Govt introduces law to make Internet filtering compulsory

The Government has introduced the Films, Videos, and Publications Classification (Urgent Interim Classification of Publications and Prevention of Online Harm) Amendment Bill.

Much of the bill is laudable and worthwhile. But one aspect is repugnant and should be resisted at all costs. It is this part:

The Bill facilitates the establishment of a government-backed (either mandatory or voluntary) web filter if one is desired in the future. It provides the Government with explicit statutory authority to explore and implement such mechanisms through regulations, following consultation.

There is already a voluntary web filter for content such as child pornography. It is used by ISPs covering the vast majority of NZ Internet users including 2 Degrees, Spark and Vodafone.

So there is no need to have a law change for a voluntary filter. The law change is for a compulsory filter.

And if the Government manages to introduce a compulsory filter, I can guarantee it won’t stop at objectionable material.

Over a dozen agencies will queue up demanding it be expanded so they also get the power to block websites. Crown Law will want to block overseas newspapers that break NZ suppression laws. MBIE will want to block any sites Hollywood studios complain about. The Police will want to block websites. The Ministry of Health will want to block websites.

Once you have a compulsory Government filter, it only gets bigger. This bill should be resisted strongly and I hope the Greens live up the work done by Nandor Tanczos and Gareth Hughes who have always been on the side of Internet freedom, and oppose this bill.

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