Voluntary filter set to start mid-year

Voluntary filter set to start mid-year

Summary: Stephen Conroy's Department of Broadband, Communications and the Digital Economy last night said voluntary filtering of the internet by three of Australia's largest internet service providers (ISPs) was on track to kick off in the middle of this year.

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Stephen Conroy's Department of Broadband, Communications and the Digital Economy (DBCDE) last night said voluntary filtering of the internet by three of Australia's largest internet service providers (ISPs) was on track to kick off in the middle of this year.

In July last year, Telstra, Optus and Primus revealed an agreement with the Federal Labor Government to voluntarily implement filtering technology to block any of their customers from accessing child pornography online, while the government conducted a review into the Refused Classification category of content, which its much broader mandatory filtering project would block.

Last night, DBCDE deputy secretary for its Digital Economy & Service Group, Abdul Rizvi, told a Senate Estimates committee hearing that the voluntary filtering was slated to kick off in mid-2011.

The Australian Communications and Media Authority was currently developing a subset of internet addresses that would only include child abuse content, he said, and was trialling a "secure method" of transmitting that list to ISPs in the near future.

Rizvi said the department would be remaining closely in touch with the ISPs during the process, but confirmed it wasn't conducting any extra specific efforts regarding the filter project — although it continued to "monitor development in filtering technology around the globe".

Several ISPs — notably iiNet, Internode and mobile telco VHA — have declined to immediately join the trial.

However, Rizvi said the department was in "regular contact" with the Internet Industry Association, which represents the ISPs and many other groups involved in online content delivery and creation. The IIA was looking to develop an appropriate child pornography filtering framework which other ISPs would be able to participate in voluntarily, he said.

Conroy said the voluntary filter would utilise all of the transparency measures he had introduced to the mandatory filter concept: ranging from avenues for appeal of classification decision to the use of a standardised block page notification on prohibited content.

The news comes as many Australians consider the filter project to be dead in the water, despite the ongoing nature of Labor's review into the Refused Classification content category, and the fact that both Conroy and Prime Minister Julia Gillard have reiterated that the policy remains active. Both the Coalition and the Greens have indicated their intent to veto any legislation regarding the filter, should Labor introduce it into parliament, which, considering the current make-up of parliament, would ensure its demise.

Topics: Censorship, Government AU, Telcos, Optus, Telstra

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5 comments
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  • More of Conjob's efforts to get secret control of access to our best sources of information?
    If he was genuine about "protecting the children" then instead of censoring the internet he should be taking action to get those sites shut down & the offenders prosecuted.
    grump3
  • It's not voluntary! Just because three ISPs have agreed to the trial, with no consultation with their customers, it doesn't constitute 'voluntary' at all.

    As a customer of one of the 'volunteer' ISPs, I'll give my provider a choice: exempt me from filtering or lose me as a customer.

    If there is enough backlash/defectors the ISPs will quickly realise it's not in their best interests to participate with the trial. I encourage people to move to non-filtered service providers, making sure your old provider is fully aware of why you are leaving.

    The internet filter is not about child pornography, it's about the right not to have the government control and monitor what the public can see.

    As grump3 indicates, the government is spending money on the wrong solution. It would be more effective to investigate and prosecute these child porn sites (under existing laws) than dream up some draconian system to merely block them.
    Scott W-ef9ad
  • Stephen Conroy's bizarre obsession with his internet filter threatens to undermine the NBN.
    Yoda7
  • I tend to agree Yoda7. Imo, the NBN is a great idea Stephen, but the filter... hellooo!

    Sadly though, we are not alone. Although the opposition currently oppose (pun intended) the filter (and again I say, good on 'em) they do so from the relative safety of opposition. Whilst what is happening elsewhere in the world would suggest they (if in power) would be implementing a filter too.

    Governments all over the world including NZ and England, currently under conservative leadership (the equivalent of Lib/Nats here) are steaming ahead with their own filters, so...!
    RS-ef540
  • Easy. No filter.
    My ISP has no filter and no intention, but was bought out by iiNet. Hopefully they will not sign up to this travesty, but if they do I will move to another ISP.
    I also agree with Grump3 & Scott W. I can think of no other scenario like the proposed filter which would (unsuccessfully) attempt to block access to Child Abuse sites with no genuine attempts to catch the sick criminals who are guilty of Child Abuse. The money would be better spent on catching these perverted bastards.
    pilotyoda