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Gay Australians Fight Internet Censors

Compiled By GayToday

aussienet.jpg - 10.37 K The Australian Council for Lesbian and Gay Rights (ACLGR) said Tuesday that it's serious concerns about the Australian government's Internet censorship proposals are set to be ignored by both the nation's Senate Select Committee considering the proposed bill and the opposition.

ACLGR has learned that its officers will not be allowed to present lesbian and gay concerns directly to the Committee, and Labor has given no indication that they will be included in their minority report.

"We contacted Labor's Stephen Smith and Kate Lundy and Senator Natasha Stott Despoja in a last minute effort," ACLGR Co-convenors, Rodney Croome and Jennifer Wilson, said.

Labor Internet censorship policy promotes software filters with no safeguards. However, Stott-Despoja has given a commitment to ACGLR that her report will contain safeguards, including a call for filters to be regulated.

In its 10000-word submission, written by gay Internet activist Paul Canning to the Select Committee considering the governments' bill, ACLGR detailed how the proposals would devastate the Australian lesbian and gay online community. It showed how software filtering products, already in place and to be officially promoted under the proposed law, systematically discriminate against lesbians and gays.

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Another proposal, that so-called 'R' rated websites install adult verification, would demolish Australian gay and lesbian websites because they're lesbian or gay.

Sydney Gay & Lesbian Mardi Gras and the Victorian and NSW Gay & Lesbian Rights Lobbies support the ACLGR submission.

The submission shows that filtering products are already denying school kids in NSW access to websites about health and welfare supported by the NSW Health Department.

In another report a 14-year-old girl was unable to write a school report on sexual harassment because of a filter. And a Melbourne scientist working at St Vincent's Hospital could not access a HIV/AIDS website, getting instead 'access denied: unsuitable content: full nudity, sexual acts/text, gross depictions/text'.

"This bill makes no provision to stop this sort of blocking, it will result in discrimination being literally built into 'the machine'," said Paul Canning.

"It is systematic and it blocks vital information. These are American products enforcing American values and privatized censorship."

"We are deliberately encouraging teenagers to make the Internet a major information source, especially in schools. It is untenable that especially vulnerable lesbian and gay young people, who have been shown to be at high risk from suicide, are often unable to get online help", said Jennifer Wilson..

The submission quoted one media report of filter producer CYBERsitter cashing in on parent's fears about the Internet the day after the school shooting in Colorado.

"Filters are being heavily marketed to vulnerable people --parents and educators. The technology is actually very new and primitive, but you wouldn't know that from either Senator Alston's promotion of them or how they are being sold.

"They should be regulated otherwise we will have a privatized censorship regime alongside biased decisions by Internet Service Providers --all with no safeguards whatsoever," said Jennifer Wilson.

"ACLGR believes that some efforts can and should be made to block Internet content unsuitable for minors."

"We suggested that voluntary labeling of material which is suitable and intended for children will provide a child-safe environment. This mirrored a previous recommendation of the Information Technologies Committee that an Australian labeling system be developed, but this was ignored in the government 's bill."

"Parents would be able to fairly restrict access to a safe portion of the Internet without blocking access to useful information using this method. However, we said that such labeling must be enacted in such a manner as to ensure that it is non-discriminatory and to ensure that health and welfare information remains available to minors."

"The interests of lesbian and gay people have been and continue to be dismissed as an acceptable 'trade off' to satisfy concerns about the protection of minors from viewing material considered offensive. We do not accept this argument," said Rodney Croome.

In its submission ACLGR said that:
  • filter products must be regulated, be required to issue accurate information to purchasers including their banned lists and that they be required to make efforts to unblock sites which do not constitute banned sites under this bill without requiring prior notification;

  • access to educational sites (such as sex education and same-sex attraction support) by teenagers be ensured;

  • so-called 'R' rated sites not require AVS (this would devastate gay and lesbian Australian sites);

  • arbitrary deletion or blocking of gay sites by Internet Service Providers (ISPs) and content providers be unlawful or against industry codes; . any 'community' bodies set up by the Australian Broadcasting Authority (ABA) have lesbian and gay representation.

    The ACLGR submission is publicly released by the Select Committee this week. It is available from

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