Coalition backflips on internet filtering policy

Coalition backflips on internet filtering policy

Summary: In a massive backflip, the Coalition has claimed it was 'poor wording' in a policy for opt-out internet filtering, despite Liberal MP Paul Fletcher defending it to ZDNet.


Less than five hours after releasing the policy (now deleted, but original PDF here), the Coalition is seeking to deny that a policy around opt-out internet filtering is the current Coalition policy, despite Liberal MP and author of the policy Paul Fletcher speaking to ZDNet confirming the policy.

Fletcher confirmed to ZDNet tonight that the reason the Coalition had decided to go down this path was to take out the confusion for parents who are unsure of who or where to get filtering products from.

"What we intend to do is work with the industry to arrive at an arrangement where the default is that there is a filter in the home device, the home network, that is very similar to the filters that are available today. This is very much about protecting children from inappropriate content, particularly pornography," he said.

"The key thing is it is an opt-out, so it will be open to the customer to call up and say, 'look, I don't want this', and indeed, we will work with the industry to make this a streamlined and efficient process," he said.

Shadow Communications Minister Malcolm Turnbull has said tonight that opt-out internet filtering is not the policy of the Coalition.

"The Coalition has never supported mandatory internet filtering. Indeed, we have a long record of opposing it," he said.

"The policy which was issued today was poorly worded and incorrectly indicated that the Coalition supported an 'opt-out' system of internet filtering for both mobile and fixed-line services. That is not our policy and never has been.

"The correct position is that the Coalition will encourage mobile phone and internet service providers to make available software, which parents can choose to install on their own devices to protect their children from inappropriate material."

Turnbull said a "correct" version of policy has since been uploaded.

Audio from ZDNet's interview with Paul Fletcher, however, proves that opt-out was the original policy.

Turnbull had also originally defended the policy on Triple J's Hack program.

Topics: Government, Government AU, Australia


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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  • Perhaps His Entire Interview Was Misquoted And Taken Out Of Context

    The context being that he didn't have a clue.
  • Ministry of Truth strikes again.

    05.09.13 policy misquotation mt netfil rectify

    When will the Coalition learn that we aren't that easily fooled? Honestly, the policy comes out, "oh, shit this could cost us votes, let's say it never existed" and then poof it's gone. If this mob are elected on Saturday, we are screwed.

    "As my first act in this Parliament, I seek the house's vote to establish a Ministry of Truth, through which all information will flow. It shall be headed by Comrade Murdoch, who will henceforth be known as Big Brother."
  • Filters again?

    Didn't the citizens of Australia defeat a government attempt to filter their Internet? Shouldn't that send a loud enough message to the politicians that filters are unwanted?
  • Caught between a rock and a very hard place

    The pollies are stuck on this one with parents and religious groups demanding Internet content be filtered to remove any nasties, yethard core Internet surfers want everything on the net to be available, whatever it might be.

    I was very against Labor's mandatory filter which thankfully was defeated once Conroy allowed a single remote thought to enter into his brain cell. People want the choice, not Labor dictators saying what you can and can't see. There is no middle ground here except having an opt-in/opt-out policy. I don't think ISPs should control filtering either as if Labor ever get back into power (God help us!) then they'll demand the ISPs turn the filtering on for everyone. Give the parents the control to choose, and you'll find most people will be okay with that.
  • internet filter

    Just writing to thank you Josh for your great reporting of these political hacks and liars.
  • sabina

    as Mary replied I am impressed that anybody can profit $8027 in four weeks on the internet. learn this here now .......……
  • Proof?

    "Audio from ZDNet's interview with Paul Fletcher, however, proves that opt-out was the original policy."

    No, the audio only proves Paul Fletcher's interpretation of the policy. To actually prove the original policy you would need a copy of the original policy document.
    • Original Policy Document for deanzdnet - and any other LNP trolls

      page 7 =
      "As has recently been achieved in the UK, we expect these standards will involve mobile phone operators installing adult content filters on phones which will be switched on as the default unless the customer proves he or she is at least 18 years of age."
      "As has recently been achieved in the UK, we expect these standards will involve the majorinternet service providers providing home network filters for all new home broadbandservices, which will be switched on as the default unless the customer specifies otherwise."
  • Once they are over the line...

    ...they can backflip on the backflip...
  • "OPT OUT"

    Is a disgraceful idea, what internet subscriber would want to be on a service provider or Government "OPT OUT" data base.
    Kevin Cobley
  • But what is this then?

    The Coalition’s Policy to Enhance Online Safety for Children
    4. Increased Support for Parents
    a. Nationally agreed default safety standards for smartphones and other devices, and internet access services
    The Coalition believes that keeping children safe online is ultimately the responsibility ofparents and others charged with the welfare of children

    but they need better supportfrom government and industry.We will work with mobile phone companies (such as Telstra, Optus, Vodafone and theirresellers) to develop online safety standards for smartphones and other devices withmobile network connectivity such as tablets, applicable to their use by children in two agegroups: children up to the age of 12 years and teenagers.As has recently been achieved in the UK, we expect these standards will involve mobilephone operators installing adult content filters on phones which will be switched on as thedefault unless the customer proves he or she is at least 18 years of age.The Coalition will work with internet service providers (which provide fixed line broadbandservices to the home) to develop online safety standards for those services, recognisingthat they are very often accessed by children.As has recently been achieved in the UK, we expect these standards will involve the majorinternet service providers providing home network filters for all new home broadbandservices, which will be switched on as the default unless the customer specifies other.

    This was the policy document that was released...
  • A bit misleading in the article

    For those of you reading this article, it is important that you listen to the audio from Malcolm Turnbull on Triple J's Hack program linked at the end there. The reason I say this is because the article leaves the impression that Turnbull defended the policy of an opt-out filter forced to be implemented at the ISP and then blatantly backflipped and lied about it. This isn't the case. I quote:

    "What is being proposed is that there will be - there's no server-side filter [...] The filter will be contained in software installed in either people's smartphones or modems [...] you know if they've got broad- fixed-line broadband ... which can be disabled at their option so it is not a filter that operates at a server-side - at the ISP [...] it's basically the same as having - installing a filter on your own computer but by making it available as a default [...] because you know a lot of people struggle ... you know to be able technically to do that so what it does is it's essentially installing that software either in the smartphone or in the modem as a default which you can switch off but then that's your call, because it's our view that the responsibility should lie with the parent so this is not a server-side filter at all." - Malcolm Turnbull

    I also think it's wrong to take the audio embedded in this article or the quotes made of Paul Fletcher that he was confirming the mistakenly put up policy. Put another way if you're skeptical of that - "home network filtering" and "mandatory Internet filter" don't even match up together, because the home network is under the control of the user, so neither the ISP nor the government can filter anything in this manner.

    How then, do we explain the comments of "open to the customer to call up"? I do not think that the customer would have to actually call their ISP to say they don't want it, but may do so when discussing how their modem will be pre-configured before getting it if they get their hardware while signing up with their ISP, or for technical support for help turning it off. One can only imagine that the modem could be configured on the user's end at will and without the ISP even knowing how they have filtering set up. The only way this wouldn't be true is if the ISP attempted to lock down the modem and prevent modification from the user or were allowed to view the filtering configuration of the subscriber, which I do not think anyone wants and would be spyware.

    Since the ISP wouldn't know if you had a filter on or off or any other aspect of its configuration, it would not be possible to construct a database.

    Now, in my opinion it should default to off - by default, we should assume that people do not want a "sanitised" Internet and it should be the responsibility of the subscriber if they want to enable a filter.

    As for software filters installed on smartphones (or any sort of Internet-enabled phones) I think the default should be no filter, even if the person is under 18 years old. Parents can buy phones for their kids and lock them down if they want, but I don't really see a filter as necessary or effective. Of course, it's just software and the software of phones is ultimately under the control of the user (or should be).

    As for "working with industry" - people are rightfully suspicious of a phrase like this, because you never know when it's going to turn into "making the industry do something". Certainly, consultation is fine, but mandating extra options or having certain defaults on these extras should be ultimately up to the company.

    Sorry for the long post, but I wanted to cover everything. In summary, "poorly worded" seems right albeit feeble, although it's a nightmare for those of us concerned about these things. What I don't dispute is that some people of the opposition don't quite know what they're talking about and I think politicians often pretend to have a handle on the basics of things but when you press them for detail it all falls to pieces. People are also right to be concerned about what other policies of the Coalition might be "poorly worded" (or flat-out wrong). Hopefully no surprises over the next 3 years /wishful-thinking
    • nice attempt to obfuscate...but...

      you are pretty well incorrect in every assertion...
      • What am I wrong about?

        Name one assertion that is wrong in my post. I will say that my conclusion that "poorly worded" was a right description is a contestable judgement. I have also not ruled out the possibility that the Coalition are lying. But unless there is some technical measure I haven't thought of, I cannot see anything incorrect. You might also disagree with my interpretation of "home network" being a network contained within a home and think it instead means a network intended for home users.

        I'm open to a decent argument that I'm incorrect. I think the government should stay out of the business of such a filter altogether, whether mandatory or not, opt-in or opt-out, server-side or client-side, so you know what my position is.
    • Re: the home network is under the control of the user

      Not if the Government is mandating what software it must run.
      • Agreed, that would be disastrous.

        It would be terrible policy if they mandated the running of certain software. Easily circumvented, but still bad.

        It's late and I haven't had much sleep. It's possible I got the gist of the narrative wrong. I thought that the story was

        A) The Coalition accidentally released a policy of a Stephen Conroy-style ISP filter, which was opt-out, then was forced to issue a correction and say it was only software installed on new phones and broadbands which could easily be disabled.

        But after reading other articles and a quick glance (yes I know, that's how this whole debacle happened in the first place!) of the Coalition's policy document means the story now looks more like

        B) The Coalition accidentally released a policy on making default-enabled (so opt-out) filters installed on every smartphone and new provided modem by default, but then backtracked and said they're not actually trying to get filters installed on people's stuff by default but merely wanted to work with providers to make available software yada yada yada.

        Now that it looks like B is true, which makes Turnbull look the fool for muddling through the interview defending a plan he would later claim wasn't the plan.

        I'm sorry if I obfuscated the issue or confused anyone and also apologise for suggesting that the article by Josh Taylor was inaccurate. (And also to btone-c5d11 - you don't need to bother with my challenge to argue against any of my assertions.)

        (As an aside, I don't know how much I can blame the Coalition when I'm stuffing up this badly over the same policy details. It's my interpretation of others' interpretations of the original document, followed up by my interpretation of Turnbull's comments on Triple J and then conflating it with the retraction later on... Then again, I'm a ZDNet commenter, while they have ambitions of running the country. We're just not to be held to the same standards!)