film & video
page identifies some of the plethora of advocacy bodies
concerned with online censorship and free speech.
It covers -
It is not comprehensive but instead tries to provide some
sense of the terrain. A more detailed map of the Australian
advocacy landscape is here.
As we suggested earlier in this guide, online censorship
and digital free speech have become something of a crusade
for enthusiasts of various persuasions, with truth caught
in the crossfire while industry groups and government agencies
tread warily (or merely wearily) across the battlefield.
From our perspective we are struck by
exceptionalism, ie assumptions that the net (like precursors
such as the moving picture or television) is unprecedently
powerful - either for liberation or for the destruction
of all that right-thinking parents hold dear
small size of many advocacy groups, with vehemence, enthusiasm
and ability to shape public debate (or merely coopt policy
makers in the face of community disinterest or uncomprehension)
offsetting narrow support bases
mobilisation of larger communities - particular in the
US as part of the 'religious-broadcast complex' - with
many people supporting a 'gesture politics' or an elective
'identity politics' that is apparently inconsistent with
their daily practice
with past campaigns against obscenity, subversion or violent
content (eg there is little difference between the rhetoric
of Fred Nile, Pat Robertson or Anthony Comstock)
recourse to extreme positions, often with little appreciation
of administrative or technological impediments to grand
more sadly, the lack of tolerance or basic courtesy shown
by combatants on different sides of the fray
considering advocacy within Australia and elsewhere it is
desirable to be wary of some of the more reductionist dichotomies
secular versus religious
technologists versus troglodytes
the meme of the 'heroic band' fighting valiantly against
the forces of darkness. As in any war, truth seems to be
the first casualty.
In Australia recent crusades have been driven by small protestant
evangelical bodies such as the Festival of Light (FOL)
- an import from the UK that for many people has been as
welcome as the rabbit or cane toad, fringe political parties
such as the Christian Democrats and pronouncements from
senior clerics such as Roman Catholic Cardinal Pell.
The extent of support is unclear. Neither the FOL or CD
have become mass movements to rival the Greens or poujadist
groups such as the Shooters Party or One Nation. As Peter
Chen notes in his 2000 thesis
mainstream religious groups have been wary about supporting
the FOL and its affiliate the Community Standards Organisation
As with some digital liberties advocates, polemic from pro-censorship
enthusiasts has often been shrill and disingenous. Child
Wise chief executive Bernadette McMenamin was thus reported
in 2008 as dismissing agitation by the Digital Liberty Coalition,
most of these people are not fully aware of the facts
and secondly, those who are aware are, in effect, advocating
In considering internet regulation arguably the most impact
over the past decade has been that of the Lyons
Forum (a faction within the Federal Coalition parties)
and Tasmania's Senator Brian Harridine, attributable to
his skill in leveraging a quirk of the federal electoral
Australian activism is explored in more detail in a separate
are provided by Fred Nile's Fred Nile: An Autobiography
(Sydney: Strand 2001),The High Price Of Heaven
(St Leonards: Allen & Unwin 1999) by David Marr and
For God & Country: Religious Dynamics in Australian
Federal Politics (Canberra: Parliament of Australia
2001) by Marion Maddox.
In the UK campaigns associated with Mary Whitehouse (1910-2001)
waxed and waned, with her National Viewers & Listeners
Association rebadged as Mediawatch-UK
and the Festival of Light (founded in 1971) failing to achieve
the success claimed for its 1.5 million signature Nationwide
Petition for Public Decency during the 1972 'winter of discontent'.
Critic AA Gill sniffed in 2008 that Whitehouse
a bigoted, censorious cultural fundamentalist. There was
nothing comic or charming about her relentless blackmailing
and bullying of creative life. She tried to take people's
jobs, she even tried to get them imprisoned. It wasn’t
just television, it was theatre and poetry and pop and
anything else she could find. ...
[She] attracted an unsavoury and embittered collection
of acolytes the born-again Malcolm Muggeridge and Lord
Longford. Mainly, they were sad Little Englanders, who
saw breasts on the BBC as the tip of a much larger malaise.
This included queers, darkies, long-haired men, floral
shirts, American slang, popular music played by people
not in dinner jackets, the demise of empire, masturbation
and the uninhibited use of garlic.
is reported to currently have under 500 members, fewer than
the client list of some adult video outlets in London, Belfast
Insights are offered by Bill Thompson's 1991 Moral Crusades
& Media Censorship (PDF),
his 1992 'Anti-Pornography Campaigns: Saving the Family
in America & Britain' (in International Journal
of Politics, Culture & Society Vol 5, No 4) and
Soft-Core: Moral Crusades Against Pornography in Britain
& America (London: Cassell 1994).
In the US over the past two decades campaigns against obscenity,
profanity, violence and the 'permissive society' have been
a rallying point for what's been labelled the New Right
or Religious Right. Prominent organisations include the
National Coalition for the Protection of Children &
with offshoots such as Gideon's Army -
a program of the National Coalition designed to educate,
equip and mobilize Christians to live out heroic faith
and stand for truth and righteousness in this moment in
history - Christians that will commit their hearts, minds
and resources to articulating and advancing God's truth
in a culture that has become hostile to the truth
and the Christian Coalition of America (CC)
- "America's Leading Grassroots Organization Defending
Our Godly Heritage" - under the leadership of sometime
US presidential candidate and broadcaster Pat Robertson.
The American Family Association (AFA) was founded in 1977
by electronic evangelist Douglas Wildmon for
who are tired of cursing the darkness and who are ready
to light a candle ... AFA stands for traditional family
values, focusing primarily on the influence of television
and other media - including pornography - on our society
Kids may not be safe in the local library because of policies
that allow even children unrestricted access to pornography.
That extreme policy flows out of the American Library
Association (ALA), a private organization that has a virtual
death grip on how many public libraries are run.
perspectives are provided in Hellfire Nation: The Politics
of Sin in American History (New Haven: Yale Uni Press
2002) by James Morone, Walter Capps' The New Religious
Right: Piety, Patriotism & Politics (Columbia:
Uni of South Carolina Press 1990), For a Christian America:
A History of the Religious Right (New York: Prometheus
2002) by Ruth Murray Brown Perfect Enemies: The Religious
Right, the Gay Movement & the Politics of the 1990's
(New York: Crown 1996) by Chris Bull & John Gallagher,
A Nation Under God? The ACLU and Religion in American
Politics (Lanham: Rowman & Littlefield 2005) by
Thomas Krannawitter & Daniel Palm, The American
Civil Liberties Union and the Making of Modern Liberalism
(Chapel Hill: Uni of North Carolina Press 2006) by Judy
Kutulas and Religion & the Racist Right: The Origins
of the Christian Identity Movement (Chapel Hill: Uni
of North Carolina Press 1994) by Michael Barkun.
For the UK SSV see M J D Roberts' 1983 'The Society for
the Suppression of Vice and Its Early Critics, 1802-1812'
in 26 The Historical Journal 1 and Ben Wilson's
Decency and Disorder: The Age of Cant 1789-1837
(London: Faber 2007). An introduction to the US SSV is provided
in works on Comstock highlighted elsewhere on this site,
eg Nicola Beisel's Imperiled Innocents: Anthony Comstock
& Family Reproduction in Victorian America (Princeton:
Princeton Uni Press 1997) and Jay Gertzman's Bookleggers
& Smuthounds: The Trade in Erotica, 1920-1940 (Philadelphia:
Uni of Pennsylvania Press 1999).
Jean Hardisty's Mobilizing Resentment: Conservative
Resurgence from the John Birch Society to the Promise Keepers
(Boston: Beacon Press 1999) and The Old Christian Right
(Philadelphia: Temple Uni Press 1983) by Leo Ribuffo offer
points of vantage in considering the AFA and personalities
such as 'Rapture' enthusiast Tim LaHaye, founder of the
Institute for Creation Research, Californians for Biblical
Morality, Council for National Policy and American Coalition
for Traditional Values (ACTV) highlighted later in this
The US Electronic Privacy Information Center (EPIC)
is a leader in the field, noted for its lobbying and publications.
The Center for Democracy & Technology (CDT),
another US body, has largely supplanted the Electronic Frontier
Ralph Nader's Consumer Project on Technology (CPT)
is another contender. The National Coalition Against Censorship
is a US umbrella group with an arts focus.
The EFF was one of the original US online lobby groups.
It has spawned groups within the US (EF Texas and EF Georgia
are of interest) and overseas, such as Electronic Frontier
The Digital Freedom Network (DFN)
is a US-based human rights group with a strong emphasis
on the internet as a tool for civil liberties in the third
world. It is a member of the Global Internet Liberty Campaign
a coalition of rights groups ranging from Feminists Against
Censorship to the Internet Society and Soros Foundation.
The Internet Free Expression Alliance (IFEA),
a US-based body that opposes filtering technologies. Those
technologies, discussed later in this guide, are a key feature
of plans by the EU-based Internet Content Rating Association
an industry body frequently criticised for overstating the
effectiveness of its solutions but offering an approach
that is worthy of consideration.
Most sites present only one point of view. UK-based free
expression group Internet Freedom (IF)
is particularly commendable because its site includes links
to bodies such as ICR that support strong censorship.
The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU)
took a lead in the landmark Reno v ACLU free speech
litigation about the Communication Decency Act (declared
unconstitutional by the Supreme Court) as it plays catch-up
with the internet.
The US Free Expression Network (Free!)
acts as an anti-censorship clearing house. Its members include
the National Campaign for Freedom of Expression (NCFE)
and the National Coalition Against Censorship (NAC).
Article19: The Global Campaign for Free Expression (A19)
is a UK-based libertarian group. The '19' refers to the
corresponding article of the Universal Declaration of Human
Cyber-Rights & Cyber-Liberties (Cyber-Rights)
is a UK group established by Yaman Akdeniz of Leeds University.
Dr Akdeniz is the author of the 1997 paper
on The Regulation of Pornography & Child Pornography
on the Internet.
The EU-based INHOPE
organisation is an example of industry and community bodies
underpinning government action against child pornography.
Apart from community awareness, it operates a hotline for
reporting illegal online material. Its site provides a useful
starting point for study of hotlines.
There is a less positive view of such initiatives in Donna
Hughes' 1999 study
Pimps & Predators on the Internet - Globalizing the
Sexual Exploitation of Women & Children, quoting
a Dutch hotline
people may regard the hotline as a moralist movement against
indecency on Internet. That we are not. … Instead of being
a censor, the hotline must be regarded as an initiative
against censorship. By having an active preventive policy,
the hotline tries to minimize repressive actions against
entire newsgroups or areas of Internet. There is an ongoing
trend of repression against Internet, providers are being
persecuted and forced to block off large parts of the
Net. The hotline tries to be a positive and constructive
answer that may prevent an overreaction from governments
Project is a libertarian group notable for cogent demonstrations
that few filters meet the claims of their vendors or promoters
in government. Peacefire
is a similar group for young technologists; founder Bennett
Haselton has gained recognition in fighting spam.
Electronic Frontiers Australia (EFA)
is the local offshoot of the US EFF. Arguably it has yet
to persuade government, industry or the wider community
and continues to be marginal.
2008 saw the establishment of the Digital Liberty Coalition
(DLC), which boldly described its series of protest rallies
- which by the DLC's estimates attracted 2,500 people across
Australia - a "phenomenal success". The DLC promised that
a 2009 rally in Canberra would feature "much more chanting
and a lot louder protesting from a lot more people",
dismissed by one critic as "offline I'll huff and I'll
puff and I'll blow Parliament House down".
Watch on Censorship (WoC)
is another Australian libertarian group.
In discussing the adult
content industry we have noted the quip that online sex
is the "crazy granny" (the US version of the madwoman
in the Victorian attic) whose mere existence is discomforting.
Industry stances regarding online content regulation and
the range of advocacy bodies reflect the diversity of commercial
They also reflect the shape of regulation. Major ISPs for
example may receive little direct revenue from adult content
or be indifferent to notions of free speech but are susceptible
to government suasion, potentially face significant costs
regarding 'takedown' of offensive content and are conscious
of concerns about precedent and regulatory creep. Bodies
such as Australia's Internet Industry Association (IIA)
accordingly offer policy solutions that are more nuanced
- and arguably more practical - than those from some zealots.
Life is less complicated for advocates for adult content
site operators, such as the US Internet Freedom Association
Concerns about content regulation have been reflected in
the emergence of a range of groups. The Internet Content
and Internet Watch Foundation (IWF)
are two UK bodies that call for a "commitment to quality,
honesty and decency". Their effectiveness for some
is undermined by questions about statistics and an overly
emotive tone in statements about dangers. (As with other
pages on this site, readers should make their own assessments
based on examination of a range of material.)