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Monday, 15 February 2010 22:59

Filter confers legitimacy on broader censorship: Google

By
Google Australia has warned Government its internet filtering plan could not only damage the nation's international reputation, but risked 'conferring legitimacy' on the censorship regimes of less savoury governments around the world.

And it has poured yet more cold water on the prospect of Google becoming a voluntary agent for the Government censorship policy, bluntly stating that it will not remove any content from its high-volume YouTube site that has not been tested by its own legal team.

"We first check that the request complies with the law, and we will seek to narrow it if the request is overly broad," the Google submission said. "Beyond these clearly defined parameters, we will not remove material from YouTube."

The company says it will comply with the law, as it does in any country it operates. But its submission makes clear that Government should have no expectation that Google will voluntarily remove material judged under the program to be 'Refused Classification' content, and that it would use its legal muscle to resist.

"The Government's policy for filtering represents a direct threat to content uploaded by YouTube users and we are committed to advocating on behalf of our users and their right to express their views and gain access to information," it said.

As the Google campaign against Rudd Government plans to introduce mandatory ISP level filtering has moved up a gear, its primary concern remains that the scope of the content to be filtered was too wide.


But it also argues Australia's international standing is being damaged by the process, and should the policy proceed in its current form will have a damaging impact on information freedoms elsewhere in the world.

'Mandatory filtering by Australia could be argued to confer legitimacy upon filtering by other Governments,' Google Australia said.

"Australia is rightly regarded as a liberal democracy that balances individual liberty with social responsibility."

"The Governments of many other countries may justify, by reference to Australia, their use of filtering, their lack of disclosure about what is being filtered, and their political direction of agencies administering filtering," its submission said.

In addition to outlining known technical issues related to network performance degradation caused by filtering, Google also goes into significant detail of what it sees as problems with transparency and procedural issues.

Specifically, the company says the move from the current client-side voluntary filtering regime to mandatory ISP filtering was a leap that held inherent risks.


"This difference is, of course, that the decision as to what is be viewed and what is not is moved from a choice made by an individual to a compulsion imposed by a government agency, without transparency to the individual that a decision is being made," the submission said.

"Use of compulsion rightly calls for special vigilance to ensure that denial of choice is fully justified. Special safeguards are appropriate and necessary where there is also no transparency to the user as to the decision that has been made."

"Google, like many other internet companies, has a global, all-product ban against child sexual abuse material, which is illegal in almost every country, and we filter out this content from our search results and remove it from our products,"

"But moving to a mandatory ISP level filtering regime with a scope that goes well beyond such material is heavy handed and can raise genuine questions about restrictions on access to information."
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