updated 01:10 pm EST, Thu February 26, 2009
Aussie web censorship plan
A mandatory Internet censorship plan in Australia proposed by the government is facing stiff opposition, with an independent senator's decision to block legislation that would start the blockage of certain websites with morally questionable content, the Thursday edition of the Sydney Morning Herald reports. The Green and Opposition parties have blocked the measure and have been joined by independent Senator Nick Xenophon, who changed his position on the mandatory ban. All now believe a filter would not be effective at blocking unsafe content and would slow Internet access while carrying a risk of blocking legitimate websites.
Despite research that support the above, the country's Communications Minister, Stephen Conroy, is going ahead with trials of the plan in conjunction with six Internet service providers, including Primus, Tech 2U, Webshield, OMNIconnect, Netforce and Highway 1. Three of the country's biggest -- Telstra, Optus and iiNet -- are not participating and have thus threatened the accuracy and significance of the test.
The filtering idea was originated by Senator Conroy to help fight child porn but has grown since to envelop gambling sites and those that depict and thereby encourage drug use, sex, crime, cruelty, violence and other content that offends "against the standards of morality." About 1,370 blacklisted sites are tentatively blocked, but only 674 contain images of children under 18, while 506 sites would still be classified as legal despite the block. Technical experts say the measures would do nothing to prevent child porn from being distributed over the Internet via other methods, such as peer-to-peer networks.
Xenophon contends that the Australian government is wasting resources and that efforts would be better spent on preventative measures, such as educating parents on how to supervise their kids.
The plan is opposed by ISPs, lobby groups and even informally through a poll of 1,100 people. Just 5 percent of those polled were in favor of ISPs protecting children online and just 4 percent want the government involved. A Netspace survey of 10,000 of its customers found 61 percent strongly opposed the mandatory Internet filtering while 6.3 percent strongly agreed with the policy.