Australian Web Filter May Block Legitimate Import Retailers

There's currently a wildly unpopular (not to mention practically unworkable) piece of legislation in the pipeline here in Australia that, if passed, will be a kick in the teeth to already-suffering Aussie gamers.

Some background: the Australian government, in an attempt to pander to conservative, ignorant family types, believes that a mandatory, nation-wide internet filter is the best way to bar access to things like online child pornography.

Sounds good in theory! Except, opponents take the line that if the government puts said filter in place, what's to stop them slowly increasing both the number and flavour of blocked sites?

Nothing. Especially when you consider an announcement made today by a spokesperson from the office of Stephen Conroy, Federal Minister for Communications.

This announcement says that the government's proposed web filter will not only include illegal, immoral stuff like child porn and terrorist-related shenanigans, but also cover some video games. Specifically, any and all video game material that exceeds Australia's current MA15+ rating.

So if a website hosts questionable content that the Classification Board believes exceeds our MA15+ rating, it gets blocked. If an MMO involves content that it's deemed exceeds MA15+, it gets blocked. And, most threatening of all, if an overseas online retailer is found to be selling material that exceeds our MA15+ rated content, it'll be blocked.

Translation: if a game is barred from sale here because our classification board is unable to rate it higher than an MA15+, then any online retailer found selling the game to Australians could also be blocked for Aussie consumers. Doesn't matter if it's a legitimate retailer selling legitimate products that have been cleared for sale in the United States and/or European Union. If it's selling 18+ content to Australians, it could be blocked at the ISP level.

This. Is. Insane. I've long defended the government here over game classification, because the necessary changes to allow games to be rated 18+ were supported by five of the nation's six state attorney generals (only a constitutional "quirk" allowing the sixth, conservative Michael Atkinson of South Australia, to veto such progress).

But this? Blocking Play-Asia because it's selling me, a 29 year-old male, an adult video game? Madness.

It's important to note that, as I began this piece with, this proposed legislation is wildly unpopular here. And has been proven by net security experts time and time again to be unworkable. But so long as the bill is in the pipeline, there's a chance it could be passed. Let's just hope it's not.

Web filters to censor video games [Sydney Morning Herald, via Kotaku AU]