A mandatory internet filter is to be introduced, the federal government announced late last year. The filter is intended to block Refused Classification (RC) content and will be deployed by internet service providers (ISPs) to block material that includes child sex abuse content, bestiality and sexual violence, as well as crime and drug use information.
The Department of Broadband, Communications and the Digital Economy, which conducted a trial of internet filtering with several ISPs during 2009, released a report on its results which found that blocking RC-rated material can be done with 100% accuracy and little impact on internet speed, according to Stephen Conroy, Minister for Broadband, Communications and the Digital Economy.
The controversial filter has attracted many critics since it was first proposed. Critics have come from all quarters, including ISPs, computer system administrators, family groups, along with civil liberties and activist groups that have argued it won’t be effective due to the difficulty of filtering the internet without affecting speed and usability.
Most recently, the Australian Library and Information Association together with Google, Inspire Foundation and Yahoo! said that the proposed filter will not effectively protect children and may in fact given parents a false sense of security. The group believes that the scope of the content is too wide and could create network bottlenecks.
Many critics have also questioned the effectiveness of a filter that does not include peer-to-peer internet transfer and chat rooms, where a large proportion of child sexual abuse content is found. Sceptics are also worried about the criteria by which websites will be classified as RC.
The government also intends to offer grants to ISPs to encourage additional internet filtering services for households wishing to extend the material that is blocked and extend the Cyber Safety Online Helpline to improve education and awareness about safety online.
If you want to share your opinion, please add your comments to this article. CHOICE has been campaigning on the issue and written to the Minister for Broadband, Communications and the Digital Economy, to the Shadow Minister, the Greens spokesperson and Independent Senator Xenophon opposing the mandatory ISP filter.
The Electronic Frontiers Association has an online petition that can be found at www.efa.org.au/epetition and the activist group GetUp has an online campaign site at www.getup.org.au/campaign/SaveTheNet.
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