Australian government wants state controlled child protection filtering
The Australian Labour government wants to force the country's ISPs to filter out unsuitable content from its internet feeds by default. The measure has been propsed after the previous government's voluntary scheme was only used by a fraction of the country's population.
Last summer, shortly before losing the recent general election, the Conservative government introduced the NetAlert programme at a cost of nearly US$190m . At the heart of the programme was the demand for parents to protect their children by installing web filters for filtering out internet pornography. The new government has now branded the programme a failure.
It had been assumed that within a year 2.5 million households would have downloaded and installed the filter. So far, however, just 144,000 have done so and, according to the Department of Broadband, Communications and the Digital Economy, just 29,000 filters are in use. According to Labour minister Stephen Conroy, this failure shows that voluntary installation of filters is not sufficient to protect children from online dangers.
Shortly after NetAlert was released, Tom Wood, a seventeen year old schoolboy, nicknamed "The Porn Cracker", demonstrated that he could circumvent the filter with just a couple of clicks without his parents noticing. Wood described the filter as a waste of money.
In contrast, in order to introduce a 'clean feed' internet, Conroy wants to force ISPs to block specified foreign web sites listed by the Communications and Media Authority. Adults wanting unrestricted access would have to apply for it on an opt out basis. According to Conroy, the Communications and Media Authority has now examined all issues raised by the ISPs regarding state controlled internet filtering and tests are planned for this summer. The opposition is criticising the Labour government's plans to terminate the attempt at voluntary filtering prematurely in order to implement state control.
But the Australian Labour government has further plans in light of British government proposals to tighten UK law on illegal downloading. Minister Conroy is considering following the example set by the British government. Internet users who illegally download copyrighted films or music will receive a warning from their ISP. If the offence is repeated, their ISP will temporarily block their internet access, and a third offence will mean a permanent block.