No opt-out for Optus, Telstra filter

Two of the three major broadband providers that have voluntarily signed up to block child abuse websites have confirmed today that customers would not be able to opt out of the providers' new filter.
Written by Renai LeMay, Contributor and  Josh Taylor, Contributor

Two of the three major broadband providers that have voluntarily signed up to block child abuse websites have confirmed today that customers would not be able to opt out of the companies' new filter, meaning customers may turn to smaller providers that have revealed they will not join the block in the immediate future.

On Friday, Communications Minister Stephen Conroy revealed that three internet service providers (ISPs) would cooperate with his request to voluntarily block child porn online while the government's mandatory internet filtering policy was finalised. The list to be used will be compiled and maintained by the Australian Communications and Media Authority.

Both Telstra and Optus today confirmed to ZDNet Australia that although they would filter this content voluntarily, this block would be mandatory for all of their users.

Primus had not responded to requests for comment at the time of writing.

For users opposed to any level of internet filtering, the only opt out may be to sign up with ISPs such as Internode, iiNet and Adam Internet, which have not signed up to the voluntary block.

Internode general manager of Regulatory & Corporate Affairs John Lindsay said the ISP would not comply and that ACMA's blacklist had been thoroughly discredited.

"It covers a tiny proportion of the content that would need to be blocked for it to be effective and has already been shown to contain URLs of legal content that Australians would expect to access," he said in a statement.

"Internode reminds parents that they will always need to use supervision and that they should activate the filtering tools provided with their computer operating system to protect their children online. There are also numerous tools sold by companies like Symantec and F-Secure that can provide fine-grained filtering that is age-appropriate."

iiNet chief executive Michael Malone said his company would wait to see the detail of the proposal.

"I am a long-time supporter of opt-in, or even opt-out," he said by email. "Still not keen on a blanket mandatory filter though. On the plus side, I'm very happy to see the scope limited to child porn (for now), and to see notice to website owners, an appeals process and regular review."

Adam Internet CEO Scott Hicks told ZDNet Australia that the ISP had no intention of following the lead of the three ISPs in blocking any content in the immediate future.

"We have no intention of implementing any filter until the government's content review has been completed," he said.

Mobile broadband player VHA — which operates the Vodafone and 3 brands in Australia — said in a statement that the company wholly supported the development of the Internet Industry Association's ISP code, which it said would guide the mobile industry in the blocking of unlawful content. ZDNet Australia understands that the broadband provider won't immediately follow the lead of Telstra, Optus and Primus.

Unless forced to by the government legally, Exetel would also not be joining the volunteers.

"Exetel will obey any federal or state law but will not initiate any sort of censoring," Exetel CEO John Linton said in a statement to ZDNet Australia.

The news on Friday came as part of a wider announcement where Conroy revealed the filter project would be delayed for a year, while a review was carried out by federal and state governments into the Refused Classification category of content which it will filter.

In addition, a number of other measures aimed at enhancing the project's transparency and accountability were added to the project.

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