Fed Goes Ahead With Internet Filtering

The Federal Government announces it will put in place controversial Internet filtering legislation.

After much controversy, and alleged “extensive” feedback, the Federal Government is going ahead with some aspects of its Internet filtering policy.
New measures include:

  • Introduction of mandatory ISP-level filtering of Refused Classification (RC) –rated content.
    A grants program to encourage the introduction of optional filtering by Internet Service Providers, to block additional content as requested by households.

  • An expansion of the cyber-safety outreach program run by the Australian
  • Communications and Media Authority and the Cyber-Safety Online Helpline – to improve education and awareness of online safety.

One of the more interesting aspects out of Communications Minister Stephen Conroy’s office is that “the Government is also introducing new transparency measures to ensure the public can have confidence in the process for material being placed on the RC Content list.” This is one of the main bugbears of critics of the idea – who judges the judges – and what is offensive content?

The Government will introduce legislative amendments to the Broadcasting Services Act to require all ISPs to block RC-rated material hosted on overseas servers.

RC-rated material includes child sex abuse content, bestiality, sexual violence including rape, and the detailed instruction of crime or drug use. Under the National Classification Scheme and related enforcement legislation it is already illegal to distribute, sell or make available for hire RC-rated films, computer games and publications.

If the above is true and only these types of sites will be blocked, then nobody will object. However, exactly what programs will be used to block sites – and how they decide what meets the criteria – is another issue.

However Conroy claims the way it will be executed is foolproof – 100 percent so apparently. “ISP filtering reduces the risk of Australians being inadvertently exposed to RC-rated material when they are online,” Senator Conroy said. “The report into the pilot trial of ISP-level filtering demonstrates that blocking RC-rated material can be done with 100% accuracy and negligible impact on internet speed,” Senator Conroy said.