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You may have heard this rumor just as I did: Australia is to ban internet porn. What on earth…? Well, I started looking into this recently and tried to find out more information about this potentially life-shattering edict from the Oz government, if indeed the rumors were true.

I did my usual searching about on the net and found some related articles and info, which I’ve put together for you, to try and explain what exactly is, or isn’t, going on.

It was around August 2007 that news started breaking that Australia was going to ‘clean up internet porn’ but how it was going to do this was another matter. Then Prime Minister, John Howard, announced that a whole heap of cash was going to be made available to assist a new programme, ‘Assisting Australian Families Online’ which would come under the auspices of NetAlert – Australia’s internet safety advisory body. Some say that this was just a ploy to recruit the Christian voters in the upcoming elections, (the announcement was made in a webcast that went out to 770 churches and which was watched by an estimated 100,000 Christians,) so bear that in mind.

The scheme works in two ways: families can opt to have a filtering programme installed on their home PCs or they can requests a ‘clean’ internet connection – one from a service provider that is responsible from blocking porno content at ISP level. (At the main hub.) These options take up most of the budget and the rest goes on publicity, an awareness campaign and ‘internet police’ and prosecutions. The main thrust of this action, of course, is to protect children from unscrupulous website owners and others who provide CP, but there were concerns from legitimate adult webmasters (providing 18+ adult entertainment) that their businesses could also be affected.

There were more concerns about the scheme when, soon after the filter system went public, a teenage hacker managed to find a way around it within half an hour. A second version was released and this took the lad 40 minutes to get through.

The caldron bubbled some more as new legislation was proposed that would make the owning of five or more pornographic movies an offense, (in the Northern Territories) even if they were for ‘home use’ as opposed to distribution. There were, some say, good reasons behind this move, again to do with trying to stamp down on the occurrences of CP in those areas but the ideas were called ‘draconian’ by the New Zealand Herald and slammed by the Australian Christian Lobby as not going far enough, after all, what about other parts of the country?

So it seems, from what I could find out, that the screaming headline of ‘Australia bans porn’ is not as dramatic as it sounds and you don’t need to be too concerned that it is a trend that will start to spread to other countries. There were (and still are as far as I know, though the controversy seems to have died down recently) plans to help parents limit the kind of content that was accessible on their home PCs, via a couple of methods. This can only be good news if you have young children who are adept at using the computer and internet (as more and more are) and you don’t want them to stumble across inappropriate content. The idea that a government can tell you what you, as an adult, can and can’t view totally smacks of censorship and I doubt that it would be stood for by human rights campaigners. Though don’t forget that in some other countries the government have already taken this step. For example, in China a law has existed since 1997 that makes it a criminal offense to produce a piece of work (art, literature etc.) that is deemed a ‘computer crime’ and promotes, among other things, ‘pornography.’

And there is one other thing to remember. The attempt by Howard to woo the Christian vote on the back of a ‘clean up the net campaign’ didn’t help him. A new Prime Minister, Kevin Rudd, was elected in December 2007.

Final Point:  Who wants to visit a country that bans porn or takes away basic rights? Not someone who demands freedom.  This is a right every adult should have.  It should be the parents decision to put filters on what their kids view online not the government or internet provider.  What will they ban next?