Australia listed as “under surveillance” in new Internet Enemies list after Finkelstein report

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Reporters Without Borders have released their list of countries that they consider to be “Internet Enemies” as part of its World Day Against Cyber-Censorship on March 12. However, while some countries – like China – are expected to be on the list; France and Australia have made the list under “Countries under Surveillance”.

The NGO added Australia to the ‘second-tier’ category as the Gillard Government has not backed down on its mandatory filtering scheme proposal. It has cooperated with ISPs, however, to implement a voluntary system to block child pornography and other content deemed inappropriate by the Government (all under section 313 of the Telecommunications Act).

Also added as a reason why Australia was added to the list was the Finkelstein report into Media and Media Regulation. The proposal to create the “News Media Council”, independent but funded by the government, has been labelled by the group as a “danger for the most vulnerable organisations and individuals” because of the right to reply to any complainant and any refusal could see the author, company or blogger accused of contempt of the Council and tried by a court.

“Small publishers and bloggers could well feel coerced into publishing corrections or apologies because they may not have the time, energy or resources to defend themselves in court against a contempt charge,” Reporters Without Borders said.

The Finkelstein Report said that any person with 15,000 hits per year should be bound by the News Media Council – or as Andrew Bolt has calculated (and this will be the first, and only time I’ll ever quote something from him), 150 unique readers in a year.

With such a negative backlash on media proprietors and bloggers, it will most likely not go ahead. However, it has managed to get the larger players to quickly react and show that they can self-regulate – well, we hope.

France’s addition to the list was also due to its “increased pressure on journalists to reveal sources” and recent court decisions that basically meant that you couldn’t say that you got it from Twitter or Facebook – a la the Arab Spring coverage – since that amounted to “surreptitious advertising”. And then we also got another court saying that a law from 1881 directly applies to bloggers as well. Again, what?

Other reasons included its plans to stop internet neutrality and several laws that have seen increased censorship on the internet.