Government to push on with controversial internet filter

The government today signalled that it is to go ahead with its controversial plans for internet filtering in Australia, despite fears that it will dramatically slow down broadband speeds.  

Championed by the Minister for Broadband, Communications and the Digital Economy Stephen Conroy, the move will put the onus for filtering on internet service providers such as Telstra, iinet and Optus.

The new cyber-safety measures include:

1. Introduction of mandatory ISP-level filtering of Refused Classification (RC)–rated content.

2. A grants program to encourage the introduction of optional filtering by Internet Service Providers, to block additional content as requested by households.

3. An expansion of the cyber-safety outreach program run by the Australian Communications and Media Authority and the Cyber-Safety Online Helpline – to improve education and awareness of online safety.

On revealing the details of the Enex Test Laboratory report into the pilot trial of Internet Service Provider (ISP)-level filtering, Conroy said:

“We welcome the constructive input of Australia’s four largest ISPs – Telstra, Optus, iiNet and Primus. These companies came forward to help inform the Government’s approach. Between them these ISPs account for more than 80% of internet users in Australia.

The Government has always maintained there is no silver bullet solution to cyber-safety. That is why we have established a comprehensive range of cyber-safety measures, including funding for 91 additional online Australian Federal Police officers and education.

Through a combination of additional resources for education and awareness, mandatory internet filtering of RC-rated content, and optional ISP-level filtering, we have a package that balances safety for families and the benefits of the digital revolution.”

The Government will introduce amendments to the Broadcasting Services Act which will require all ISPs to block RC-rated material hosted on overseas servers.

RC-rated material will encompass child sex abuse content, bestiality, sexual violence including rape, and the detailed instruction of crime or drug use.

The Government said it will also add the specific internet addresses (URLs) of known child abuse material through sharing lists with international agencies.

Meanwhile, the Minister for Home Affairs yesterday announced a public consultation process into whether there should be an R18+ classification category for computer games.

The Government is planning to introduce legislation during the Autumn 2010 parliamentary sittings, which will then be followed by a 12 month implementation process.

“The Government will immediately undertake public consultation with the release today of a discussion paper on additional measures to improve the accountability and transparency of processes that lead to RC-rated material being placed on the RC Content list,” Conroy said.

ACMA will also be allocated funds to enhance the security of the RC Content list and to automate its transmission to ISPs.

For families wishing to have a wider range of material filtered, including possibly X18+ and gambling sites, the Government said it will establish a grants program to encourage ISPs to offer these services on a commercial and optional basis.

Conroy added: “These additional filtering services will help parents to choose what they want filtered without having to download and install software to their home computers.”

The decision comes inspite of a widespread movement against internet censorship in Australia. The Censordyne campaign created for political activism group Get Up! was part of the Mumbrella Readers Choice Awards shortlist for social media campaign of the year.

Created by Fnuky, it aimed to turn internet filtering into a household product in order to galvanise support against it. The campaign launched on July 19 with a single Twitter post by Fake Stephen Conroy, a popular impersonator of the communications minister.


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