Australia’s newly elected government has been discussing imposing state-level government filtering of the internet to filter out content inappropriate for children. This would have Australia join the likes of states like China.
There are three problems I have with this kind of policy. First, internet filtering doesn’t work very well. Generally internet filters work by searching for keywords in sites to determine if they are, for example, pornographic or violent. However, it’s very easy for keywords used in pornographic sites to simply evolve to avoid being detected by filters. Second, state sanctioned filtering lends itself to abuse, as is the case with the ‘Great Firewall of China’, where the state-level filtering is used to filter out unwanted political material. While I doubt things would get this out of control in Australia, the mere potential for this to occur is reason enough for concern. Finally, state-level filtering is another step towards a nanny state, where the government deprives us of the right to decide how to live for ourselves. I trust that parents are quite capable of deciding for themselves what measures they ought to take to protect their children from unwanted material on the internet. Having the state dictate this is a step away from the right of the parent to decide how to bring up their children.
In my mind, a far superior option to state controlled filtering would be for the state to make freely available ‘Net Nanny’-like software, that parents can install on their PC’s as they see fit. This proposal has been proposed on numerous occasions, but for some reason I don’t understand it seems to have been swept under the carpet.
In the name of preserving liberty, if there is going to be any form of internet policing it ought to be opt-in, not opt-out.