Australian internet ranked fourth most free

Powered by SC Magazine
 

Surveillance, filtering proposals balance NBN benefits.

A global report on internet freedom has ranked Australia fourth most "free", with affordable, high-quality connections available to 75 percent of the population.

US-based research and civil liberties advocacy group Freedom House studied connectivity barriers, content restrictions and user rights in 37 countries between January 2009 and December 2010.

The 410-page Freedom on the Net 2011 report (pdf) followed an April 2009 pilot and aimed to characterise internet freedom through a set of 21 questions about infrastructure, industry regulation, censorship, surveillance and privacy.

Australia ranked below Estonia, the US and Germany as the fourth most free online environment. It had more than 9.1 million active internet subscribers and 16 million users at the end of 2009.

It also ranked fourth in terms of internet penetration, below the UK, USA and South Korea. Freedom House expected Australia’s penetration rate to rise from 75 to 100 percent on completion of the National Broadband Network (NBN).

However, Freedom House researcher Alana Maurushat expected Australia's ranking to remain constant for the next five years, as NBN benefits balanced moves by the Government to increase surveillance mechanisms.

"We risk leaning too far towards the encroachment on civil liberties without evidence that such encroachment will reduce cybercrime," said Maurushat, of the University of NSW's Cyberspace Law and Policy Centre.

"There is still the propensity of Australian governments to equate increased surveillance mechanisms with the ability to curtail cybercrime.

"As a cybercrime expert, I am worried that we are rushing into many such proposals without doing a thorough assessment of whether they are achieving their goals."

Pros and cons of Australian cyberspace

Freedom House researchers described a regulated but fairly free competitive market for internet access, with the Australian Government having "adopted a strong policy of technical neutrality".

The report also found that Australian law did not currently provide for mandatory blocking or filtering of content, so citizens could openly criticise politicians and policies without Government interference.

However, Freedom House found that “threats to internet freedom are growing and have become more diverse” globally, and Australia was no exception.

Researchers highlighted a now-repealed South Australian law that made it illegal for individuals to anonymously comment on political issues in the lead up to the March 2010 state election.

They also highlighted a mandatory, ISP-level internet filter that was proposed by the Labor Government in December 2009, but put on hold until mid-2013, pending a review of Australia’s content classification system.

“The proposed filtering system has been controversial in Australia as there are concerns of over-blocking, censorship of adult materials, scope creep, and impairment of telecommunication access speeds,” Freedom House noted.

“While [Prime Minister] Gillard has voiced support for the filter in the media, the likelihood of any such proposal becoming law is slim due to the strong opposition to any such legislation by opposition parties.”

Freedom House also expressed concern over a controversial Federal proposal to mandate the retention of telecommunications data.

The data retention proposal was expected to support Australia’s accession to the Council of Europe Convention on Cybercrime; however, Freedom House reported that Australia would “go beyond the treaty’s terms”.

“This compulsory data-retention policy, if enacted, could become a great threat to online freedom in Australia,” researchers wrote in a section titled ‘Violation of User Rights’.

Global results

While Australia did "not yet have the balance right" to ensure a free internet while combating cybercrime, neither did Freedom on the Net 2011 leaders Estonia and the US, Maurushat said.

"Estonia and the US are ranked the 'free-est' nations, mostly due to a lack of regulation," she told iTnews.

"These two countries, however, are also the bed of cybercrime with many criminals choosing to register domain names in these countries.

"While free speech is incredibly important, it has also been used to shield some of the worst activity on the internet."

Freedom House stated that it did “not rate governments or government performance per se”, and that index ratings reflected the interplay of government and non-governmental organisations – including private corporations.

Despite a “pushback” by citizens and human rights activists, the report found a strengthening of censorship and internet surveillance powers in response to the rise of social networks and other Web 2.0 applications.

In 12 of the 37 countries examined, authorities permanently or temporarily blocked access to services like YouTube, Facebook and Twitter.

Internet users were arrested for online content in 23 countries, the report noted. Among those were a Chinese woman who faced labour camp over a Twitter message, and an Indonesian woman Prita Mulysari, who was charged with libel for an email she sent to friends about service at the Omni International Hospital.

Australia was among eight countries deemed to have a “free” internet. Others were Estonia, the US, Germany, the UK, Italy, South Africa and Brazil.

Kenya, Mexico, South Korea, Geoergia, Nigeria, India, Malaysia, Jordan, Turkey, Indonesia, Venezuela, Azerbaijan, Rwanda, Russia, Egypt, Zimbabwe, Kazakhstan, and Pakistan were deemed “partially free” and ranked from best to worst, in that order.

Eleven countries were deemed “not free”: Thailand; Bahrain; Belarus; Ethiopia; Saudi Arabia; Vietnam; Tunisia; China; Cuba; Burma; and Iran.

Copyright © iTnews.com.au . All rights reserved.


Australian internet ranked fourth most free
 
 
 
Top Stories
Hockey flags billion-dollar Centrelink mainframe replacement
Claims 30 year-old tech is holding Govt back.
 
Ombudsman wants to monitor warrantless metadata access
Requests ability to report publicly.
 
Frugality as a service: the Amazon story
Behind the scenes, Amazon Web Services is one lean machine.
 
 
Sign up to receive iTnews email bulletins
   FOLLOW US...

Latest VideosSee all videos »

The great data centre opportunity on Australia's doorstep
The great data centre opportunity on Australia's doorstep
Scott Noteboom, CEO of LitBit speaking at The Australian Data Centre Strategy Summit 2014 in the Gold Coast, Queensland, Australia. http://bit.ly/1qpxVfV Scott Noteboom is a data centre engineer who led builds for Apple and Yahoo in the earliest days of the cloud, and who now eyes Asia as the next big opportunity. Read more: http://www.itnews.com.au/News/372482,how-do-we-serve-three-billion-new-internet-users.aspx#ixzz2yNLmMG5C
Interview: Karl Maftoum, CIO, ACMA
Interview: Karl Maftoum, CIO, ACMA
To COTS or not to COTS? iTnews asks Karl Maftoum, CIO of the ACMA, at the CIO Strategy Summit.
Susan Sly: What is the Role of the CIO?
Susan Sly: What is the Role of the CIO?
AEMO chief information officer Susan Sly calls for more collaboration among Australia's technology leaders at the CIO Strategy Summit.
Meet the 2014 Finance CIO of the Year
Meet the 2014 Finance CIO of the Year
Credit Union Australia's David Gee awarded Finance CIO of the Year at the iTnews Benchmark Awards.
Meet the 2014 Retail CIO of the Year
Meet the 2014 Retail CIO of the Year
Damon Rees named Retail CIO of the Year at the iTnews Benchmark Awards for his work at Woolworths.
Robyn Elliott named the 2014 Utilities CIO of the Year
Robyn Elliott named the 2014 Utilities CIO of the Year
Acting Foxtel CIO David Marks accepts an iTnews Benchmark Award on behalf of Robyn Elliott.
Meet the 2014 Industrial CIO of the Year
Meet the 2014 Industrial CIO of the Year
Sanjay Mehta named Industrial CIO of the Year at the iTnews Benchmark Awards for his work at ConocoPhillips.
Meet the 2014 Healthcare CIO of the Year
Meet the 2014 Healthcare CIO of the Year
Greg Wells named Healthcare CIO of the Year at the iTnews Benchmark Awards for his work at NSW Health.
Meet the 2014 Education CIO of the Year
Meet the 2014 Education CIO of the Year
William Confalonieri named Healthcare CIO of the Year at the iTnews Benchmark Awards for his work at Deakin University.
Meet the 2014 Government CIO of the Year
Meet the 2014 Government CIO of the Year
David Johnson named Government CIO of the Year at the iTnews Benchmark Awards for his work at the Queensland Police Service.
Q and A: Coalition Broadband Policy
Q and A: Coalition Broadband Policy
Malcolm Turnbull and Tony Abbott discuss the Coalition's broadband policy with the press.
AFP scalps hacker 'leader' inside Australia's IT ranks.
AFP scalps hacker 'leader' inside Australia's IT ranks.
The Australian Federal Police have arrested a Sydney-based IT security professional for hacking a government website.
NBN Petition Delivered To Turnbull's Office
NBN Petition Delivered To Turnbull's Office
UTS CIO: IT teams of the future
UTS CIO: IT teams of the future
UTS CIO Chrissy Burns talks data.
New UTS Building: the IT within
New UTS Building: the IT within
The IT behind tomorrow's universities.
iTnews' NBN Panel
iTnews' NBN Panel
Is your enterprise NBN-ready?
Introducing iTnews Labs
Introducing iTnews Labs
See a timelapse of the iTnews labs being unboxed, set up and switched on! iTnews will produce independent testing of the latest enterprise software to hit the market after installing a purpose-built test lab in Sydney. Watch the installation of two DL380p servers, two HP StoreVirtual 4330 storage arrays and two HP ProCurve 2920 switches.
The True Cost of BYOD
The True Cost of BYOD
iTnews' Brett Winterford gives attendees of the first 'Touch Tomorrow' event in Brisbane a brief look at his research into enterprise mobility. What are the use cases and how can they be quantified? What price should you expect to pay for securing mobile access to corporate applications? What's coming around the corner?
Ghost clouds
Ghost clouds
ACMA chair Chris Chapman says there is uncertainty over whether certain classes of cloud service providers are caught by regulations.
Was the Snowden leak inevitable?
Was the Snowden leak inevitable?
Privacy experts David Vaile (UNSW Cyberspace Law and Policy Centre) and Craig Scroggie (CEO, NextDC) claim they were not surprised by the Snowden leaks about the NSA's PRISM program.
Latest Comments
Polls
Which bank is most likely to suffer an RBS-style meltdown?





   |   View results
ANZ
  20%
 
Bankwest
  9%
 
CommBank
  12%
 
National Australia Bank
  17%
 
Suncorp
  24%
 
Westpac
  19%
TOTAL VOTES: 1514

Vote