Govt: Web porn blocking test will go ahead

The government has squashed speculation that its Internet content-filtering trial had been brought to an end prematurely.Communications Minister Helen Coonan made the announcement yesterday, refuting statements by the Family First senator Steve Fielding that the three-month trial, scheduled to have been carried out in Tasmania, had "been quietly scrapped".

The government has squashed speculation that its Internet content-filtering trial had been brought to an end prematurely.

Communications Minister Helen Coonan made the announcement yesterday, refuting statements by the Family First senator Steve Fielding that the three-month trial, scheduled to have been carried out in Tasmania, had "been quietly scrapped".

Family First has been campaigning for mandatory filtering at ISP level to prevent children getting access to pornography online and announced on Tuesday the government had ditched the filtering trial after both Telstra and Optus would not participate.

Coonan said one privately funded trial had been cancelled, but the planned pilot managed by the ACMA (Australian Communications and Media Authority) will go ahead as planned. The tender for companies wishing to take part closed last week and three bids were received, according to the government.

Under the ACMA scheme, ISP-level filtering products will be tested on blocking "inappropriate and illegal content", whether such products would clog ISPs' networks and if such products have improved since the government last examined their capabilities in 2005-2006.

The federal government has already examined the potential ISP-level filtering three times; firstly in 1999, 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 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."

Coonan also announced this week that the government will reveal details on the AU$116.5 million NetAlert -- Protecting Australian Families Online initiative in the coming weeks, which will include an AU$18.3 million Internet safety education campaign and the provision of free online content filters to every Australian household and public library to help block unwanted content through the AU$93.3 million National Filter Scheme.

The filter giveaway has been beset by delays and was originally scheduled to go live at the start of this year.

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