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Technology and online rights

Abbott government pressing ahead with social media censorship plan


Parliamentary Secretary for Communications Paul Fletcher has announced that the government is planning to draft legislation for its ‘Children’s e-Safety Commissioner’, according to ZDNet Australia:

Fletcher said today that the government would now proceed with legislation on the eSafety commissioner.

“It is clear that all stakeholders share the same objective, that is, to protect children from online dangers such as cyberbullying,” he said.

“I welcome the input we have received in these many thoughtful submissions, which will be carefully considered as we proceed to develop legislation.”

This is a terrible policy, as Simon Breheny and I explained in our submission to the Department of Communications, and I wrote in the Sunday Age last weekend. The government’s proposals will do nothing to tackle the root causes of bullying, ignore solutions that already exist, and will vest the government with a vast new censorship power.

Of course we wait to see the legislation. But it’s astounding that at the exact time the government is looking at reforming the Racial Discrimination Act to protect freedom of speech, it would be also looking to clamp down on that very same freedom on social media networks.

ASIO: Fixing one massive privacy breach with a second massive privacy breach


The recently released submission by ASIO to the Senate Inquiry into the Telecommunications (Interception and Access) Act 1979 argues, unashamedly, that Edward Snowden’s exposure of a massive US government encroachment on privacy means that Australia needs to massively encroach privacy too:

These changes are becoming far more significant in the security environment following the leaks of former NSA contractor Edward Snowden. Since the Snowden leaks, public reporting suggests the level of encryption on the internet has increased substantially. In direct response to these leaks, the technology industry is driving the development of new internet standards with the goal of having all Web activity encrypted, which will make the challenges of traditional telecommunications interception for necessary national security purposes far more complex.

You can read ASIO’s submission here. As the Sydney Morning Herald reported last night, many of Australia’s law enforcement bodies have lined up to support a mandatory data retention scheme. Even regulators like ASIC want data retention.

In 2012 Simon Breheny and I argued that the Gillard government’s proposed mandatory data retention would risk a serious breach of our civil liberties.

But the Snowden angle is a new one, demonstrating the rhetorical leaps that agencies such as ASIO are willing to make to grab new powers.

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