Web 'censorship' bill brings police state closer

Sunday, 23 September 2007 itwire.com

Electronic Frontiers Australia (EFA) has slammed moves to give the Federal Police powers to ban access to certain Internet content as "another step in Australia's descent into a police state".

According to EFA, the Communications Legislation Amendment (Crime or Terrorism Related Internet Content) Bill 2007, which has been introduced into the Senate, would, if enacted, give senior members of the Australian Federal Police powers to ban access to Internet content which they have reason to believe: encourages, incites, or induces the commission of a Commonwealth offence; or was published in part to facilitate the commission of such an offence; or that it is likely to have the effect of facilitating the commission of such an offence."

EFA chairman, Dale Clapperton, said that the bill would "give sweeping and unchecked powers to the Federal Police to ban access to Internet material by decree."

According to Clapperton, "the powers granted by the Bill, which can be delegated to senior members of the Federal Police, have an unacceptably low threshold test, requiring merely that the person 'have reason to believe' that the material falls into one of [these] classes."

Clapperton claimed that the 'reason to believe' could be based on material that would be inadmissible in a court of law, obtained unlawfully, or on rumour, innuendo, or gossip "There are no provisions in the Bill for an appeal or review of a decision by the police to ban access to material...These laws will be open to massive abuses by the police. They could, for example, be used to prevent access to websites organising protest marches or rallies against the government, or advocating for the legalisation of euthanasia."

Clapperton added that: "To the extent that this legislation allows the police to ban access to material discussing political matters, it is probably unconstitutional," and he suggested that "the reference to 'terrorism related Internet content' is a transparent attempt to deter criticism of the substance of the Bill...This legislation has nothing to do with terrorism."