Mandatory Australian content filter delayed

A mandatory content filter for Australia, proposed by the current Labor government in 2007, has today been delayed for at least a year as Communications Minister Stephen Conroy announced new transparency features and a review which will look into the Refused Classification (RC) content which the controversial filter would block.

In a media conference held in Melbourne, Australia this morning, Conroy announced a new process of transparency surrounding the content to be blocked by the filter, including an annual review of the content on the RC list by an independent expert appointed via consultation with the IT sector, clear ways for the public to appeal classification decisions, the ability for all content identified on the basis of a public complaint be classified by the Classification Board under the National Classification Scheme and the ability for affected parties to appeal decisions by the Classification Review Board.

The new procedures and in particular the review of RC content, are a result of public consultation and backlash over the filter, in which larger Australian IT companies such as Google Australia and Microsoft expressed dismay at the idea of a mandatory filter being placed upon Australia with no transparency or options to appeal decisions made about content blocked by the Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA), which was to be in control of the list of blocked content.

He also said that some in the community had expressed "concern" over the content which is contained in the Refused Classification (RC) category, which was up until today to be automatically blocked by the the mandatory filter.

“Some sections of the community have expressed concern about whether the range of material included in the RC category, under the National Classification Scheme, correctly reflects current community standards,” Conroy said in a statement today.

“As the Government's mandatory ISP filtering policy is underpinned by the strength of our classification system, the legal obligation to commence mandatory ISP filtering will not be imposed until the review is completed.”

In the meantime however, three of the major Australian Internet Service Providers, Telstra, Optus and Primus, will voluntarily block sites based on a list of websites containing child pornography and abuse content, created and maintained by the Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA).

According to Telstra's Group Managing Director of Public Policy and Communications, David Quilty, Conroy approached major Australian internet service providers and asked them to take a "leadership position" by agreeing to the voluntary program.

“Telstra is happy to do this and continue our strong industry leadership in cyber-safety,” Quilty said in a prepared statement.

“Educating Australian kids, parents, teachers and carers about safe and secure internet and technology use is an integral part of our business and we are determined that our customers have the tools and the knowledge to help protect themselves and their children online.”

Google Australia, one of the biggest organizations to speak out about the filter, said they were "heartened" by the news a review of the content blocked will be undertaken, but remained critical of the fact that a mandatory filter is still on the cards.

"We're heartened to see Government has taken account of the genuine concerns expressed by many on the Refused Classification category.  While our position on the Government's proposed filter has not changed, we welcome the recommendation to conduct a review of the RC classification and we look forward to the opportunity to provide input," Karim Temsamani, the Managing Director of Google Australia and New Zealand said today.

"Our primary concern has always been that the scope of the proposed filter is far too broad. It goes way beyond child sexual abuse material and would block access to important online information for all Australians."

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16 Comments

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I can't help wondering if Australia consulted China for help on this one. Seriously, one thing is to blacklist and block websites that are believed to have CP, but to start considering blocking sites like .... (ref linked article) "For Yahoo! blocking websites dealing with controversial topics, such as euthanasia and abortion, was a major flaw.". I'm really terrified, how can a country that cares about freedom of speech at all consider this kind of censorship?

As an aussie, I don't mind as long as the filter is being ultlised properly and for good reasons. I will start worryign when it starts to block steam games that are not sold here.

If this pathetic government gets re-elected which is highly unlikely they won't have the power to do anything. And if PM unelect "Dullard" had half a brain (debatable) she'd can Conmanroy ASAP!!!!!

The system is flawed by blocking websites but what the problem is is that ACMA need to understand that not everyone who uses the internet is just a kid. ISPs should control all content not the government. .xxx domain is a great idea but would take awhile for the internet sites to adjust to it. This should be all scraped hell with fixing it.

Hopefully the Internic will shunt off all the adult content to it's own (.xxx) domain so there will be no excuse for governments to filter content.

It astounds me that they didn't do this 15 years ago, when the Internet started to become popular. Once all adult content is forced to it's own domain, ISP's can offer an opt-in to their customers. I for one would like to to be rid of the temptation of that poison.

boho said,
Hopefully the Internic will shunt off all the adult content to it's own (.xxx) domain so there will be no excuse for governments to filter content.

It astounds me that they didn't do this 15 years ago, when the Internet started to become popular. Once all adult content is forced to it's own domain, ISP's can offer an opt-in to their customers. I for one would like to to be rid of the temptation of that poison.

What so we have to pay another $50 bucks on top just to see adult content or 18+ material ? We already pay ridiculous sums of money for our crappy internet connection per month lets not make it even worse. If the internet prices go up when this scheme comes in place, they can shove there internet up there ass , I'll just use my mobile for facebook and other things.

Well, this is a relief, it means I can postpone my move to another country for another year. I like Julia Gillard as PM, but I don't know if I can vote labor next election if Stephen Conroy is still Comms. Minister. This National Broadband Network sounds good and all, but if the whole thing is going to be behind a filter, I don't see the point. Sure they are now talking about transparency, and the annual review is nice, but rather than a single independent expert doing this annual review, it should be a group of people doing this review, one that has representatives from all different backgrounds. That way you can remove all bias from the process.

Well, thats my 2c, if it doesn't make any sense, its probably because I was just writing it as I thought it, rather than thinking of how people would read it...

lexa000 said,
Well, this is a relief, it means I can postpone my move to another country for another year.

I lol'd at that. But ya it's too bad you need to do such things.

I don't think they need to scrap it completely, they just need to make it optional, and if your content is wrongfully blocked there needs to be an easy way to clear it with a minimum of red tape.

Jelly2003 said,
I don't think they need to scrap it completely, they just need to make it optional, and if your content is wrongfully blocked there needs to be an easy way to clear it with a minimum of red tape.
It has to be mandatory, something like this just doesn't work as an "optional extra". I'm not against the filter per say, *in theory* it's actually a good idea. However, what worries me (and many other Aussies - I'm Aussie if you couldn't figure it out ) is who is going to keep the government in check, to make sure they don't abuse this new power they'll have over what we can see on the internet? that is my main concern with it, secondary is how much of an impact will this have on our already slow internet connection speeds? Well that is my 2 cents, take with a grain of salt.

CP is a fact of life on the internet, but domains get taken down so fast it hardly matters. The fact is: censoring certain material opens the gate for more "mandatory" censoring, illegal or not. Pretty soon you have political opposition censored and...

Recon415 said,
CP is a fact of life on the internet, but domains get taken down so fast it hardly matters. The fact is: censoring certain material opens the gate for more "mandatory" censoring, illegal or not. Pretty soon you have political opposition censored and...

Do you know that for Australian lawmakers a 20 years old girl with A-cup breast size is CP?