I have been following with interest the past 18 months or so the Australian government's controversial plans to censor the Internet. The government has conducted censorship trials which it declared a success last summer, and as a result in December it announced that would formally introduce its plan to blacklist websites sometime in 2010.
Few people were happy about the decision. Privacy and open Internet access groups such as the Electronic Freedom Foundation "co-sponsored" the Great Australian Internet Blackout during the week of the 26th of January as a way of protesting the government's decision, but to little avail.
Things have gotten a bit uglier on the protest front, however, as hackers or "cyber-activists" depending on your point of view have initiated denial of service attacks that have shut down Australian government websites for the past two days. The "activists," says this AFP news story, state that they may keep the attacks up for months if necessary.
The government has cried foul and "has condemned the cyber-attacks as irresponsible and not a legitimate form of political protest against the filter," the AFP story also reports.
In a related story, Google has told the Australian government that the company would not "voluntarily comply" with its request to remove certain YouTube videos.
According to the Sydney Morning Herald, the Australian government just wanted Google to do for Australia what it did on behalf of other governments. The Herald says that, "Communications Minister Stephen Conroy referred to Google's censorship on behalf of the Chinese and Thai governments in making his case for the company to impose censorship locally."
Quoting Minister Conroy:
"What we're saying is, well in Australia, these are our laws and we'd like you to apply our laws... Google at the moment filters an enormous amount of material on behalf of the Chinese government; they filter an enormous amount of material on behalf of the Thai government."
Could it be because Minister Conroy praised her speech?
The delicious irony of praising Secretary Clinton's speech while using China's censorship of the Internet as example of why Australia should be able to do the same does seem lost on Minister Conroy.
In some other Internet censoring news, Iran, which claims that Secretary Clinton's new activist cyber-diplomacy policy was aimed at undermining the Iranian government, told Google that it was permanently suspending its Gmail service there. A story in the Wall Street Journal reports that the Iranian government is planning to introduce a national email system, which will no doubt help the Iranian government keep a close eye on its growing dissident factions.
I wonder if the Iranian government will offer its own version of Google's Buzz as a feature of its email system as well?
Robert N. Charette is a Contributing Editor to IEEE Spectrum and an acknowledged international authority on information technology and systems risk management. A self-described “risk ecologist,” he is interested in the intersections of business, political, technological, and societal risks. Charette is an award-winning author of multiple books and numerous articles on the subjects of risk management, project and program management, innovation, and entrepreneurship. A Life Senior Member of the IEEE, Charette was a recipient of the IEEE Computer Society’s Golden Core Award in 2008.