Australia's Communications Director, Stephen Conroy, has launched an attack on Google after the powerful search engine company came out last week expressing discontent related to national censorship of the Internet. Google said it will no longer censor its Chinese website and is now keeping a close eye on Australia.
Conroy is behind an attempt to filter websites in that country. A leaked "blacklist" showed several thousand websites intended to be blocked, including online poker businesses that operate legally within Australia. US President Barack Obama has also expressed concern over Conroy's intentions.
From the Sydney Morning Herald:
Senator Conroy has said the blacklist will largely include deplorable content such as child pornography, bestiality material and instructions on crime, but a large and growing group of academics, technology companies and lobby groups say the scope of the filters is too broad and will not make a meaningful impact on internet safety for children.
This opposition argument is supported by the leaked "blacklist". Not only did it contain names of online gambling websites, a Queensland dentist site was also among those appearing on the list.
"Any person or corporation that would be identifiable on the list would potentially be deemed by the general public ... either a child molester or at least in the same category as child molesters," said University of Sydney associate professor Bjorn Landfeldt. "In effect, this could be interpreted by some as a government sanctioned hate list."
The dentist explained why his site may have been identified.
"A Russian company broke into our website a couple of years back and they were putting pornographic listings on there ... [but] we changed across to a different web provider and we haven't had that problem since," Dr. John Golbrani said in a phone interview with the Sydney Morning Herald late last year.
Other Australian sites on the list are canteens.com.au ("Tuckshop and Canteen Management Consultants") and animal carers MaroochyBoardingKennels.com.au.
Google also said implementing mandatory filtering across Australia's millions of internet users could "negatively impact user access speeds", while filtering material from high-volume sites such as Wikipedia, YouTube, Facebook and Twitter "appears not to be technologically possible as it would have such a serious impact on internet access".
"We have a number of other concerns, including that filtering may give a false sense of security to parents, it could damage Australia's international reputation and it can be easily circumvented," Google wrote.
Conroy went on television to take a shot at Google: "Recently the founders of Google have got themselves into a little bit of trouble because notwithstanding their alleged 'do no evil' policy, they recently created something called Buzz, and there was a reaction, and people said well look aren't you publishing private information?," Senator Conroy said.
"[Google CEO Eric] Schmidt said the following: 'If you have something that you don't want anyone to know maybe you shouldn't be doing it in the first place'. This is the founder of Google. He also said recently to Wall Street analysts, 'we love cash', so when people say, shouldn't we just leave it up to the Googles of this world to determine what the filtering policy should be...."
"This is a debate about freedom of access to information for all Australians, an issue of national importance. Let's focus on that," Google said.
"The Rudd Government's controversial internet filter legislation, with add on ‘blacklist' on the side, is still being drafted and is unlikely to be debated in parliament until at the middle of June and might be pushed back even further," states Gambling911.com Correspondent, Greg Tingle. "Internet lovers, gamers, media - journalists, entrepreneurs and lovers or freedom of expression have been rejoicing and see the latest development as a victory of sorts in the internet control ‘war'."