10,000 websites that it deems objectionable. Specifically, the the Minister for Broadband, Communications and the Digital Economy said that the list of banned websites will include:
sites containing child sexual abuse imagery, bestiality, sexual violence, detailed instruction in crime, violence or drug use and/or material that advocates the doing of a terrorist act.
Now, I’m all for getting rid of child pornography. But banning a list of 10,000 websites will not do a thing to stop the child pornography industry. People in Australia who want to view it will still do so, either using proxy servers or visiting any of the multitude of websites that aren’t on the banned list. It is really just a stunt, aimed to convince people that their government is trying to do something to prevent child pornography without actually doing anything. Instead of trying to really address the situation, by prosecuting those who create, distribute, or view child pornography, their merely assuaging their own guilt and scoring political points while doing so. Whipping up a list with some websites on it and blocking them is easy; actually doing something about the problem of child pornography in the world is very hard, requiring the cooperation of the entire world, and apparently not something the Australian government wants to do.
It also sets a dangerous precedent. An older list, obtained by Wikileaks and containing 2,000 websites, included such things as “the websites of a dentist from Queensland, a pet-care facility in Queensland, and a site belonging to a school cafeteria consultant.” Not only does this blocklist carry the risk of accidentally banning perfectly legitimate sites, but it could also lead to the government banning other sites in the public’s interest. It is a slippery slope to full on censorship, and not one we want to get even close to.