Australia abandons mandatory Internet filter plan

November 9, 2012 by Rod Mcguirk
Australia on Friday scrapped a controversial plan to filter the Internet, saying it will instead block hundreds of websites identified by Interpol as among the worst child abuse sites.

The Australian government has abandoned its 5-year-old pledge to mandate a filter blocking child pornography and other objectionable Internet content.

Communications Minister Stephen Conroy said Friday that instead of a compulsory filter being imposed, Internet service providers have agreed to block 1,400 child abuse websites on INTERPOL's "worst of" list.

Three of Australia's largest —Telstra, Optus and Primus—have been blocking the listed sites since 2010.

"We've actually reached agreement with the industry to block child pornography and we think that is a significant step forward," Conroy told Australian Broadcasting Corp. radio.

Critics had said the proposed legislated filter would have put Australia in the same censorship league as China. Even the U.S. State Department expressed concerns about the proposed regulations, which would have been some of the most restrictive among the world's democracies.

The new plan has a narrower focus on child abuse. The government's proposed compulsory nationwide filter would have also banned a regularly updated list of sites that also carried as well as detailed instructions in crime, drug use or terrorist acts.

Opponents argued that the filter would slow Internet speeds, erroneously block harmless sites and restrict free speech.

Anti-censorship campaigner Geordie Guy welcomed the government reversal. He said the new agreement will have little impact on the availability of child abuse material which isn't traded on the .

"While this is a much better result than any of the previous proposals that the government came up with, it's still really unlikely to do much good," Guy told ABC.

The Internet Industry Association of Australia chief executive Peter Lee said he was "pleased that the government has now moved on" from the filter and had narrowed its focus to illegal .

The Australian Electoral Lobby said the government's agreement with ISPs fell short of its cyber safety pledge made during the 2007 election campaign.

"The government's decision not to legislate to the full extent of the commitment is a great disappointment," the Lobby's Managing Director Jim Wallace said.

But the opposition said the government realized it had no hope of getting the filter legislation through Parliament. The Greens party, a key government ally, joined the opposition in condemning the mandatory filter proposal as a serious restriction of free speech.

Explore further: Australia says Web blacklist combats child porn


Related Stories

Australia says Web blacklist combats child porn

March 27, 2009

(AP) -- Australia's communications minister has defended a proposed Internet blacklist as necessary to combat child pornography but admitted that at least one site had been wrongly blocked during trials.

Australia defends controversial web filter

December 16, 2009

Australia on Wednesday dismissed as "baseless" claims it was proposing a China-style plan for mandatory filtering of the internet and denied the system could be abused to silence free speech.

Australia defends mandatory Internet filter

March 14, 2010

Australia Sunday defended its plan to block some Internet content, such as that featuring child sex abuse or advocating terrorism, after a media rights watchdog warned it may hurt free speech.

US concerned by Australian Internet filter plan

March 29, 2010

(AP) -- The United States has raised concerns with Australia about the impact of a proposed Internet filter that would place restrictions on Web content, an official said Monday.

Australia delays Internet filter to review content

July 9, 2010

(AP) -- Australia's widely criticized proposal to mandate a filter blocking child pornography and other objectionable Internet content has been delayed at least a year so the government can review what content should be ...

Recommended for you

The ethics of robot love

November 25, 2015

There was to have been a conference in Malaysia last week called Love and Sex with Robots but it was cancelled. Malaysian police branded it "illegal" and "ridiculous". "There is nothing scientific about sex with robots," ...

Nevada researchers trying to turn roadside weed into biofuel

November 26, 2015

Three decades ago, a University of Nevada researcher who obtained one of the first U.S. Energy Department grants to study the potential to turn plants into biofuels became convinced that a roadside weed—curly top gumweed—was ...


Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

3.7 / 5 (3) Nov 09, 2012
I'm glad that they finally decided to scrap that plan. It made no sense to begin with.
5 / 5 (1) Nov 09, 2012
It was never going to work anyway. A product of a dopey, rightwing Catholic politician.
5 / 5 (1) Nov 09, 2012
We have internet filtering at work (obviously for slightly different purposes) and sometimes the "false positives" can be pretty amusing. I've been blocked from medicalexpress more than once.

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.