Google squares up for another censorship fight

Posted by Emma Woollacott

You might think Google had enough of a fight on its hands as it protests about censorship in China. But Google, along with Yahoo, is also complaining about newly-released plans to introduce an internet filter in Australia.

The measures being considered in Australia go further than those of most countries, and in a submission to the Australian government, Google described them as 'too wide'.

"While we recognise that protecting the free exchange of ideas and information cannot be without some limits, we believe that more information generally means more choice, more freedom and ultimately more power for the individual," Google says.

The company also argues that the filter would cut users' access speeds - and that it simply wouldn't be technically possible for sites such as YouTube and Facebook to comply.

Material to be blocked would include anything that would be refused classification in other media such as film. As well as child pornography, this would include sexual violence, drug use and information useful to criminals.

Google also warned Australia about the company it would be keeping by adopting such a strict filter. It said the regulations "could confer legitimacy upon filtering by other governments" - China, in other words.

Reporters Without Borders recently criticised Australia for its censorship rules, listing it in its Internet Enemies report.

Yahoo has also weighed into the debate, claiming that the filter could block access to information on euthanasia, abortion and homosexuality, even where it has a strong educational value.

It criticises the existing classification regime, saying it has "developed in a piecemeal and reactionary manner with little regard to or basis upon empirical evidence around public attitudes or expert studies into how consumers interact with media, and particularly digital media".