Thursday, March 19, 2009

The first rule of censorship is that you cannot talk about censorship

WikiLeaks is a public-interest website which makes leaked material freely available on the internet. In the past it has revealed information on psychological torture at Guantanamo Bay, a Pentagon analysis showing it is losing the war in Afghanistan, and insider trading at J P Morgan. At the moment its hosting leaked memos from Barclays Bank detailing the extent of their tax evasion - memos which have been suppressed by the UK High Court (ah, the joy of a free market in legal jurisdiction). In short, it does good work, exposing corruption and malfeasance in both the public and private sector and allowing those responsible to be held to account.

It also exposes the stupidity and evil of internet censorship by exposing filter lists - for example, Denmark's list, which included a Dutch transport company, and Thailand's, ostensibly for child pornography but every single site is marked "lese majeste". So obviously, its on the Australian government's list of banned websites. To censors, talking about censorship is itself cause for censorship. Australian websites which link to it could now face fines of A$11,000 a day for doing so. And the Australian Communications and Media Authority, the body responsible for creating and maintaining the blacklist, "has also referred the matter to the appropriate law enforcement agency".

You couldn't come up with a more perfect example of the evil of web censorship if you tried.

Update: Wikileaks has now posted the full Australian blacklist. No doubt they'll ban that too. The last thing censors want is for their decisions to be publicly scrutinised and debated.