National Firewalls A Step On Slippery Slope To Censorship

As the furor over a proposal to create a national firewall in Australia heats up and reports emerge of a proposal to build a firewall spanning Russia and several of its neighbors, the Thai government has said it will block up to 1,000 web sites offensive to the Thai royal family. The firewall would be just one part of a broader government crackdown on insults to the monarchy, which are illegal in Thailand, the Bangkok Post is reporting today. While 1,000 sites might not seem like much, the types of content that are blocked could expand to include terrorism or porn-related sites, according to the Post, setting the government on a slippery slope when it comes to censorship.

A similar slide to broader censorship could emerge in Australia, too, if proposals to expand government controls over content pass into law. Despite opposition to the firewall proposal, some members of the Australian Parliament also want to broaden ISP filtering to include not just child pornography but also “hardcore pornography and fetish material” and gambling sites, according to The Age. ISPs in the U.S. have also agreed to block offensive material, namely child porn sites.

Government controls over the Internet are far from harmless, whether it comes to commerce or intellectual freedoms, but they’re also likely to be ultimately futile as China’s efforts at curtailing access to certain sites suggest.

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