Aussie taxpayers to fund porn filtering

The federal government will spend AU$116.6 million in taxpayer money to provide all Australian families with free Internet pornography blocking software.

The federal government will spend AU$116.6 million in taxpayer money to provide all Australian families with free Internet pornography blocking software.

The Minister for Communications, Information Technology and the Arts, Helen Coonan, announced the initiative today. A spokesperson for the minister told ZDNet Australia the first free filters should be available for download from a government portal within six months.

"It puts a safer Internet experience within the grasp of every Australian family and it is a solution to the problem posed by Internet pornography that is simple, safe, effective and free," Coonan said in a statement.

"Every parent will be able to receive a free filter for their home computer [and] there will be child-safe terminals in libraries across Australia."

It's likely the government will covet political mileage from the initiative, with the minister's release tipping a "comprehensive national community education campaign" designed to "ensure that all Australian families are aware of the benefits of regulating their children's Internet experience by using a safe and effective computer filter".

At this stage, no specific filtering software has been selected for the initiative. The minister's spokesperson said an accreditation process will be put in place. ISP-level filtering will also be an option for customers of providers that offer it.

"Under this scheme, families will be offered a filtered service or a free filter for their home computer either for download from a dedicated Web site or delivered to them on CD-ROM," the minister's release reads. "All ISPs will also be required to offer filters to new and existing customers at no additional cost."

ISPs will be rebated if they choose to offer filtering at a service provider level.

The government's Internet safety agency NetAlert will receive a AU$5 million funding boost and become co-located with the Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA).

Of the total spend, AU$93.3 million will be spent on filtering software over three years. The minister's spokeswoman says the program will be reviewed in its third year.

According to the minister's spokeswoman, almost no ISPs currently offer any kind of content filtering, so the government will study the feasibility of ISP-level filtering for a fourth time. "In an effort to ensure that we are using the most effective means at our disposal to crack down on offensive and inappropriate material on the Internet, ACMA will undertake a further trial of ISP based filtering in Tasmania."

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