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Australian Government pressurised over social media censorship plans

Social media giants including Facebook, Google, Microsoft, Yahoo, and Twitter have joined together in an Avengers type assault on the Australian government. The government plans to employ an 'eSafety Commissioner' who will be empowered to remove content that is deemed ‘harmful’ to children.

The technology powerhouses are implying that it will be ineffective and hard to implement. A discussion paper stated that the government plans to appoint a commissioner that will have the power to force large social media sites to "rapidly remove" content deemed to be "targeted at and likely to cause harm to an Australian child."

Many tech giants say that by appointing a chief bureaucrat to decide what can and cannot be removed from social media, it would slow down the process already in place for removing inappropriate content. They also state that if put in place then it could take up to five days to remove content online. It is also thought that children would seek online liberation elsewhere, and start using services that are not subject to the same rules.

Facebook sent a separate submission saying that it could even take weeks to remove content through the process of having an eSafety Commissioner.

It certainly is an area of conflicting opinions, and there must be careful consideration when making the decision. Whilst the government say that they are acting in the best interest of the children of their countries, if the eSafety Commissioner was introduced, this could have some sinister consequences.

The liberation factor is huge in online culture. You can go where you want, and pretty much view whatever you want. Whether this is a good or a bad thing remains to be seen, but libertarians love this feature of the Internet. With Australia’s movement into censorship online, it could spell a new age in the social media world. Society is already told what they can and can’t watch on TV, what they can and can’t do in everyday life, and the way things are going, this will eventually apply online, as this is the natural trend.

This will eventually lead to the government channelling posts towards their way of shaping society. Any antigovernment messages will be plugged, and the online world will be as constrained as the television channels that are available. Social media is good now because it allows people to express their ‘norm’ and not the way that an institution thinks that they should be acting.

The big firms have a point about the time it would take to remove certain content, but there is a bigger issue here, and that is liberation online. Would the content stretch to video games being deemed inappropriate? Would the eSafety Commissioner remove conversations that didn't fit in with the government's way of thought? Although this is not what is being proposed at present, it opens the door to this as a possibility in the future.

With the big companies up in arms, it would be surprising if Australia were to implement this Commissioner. Facebook and friends have made a fair case in terms of the increased time of removing content if there were a middleman involved, but there is still a worry for the social media society that things may not be as free as they once were.

Alex is an English Literature and Sociology undergraduate whose love for written word has led him to write about some obscure topics in his time. Currently a content writer at Social Media Frontiers, be sure to follow him @AlexSatSMF.

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Australian Government pressurised over social media censorship plans Reviewed by Unknown on Wednesday, March 12, 2014 Rating: 5
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