23 July, 2009


But I don't even own a pornograph

This piece on the Canadian Lawyer website (via PC Watch and Popehat) illustrates the practical pitfalls of trying to apply subjective censorship to the web. The piece refers to current attempts to apply a national web-nanny in Australia. I particularly liked this:
Needless to say, I was tempted to skim the names of the banned sites. Most of them are porn sites, and some have names that suggest child pornography, which is a crime. But that’s what we have courts for. The Australian blacklist wasn’t written by a court; there was no hearing where evidence was brought that these sites were criminal sites. A group of busybody human rights activists simply wrote the blacklist. Sounds Canadian, actually.

Many banned sites are merely offensive, but not illegal. And some sites are perfectly innocuous. For some secret reason, the web site
www.vanbokhorst.nl is on the blacklist. If you’re not in Australia, feel free to give that one a click. It’s not a pornographic site. My Dutch is rusty, but it appears to be a web site for a forklift rental company in Holland.

How did Van Bokhorst get on the blacklist in Australia? Nobody knows because the process was kept secret, even from Van Bokhorst. It’s unlikely that Van Bokhorst had any Australian customers. But that’s not the point. Someone is making these clandestine decisions about what Australians can or can’t see.
Actually http://www.vanbokhorst.nl is a driving school — my Dutch being marginally less rusty that the Canadian lawyer's, it would seem. However, I have made enquiries and am entirely satisfied that no forklift trucks were traumatized during the creation of their website. The proprietors must be puzzled at the sudden worldwide interest in their business.

Perhaps the over-enthusiastic web censors had been been morally affronted by the erotic possibilities of of the twelve-inch carrot and were taking no chances. After all, we all know about the licentious tendencies of the Dutch! Nudge nudge, wink wink.

With luck, all this bollocks will come to nothing. I shall offer up a prayer of thanks to the God I do not actually believe in for the occasional serendipitous outcomes of bureaucratic incompetence.

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