AU$189m govt porn blocking plan unveiled

AU$189m govt porn blocking plan unveiled

Summary: Prime Minister John Howard last night announced a Coalition plan to clean up Internet porn, in an effort to woo Christian voters.

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Prime Minister John Howard last night announced a Coalition plan to clean up Internet porn, in an effort to woo Christian voters.

The AU$189 million NetAlert -- Protecting Australian Families Online program will go live from 20 August, with a package of measures that the government says will help parents protect their children from online dangers. Howard announced the slew of changes in a joint Webcast with Opposition leader Kevin Rudd, broadcast to 770 churches and watched by an estimated 100,000 Christians.

The lion's share of the cash -- AU$84.8 million -- will go into a filtering scheme offered to individual homes and public libraries. Worried parents will be able to choose between installing filtering software at the PC level and requesting a clean pipe from their service provider, who will be charged with blocking pornographic content at the ISP level.

The government will post a list of approved filtering software providers on its Web site and mandate that all sanctioned vendors update their products as the threat landscape changes.

While individual filters will be available from later this month, ISP-level blocking may take some time to implement. The ACMA (Australian Communications and Media Authority) is currently planning a trial of ISP-level filtering in Tasmania which will inform the government's decision on a national rollout.

The federal government has already examined the potential ISP-level filtering three times: firstly in 1999 in a CSIRO technical trial; in 2003-04 as part of the review of the Online Content Scheme; and in 2005 during a trial conducted by NetAlert, involving the RMIT and ACMA.

Following the most recent trial, Coonan acknowledged problems with the concept saying: "Each report has found significant problems with content filter products operating at the ISP-level ... The Australian trials have also found the effect on performance of the Internet by ISP filtering to be substantial and a lack of scalability of the filters to larger ISPs."

The NetAlert -- Protecting Australian Families Online program will also see publicity campaigns stepped up, including a AU$22 million awareness scheme to "inform parents and carers of children about online safety issues and provide information about where they can go to receive support and assistance", and 10 new ACMA Internet safety officers who will visit schools to talk about online dangers.

More 'Web police' will be added to the Online Child Sex Exploitation Team (OCSET), which will receive a AU$43.5 million cash injection to pay 36 new hires in 2007-08, rising to a total of 90 in 2009-10. The Commonwealth Director of Public Prosecutions will also receive a funding boost to cope with the expected increase in prosecutions resulting from OCSET's additional staff.

Other changes include an extension of the ACMA Blacklist, which includes pornography denied classification by the regulator, to cover malware and terror sites.

The plan comes in addition to a previously announced government initiatives to curb online pornography. Communications Minister Helen Coonan first unveiled the plan to launch content filters last year, although the scheme has been beset with delays since then.

Coonan welcomed today's announcement, saying in a statement: "Unfortunately, no single measure alone can protect children from online harm and in fact, traditional parenting skills have never been more important."

Topics: Censorship, Government, Government AU, Security, Telcos

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14 comments
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  • What a waste of money

    Do these people who come up with these plans think they are so smart and children are dumb? There is no way in hell this will work, if children want to view porn they will find one way or another. This has as much chance of working as stopping all spam mail. The only way to stop children viewing porn is for parents to keep an eye on what their children are doing.
    anonymous
  • re: Waste of Money

    Ah, if you don't want to see porn, don't click on it, don't click suspect links, install firefox plugin, use safe search in google. If kids are the problem, educate them, if they want to view porn, they will. And, (i have never had the need to try it) there are programs like net nanny. Are you going to put filters on kids in the playground next, i was walking past a group of kids in primary school (i think around year 3) and the profanities coming out of their mouths were unreal. $189Million!!, What the? "Scheme" more like scam! I reckon a small team of programmers worth their salt could design this in less than a month. Maybe two to allow for testing etc. Now if the Aust Govt wants to spend this money on, oh lets say faster access, and better prices, both to be competitive in the International arena...
    anonymous
  • Well Worth It

    I don't believe that this is just about our children. Some people have severe addictions to pornography and have no ability to control themselves. It hurts too many people. Also some parents are too ignorant or just plainly don't care what their children look up on the internet, which is indeed saddening. It is not a waste of money but an investment for a much more pure and dignified future of Australia.
    anonymous
  • Immoral act to stop sex education.

    I'll bet in 5-10years there will be a massive spike in sexually transmitted infections and kids/young adults with serious emotional issues going back to having been segregated from Internet knowledge, it's my understanding that these programs often allow parents to specify topics/keywords they don't wish their children to get access too. I don't condone children getting access to pornography, the Internet has some pretty sick stuff in that regard, but to stop an older kid from finding out about safe sex practices or gender/sexuality issues is totally immoral. I left high school 8 or 9 years ago but we never really got taught anything serious about safe sex or sexuality, I had found out from my mother before/during high school and boosted knowledge by research on the Internet when I was starting to question my sexuality, without which even with a supportive/understanding mother I cannot be sure what I may have done not being able to realise my feelings towards other boys wasn't a once off (me only) event.

    Children are not dumb, and when it comes to computers they're often much smarter than their parents, they'll find a way to access anything they want to see eventually, with school friends in the same situation it'll happen even faster I'm sure, thus it's simply a waste of money in an attempt to buy the Christian voters.

    Imagine the dangers that could be if conservative families who don't discuss issues essentially block access to an older kid information regarding such things as Contraception, Birth control, Condom, Safe sex, Gay, Coming Out, or Abuse.

    It is my belief that it' should be the parents who pay more attention to kids on the Internet rather than leaving it to any computer babysitter to do the job.
    anonymous
  • agreed

    the kids will get it anyway - why waste cash?


    "(fundiMENTALists) Omg he said gay
    (end fundiMENTALists)"
    anyway, if they want porn, let em.
    anonymous
  • ISP Filtering= Good Giving Families Software =Bad,Waste of tax payers money

    ISP filtering for illegal porn is great and it will work. They shouldn't filter LEGAL porn sites though.There is no need too.
    But giving free filtering software to families is a bad idea and waste of tax payers money because the ISP's can just do this at their end.
    It is going to cost millions and millions of dollars to send the software on CD to all australian families. Just get the isp to do the filtering.
    And anyway,kids thesedays know alot more about computers than their parents and they can easily just uninstall the software or disable it,so the filtering software will be useless then.
    Conclusion,let ISP's do the filtering and don't waste money and send free filtering software to all families.
    anonymous
  • What about the porn in your in the shops

    Our kids are exposed to this everyday in the shops what are we doing about that. What percentage of the population buy these magazines why are we feeding their sick minds...
    anonymous
  • Net alert

    I dowloaded one of these and honestly mt 12 year old can get aroundit, All it does is annoy me when I want to do my banking,
    anonymous
  • Porn

    Mobile friendly
    anonymous
  • Ridiculous

    This stuff shouldn't be banned, I love it.
    anonymous
  • This is dumb

    this is dumb, porn is ftw

    -scott shaffer
    anonymous
  • above comments

    Forget your dicks for a while and think of the overall purpose of the new site. Knowing where to and when to apply a patch and informing people is good value.
    anonymous
  • Australia is investing right

    False starts and all, to invest in software that can protect children from exposure to porn they DON'T want to see is fabulous. The majority of children if raised in a decent way will actually be sickened if they see porn and would like help how to avoid it. Just because some will want to get around it is no excuse to avoid helping those who don't even want to see the porn (as is true of many things in school - some try to get around the rules, the vast majority try to follow). My son happened on porn and was both repulsed and somewhat attracted and was glad when we found out and had a talk. He would much rather he had never seen it, and I think many kids fall in this category. So develop the best blocker you can. Those who want to still get around it - that's something for the parent to deal with. But at least there is a tool for those who never even want to see porn (at least while young).

    P.S. - I am a Christian and could be labeled at fundamentalist though I prefer evangelical. I think that that kind of name-calling and the lack of coherent arguments shows that it is not always the 'evangelical' that needs a course in debate.

    The whole idea that 'kids will just get around it' without proof from experience or statistics may show more about the writer's childhood than that of the majority of children. If we do not act, however, the increasing tendency toward premature sexual expression whether it be verbally or experientially, will just worsen. Parents should start sexual education of their children at an early age (there are Christian books starting at 5 about sexuality with sex discussed at 9 to 11 as ascertained by the parent) or else the education will happen in a way they may regret. No Internet tool can stop this from happening as there are plenty of resources out there that will always be available.
    anonymous
  • Addendum

    "No Internet tool can stop this from happening" was meant to mean "can stop parents from educating their children about sexuality" In rereading I realized it may have been interpreted as "No Internet tool can stop children from being educated the wrong way" which is just the opposite of my point. I have seen children who really do not want to come across porn and who certainly wouldn't if they knew the long term consequences. For these children it is well worth the investment to help in blocking the porn sites. Even with these blockers, youth who want to get a sexual education because of lack of parental guidance could still get it in the library, bookstore or hopefully from some caring adult. Wherever they go will be temptations, but that's what good age-appropriate laws and caring adults are for. That some will fall through the cracks is all the more reason to beef up all fronts in the battle to make sure children receive appropriate education in sexuality and similar areas. Having taught children of the whole spectrum of ages here and abroad, and read about this issue, this holistic stance--of which the porn blocker is just one useful part--makes sense.
    anonymous