Australia is planning on becoming the first western country with a nationwide web content filtering system
. Supporters of the filter cite protecting Australia's children from illegal content (such as child pornography). Detractors are concerned that the filter will slow browsing speeds and incorrectly block legal content. Other concerns about the filter include unclear or even arbitrary guidelines for blacklisting.
The question at hand is what is the best way to protect children from inappropriate content on the internet while still respecting the civil liberties of a population, and Australia's answer strikes me as odd. Instead of expecting parents to be responsible for protecting their own children by doing things like not allowing their young children to use the web alone and installing private content filters, Australia plans to compromise the quality of their entire population's internet connection and block legal sites via false positives. Many people pay extra for a faster internet connection, yet Australia is flirting with slowing down traffic nationwide. Perhaps one could argue this is analogous to the FCC dictating guidelines for what appears on television in the United States, however FCC guidelines do not apply to all forms of broadcasting and do not deteriorate the quality of your television signal (although, I suppose sports fans may disagree
Even more murky is that Australia hopes to extend their filter to Peer-to-Peer file sharing networks. I am sure when and if the Australian filter is installed despicable forms of child pornography such as videos and images will be blocked. But I am also curious where the line will be drawn. If someone were to say write a song about an infamous child rapist and murderer
, would that song be banned in Australia?