SA passes unworkable 'censorship' law

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SA passes unworkable 'censorship' law

Anonymous commentary made illegal.

In the build up to its election, South Australia has passed a law that will make it illegal to anonymously comment about an election candidate, political party or election issue - either online, on television or in a newspaper.

The law, which can be seen in PDF format here (page 89, sect 116), states that any commentary must contain the "name and address (not being a post office box) of a person who takes responsibility for the publication of the material".

Reaction to the law has been consistent, with privacy, legal and security experts claiming they understand the good intentions behind the law but agree that in reality, the law cannot be enforced.

Peter Black, free speech advocate and senior lecturer at the Queensland University of Technology's School of Law, described the policy as "totally impractical, totally unworkable and very misguided."

However Black said his personal opinion is that the spirit behind the law is something he agrees with.

"I think you have a right to speak and a right not to be punished for anything you say but I don't think it extends so far that every individual can use whatever soap-box they like and then hide behind that in some sort of cloud of anonymity.

"It is another foolish attempt from the government to try and regulate the internet in a way it is not going to work so I agree with all of that but my personal view is, in this case, we don't have the right to speak anonymously," Black told iTnews.

Paul Ducklin, head of technology at Sophos, said the law could be easily ignored and the information published by individuals could be helping cyber-criminals.

"Those who want to rant anonymously will find it easy to do - blog on an overseas-hosted blogging site under a pseudonym. Those who choose to obey the law will be revealing information which I think we'd all advise them not routinely to share online," he said.

Ducklin said these types of laws will most likely fail and waste taxpayer money.

"Governments which try to regulate the internet too specifically are, in my opinion, doomed to fail in the attempt, or at least to waste a pile of taxpayers' money (and parliamentary time) trying.

"The internet moves faster than any government can shuffle its paperwork, and the internet doesn't care about marginal seats or getting re-relected. Are we really protecting Australians by spending effort passing laws to worry whether election bloggers have told us whether they live in 1770 or 4677?" added Ducklin.

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