Stephen Conroy has expressed admiration for what he termed as Google’s role in suppressing controversial web content in China, Thailand and other countries.
In the latest twist over his controversial Web filtering scheme, Communications Minister Stephen Conroy has expressed admiration for what he termed as Google’s role in suppressing controversial Web content in countries like China, Thailand, and elsewhere – and confirmed he is trying to use similar filtering to prevent Australians from viewing offensive content via Google-owned YouTube.
Calling the company “probably the world’s leading deep packet filterer, unbeknownst to most people,” Conroy told a Senate Estimates committee that he was discussing the possibility of getting Google to filter refused-classification materials from its YouTube video sharing site. “They have experience in blocking material in other countries at the behest of governments, including China, Thailand and a number of other countries," he added.
Google, however, is having none of it, denying both Conroy’s claims about deep-packet filtering and suggestions it would voluntarily filter RC content. “We don’t believe the comparisons between how China filters the Internet, and how Australia is looking at it, are relevant,” Google Australia head of policy Iarla Flynn told APCmag.com.
“Our view is that the scope of the Refused Content is simply too broad,” he continued. “It covers everything from child sexual abuse material to the very grey realms of social and politically controversial materials. YouTube is not for hate speech or pornography, and there are millions of people looking at our videos who can flag any video [as offensive]. But we cannot give assurances that we would voluntarily filter all refused classification content from YouTube.”
Although he added that Google “is committed to complying with relevant law in the countries we operate in”, Flynn would not be drawn on Google’s likely course of action should Conroy’s filter be passed as a legal requirement in Australia.
The difference of opinion between Google and Conroy isn’t the only inconsistency with his earlier statements: Conroy’s representation to the committee also contradicted his December statements that the filter would not affect Internet performance – a conclusion he has argued was supported by the Enex Test laboratory report into last year’s filter trials.
In his latest comments, however, Conroy acknowledged that extending an ISP-level content filter to cover YouTube content would have performance implications – which explains why he is hoping Google will voluntarily do the job for him. Google’s has well-known bias in favour of freedom of expression, including its recent ultimatum to the Chinese government, saying that it would no longer filter web results there and would rather pull out of China altogether. There was no indication what inducements Conroy has offered the company to see things his way.
The news comes, ironically, as Google and other organisations commemorate today as Safer Internet Day.
Conroy’s Internet filtering policy that has sparked widespread criticism and international human rights concerns, and fuelled planned protests on March 6 throughout Australia’s capital cities.