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Australian Senate censors print link to cartoon

Over-reaction to reaction porn

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Questions were being asked in Australia last week as to just how far the moral majority was prepared to go to protect the ordinary voter from interweb nastiness.

First we had the clampdown by the Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA) on a range of material that was not illegal, but clearly too controversial for them to allow to stay out on the net.

Then we had the "six degrees of separation" rule, according to which the ACMA was happy to ban not just the original version of a website they didn’t quite fancy, but also links to that website and possibly also links to links.

Now, we have a bunch of Senators, allegedly the most sophisticated political thinkers in the land, objecting to the publication of a hard copy link to a cartoon of two well-known comic characters reacting to online obscenity.

That’s right. Not the nastiness itself – which just happens to be 2 Girls 1 Cup. Not even a direct link to the reaction video – which appears to have sat happily on Youtube without complaint for some time now. But rather, a hard copy print-out of that link.

The decision was made by a Senate Committee established to review cyber-safety measures including the government's controversial internet filter. The content in question is a clip just over a minute long taken from the US hit cartoon series, Family Guy. In it, family dog Brian appears to be highly amused by the reaction of baby Stewie on being cajoled into watching infamous shock fetish video 2 Girls 1 Cup.

It is not clear from the clip whether the cartoon characters are actually watching this video – or simply acting.

Despite Senate touchiness on the subject, the entire episode will, according to itNews, be legally available for sale in Australia with a MA15+ rating from later this month.

According to itNews, a committee spokesman was said it had "exercised its discretion". They said: "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."

Three other links included in footnotes were also allegedly redacted on the grounds that they pointed to RC content.

However, if this is the new Australian standard for censorship, it seems likely that ACMA has a lot of censoring (and redacting) ahead. Speaking at the recent Onscenity conference in London, Finnish academic Susanna Paasonen spoke at some length about difficulties caused by the growing genre of "reaction videos", which were clearly not pornographic in themselves, and often highly staged.

Perhaps it is time for Ms Paasonen to have words with the Australian Senate. ®

Bootnote

Meanwhile, under the heading “you couldn’t make it up”, the Australian Government has now censored some 90 per cent of a document released under Australia’s FOI laws on the controversial topic of what data ISP’s are going to be asked to keep when snooping on their customers. The reason for keeping the answer under wraps? Apparently there were fears that the document could cause "premature unnecessary debate".

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