In an extraordinary move, the Australian Government is set to censor all publishers of electronic content, including Bloggers, under legislation due to be presented to Parliament in the Autumn sittings.
The Communications Legislation Amendment (Content Services) Bill, a reaction to the famous (in Australia anyway) Big Brother Turkey Slap incident last year will see all publishers of electronic content having to submit all content to the Government for classification prior to publication, where upon the content would receive classification in the same way currently that films receive a rating, with content deemed MA (Mature Audiences) or R (restricted 18+) only being able to be published with approved age restricted access systems.
Todays Crikey subscriber email (not available online) suggests that the wording of the bill would would indicate that it is primarily aimed at providers of mobile telephone and internet content such as online video, however that “nobody has thought through the implications for book and magazine publishers who also deliver content online”.
The legislation, if it passes in its current form (and like Crikey I’m confident it won’t) would stifle, if not destroy the Australian blogosphere and many others working within Web 2.0 and new media within this country.
If it does pass there is also some question remaining in terms of where a blog is published, for example many Australians, including myself, host our sites in the United States, and yet the High Court decision in Gutnick v Dow Jones would suggest that legally such sites could be deemed published in Australia even if hosted overseas, and could in theory be subject to the new censorship regime.
I’d suggest that there will be a lot more to be said about this legislation in the coming months. Certainly it will be a sad day when bloggers in China, Vietnam, Burma, Zimbabwe and other such countries have greater rights and freedoms than Australian bloggers do.