Aust govt dumps broad mandatory filter for Interpol block

Aust govt dumps broad mandatory filter for Interpol block

Summary: The Australian government has dumped its controversial mandatory internet filtering scheme, instead forcing reluctant ISPs to block the Interpol "worst of the worst" list.

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The Australian government will compel internet service providers (ISPs) to block Interpol's "worst of the worst" child abuse websites under existing legislation and dump its controversial plans to implement a broader mandatory internet filtering scheme.

Almost three years since originally announcing the formal scheme, and five years since the idea of a filter was first floated, Communications Minister Stephen Conroy said today that the federal government will no longer seek to introduce a mandatory internet filtering scheme for websites that the Classifications Board calls "refused classification," being beyond X rated.

Instead, the government has issued notices to Australian ISPs, and will compel them to implement the Interpol internet filter under obligations set out in Section 313 of the Telecommunications Act. Telstra, Optus and CyberOne have already implemented the filter; however, major telecommunications company iiNet and its subsidiary Internode were strongly against the voluntary filter and refused to sign up unless the government forced them.

Conroy said that forcing ISPs to implement the Interpol filter removes the need for mandatory internet filtering legislation.

"Blocking the Interpol 'worst of' list will help keep children safe from abuse, it meets community expectations, and fulfils the government's commitment to preventing Australian internet users from accessing child abuse material online," Conroy said.

"Given this successful outcome, the government has no need to proceed with mandatory filtering legislation."

The Australian Federal Police (AFP) will now issue notices to the smaller ISPs to implement a similar regime.

Conroy said that with the support of major ISPs and the Internet Industry Association (IIA), 90 percent of the Australian population will be covered by the filter. He said that the existing implementation with the likes of Telstra and Optus had shown no impact on internet speeds.

"Several Australian ISPs have already been blocking sites on the Interpol list for over a year. They are reporting that this has had no impact on internet speeds or congestion, and they have had no reports of people being denied access to legitimate web content."

Accompanying Conroy's announcement, IIA CEO Peter Lee said that the move is a "positive step forward."

In the first three months of the operation of Telstra's Interpol filter, the AFP revealed that Telstra had blocked 84,000 attempts to access sites on the list, but documents obtained under Freedom of Information (FOI) revealed that 52,000 of these requests came in the first month, with a significant drop-off in the following two months.

iiNet's chief regulatory officer Steve Dalby confirmed to ZDNet that iiNet had been in discussions with the government on the voluntary filter, and said that the company would comply with the direction to block websites deemed illegal by the government.

By using existing legislation, the government has side stepped attempting to introduce mandatory internet filtering legislation in the parliament. The legislation would have been unlikely to pass in this parliament, because both the Greens and the Coalition were against the mandatory internet filter.

The controversial mandatory internet filtering plan had long been deemed "dead, buried, and cremated" as a result. Legislation was due to be implemented in mid-2013 after the government acted on recommendations from the Classification Review, which recommended a tighter definition of what is defined as "refused classification" eight months ago.

Yesterday, the Australian Christian Lobby called for a mandatory internet filter for all pornography.

Australian Christian Lobby national director Jim Wallace today indicated that the group believed that the government had backed away from an election promise.

"Although child abuse material is the most heinous element of the Refused Classification category, it is just a part of the prohibited online content the government committed to blocking at the ISP level prior to the last election,” Wallace said.

"Having ISPs block only illegal child abuse material does not meet the government's cyber safety election commitment to mandatory ISP filtering of Refused Classification material. The government's decision not to legislate to the full extent of its commitment is a great disappointment."

Topics: Censorship, Government, Government AU, Networking

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Armed with a degree in Computer Science and a Masters in Journalism, Josh keeps a close eye on the telecommunications industry, the National Broadband Network, and all the goings on in government IT.

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5 comments
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  • Arresting kiddie fiddlers is better than pretending they dont exist.

    I still don't understand why we need to block illegal kiddie porn stuff when an even better option would be to seize the damn servers and arrest the pedophiles.

    Surely we already had the power to , you know, arrest pedophiles, rather than covering up child abuse and pretending it doesnt happen. Wouldn't we be safer to take the pedos out of the community rather than sweeping it under the rug?
    shayne.oneill
    • Well, perhaps

      there are pedophiles in those enforcement areas too. They would not want to go after themselves. You never know where you may run into one these days.

      Besides, it is just our children, and not some much more important intellectual property violation. Unlike the modus operandi of RIAA/MPAA, parents do not bribe politicians to go after pedophiles.
      D.T.Long
    • Using the Catholic Approach

      From what's presently on the current news headlines regarding Victoria & the NSW Hunter, the Christian Lobby's approach mirrors that of the Catholic's:
      Demand a filter to hide it under the carpet so we can downplay or pretend it doesn't exist.
      grump3
  • Not quiet that easy...

    Its not that easy to take down servers other countries Shayne.

    I don't think you'll find to many servers like these in countries like Australia the US or throughout the UK or Europe.

    Maybe one option that would get a quick response would be to block the entire country housing these servers. But that will never happen either.

    And as for this new idea from Conroy will its not going to stop the "kiddie fiddlers" as you put it either. These type of images are traded through torrents/newsgroups so blocking web addresses/ip addresses will have no affect what so ever.

    And as to this Jim Wallace from the Australian Christian Lobby Group, mate how about you clean up your own backyard before you start telling people what they can and cant look at on the net.

    Dale
    Spudzxcvbnm
  • Who cares about the filter, we have data retention?

    Data retention solves the perceived censorship problems of Conroy's master plan for internet filtering.

    It's now 1984 and Big Brother feels it's far better to track everyone rather than the extreme few.

    Think of the political and financial power that flows from being able to monitor everyone's internet activities.

    ...and people thought cookies were bad.
    Scott W-ef9ad