Cyber Safety Committee censors Family Guy

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Cyber Safety Committee censors Family Guy

Sign of things to come?

A Senate Committee has censored a link to a morally-ambiguous parody on the US TV show Family Guy that was included in a written submission [PDF] by prominent anti-filter campaigner Mark Newton.

The committee was established to review cyber-safety measures including the Government's controversial internet filter and the effects of exposing children to inappropriate content.

But before handing down a finding, it drew a line in the sand on the type of content it saw as objectionable.

The censored Family Guy episode was legally available for sale in Australia with a MA15+ rating from later this month.

It showed the family's dog, Brian, showing baby Stewie a fetish video: 2 Girls 1 Cup.

Communications Minister Senator Stephen Conroy has said that the filter will block only content that "you can't buy [on] DVD" or watch on TV.

The redaction gave ammunition to critics who warned the filter will expand to cover content not originally under its mantle.

And it underscored fears held by campaigners such as Newton over the types of borderline content that could be swept up.

A committee spokesman told iTnews it had "exercised its discretion" in not publishing the link.

"The committee reserves the right to exercise its discretion not to publish any submission, or part of a submission, which in its view contains objectionable material, or material that is or purports to be refused classification or links directly to refused classification material," he said.

A case of conflation?

Newton wrote the Government had conflated the terms 'illegal' with 'inappropriate' in respect to proscribed content to the point where "various types of legal but controversial content [were being portrayed] as if it were illegal".

The fetish video became an internet sensation when viewers posted videos online of their friends' reactions to it; about 6500 such responses are on YouTube with many generating millions of views.

The animated parody mimics the phenomenon by showing Stewie's reaction to the contentious video.

Newton said it was the cartoon character's facial expression that ran afoul of public servants: "Stewie Griffin needs to be redacted for even hinting at something that might be RC if ever assessed".

RC redactions

Three other links included in footnotes were also redacted for pointing to RC content.

They included a graffiti film and an web page where the banned film Ken Park could be bought on DVD.

Newton used his submission to argue that at Senator Conroy has variously "portrayed types of legal but controversial content as if they were illegal".

"The current Government has created the manifestly false impression that material can become illegal by means of a decision by the Commonwealth Classification Board to rate it as refused classification," Newton said.

"RC content is not, and never has been, illegal.

"It is lawful for Australian citizens to possess, own, read or view, give away and purchase RC content in all forms, except in Western Australia (which has a state law which criminalises possession of RC content) and parts of Western Australia and the Northern Territory associated with the Aboriginal Intervention (where possession of content rated higher than MA 15+ is an offence).

"It is also legal to transmit RC content over a telecommunications network everywhere except Western Australia."

Similar readings can be found on other anti-censorship websites.

Conroy has told iTnews that such arguments were a "complete furphy" and "an attempt to try and confuse people".

"Lots of things are illegal but that is not what we are blocking," Conroy said.

"We are blocking material that is currently refused classification."

The committee didn't censor all RC content in Newton's submission.

A link to a 1998 Federal Court decision that publishes the text of an article called the Art of Shoplifting was left untouched.

The article, published by Latrobe University student newspaper Rabelais, was refused classification due to its potential to encourage crime.

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