Australia defends controversial web filter

Dec 16, 2009
File photo shows people walking past an Internet cafe in Sydney. 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 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.

Communications Minister Stephen Conroy hit back at criticism of his plan to block access to sites featuring material such as rape, drug use, bestiality and child sex abuse.

"The claims that the Australian government plans to implement a censorship regime similar to China or Iran are baseless," Conroy told AFP.

"The government is only interested in blocking the absolute worst content such as child sexual abuse material, bestiality, sexual violence including rape and detailed instruction in crime and drug use," he added.

"There is no will or intention to block political comment," the minister said, adding that the government was trying to help parents protect children using the Internet.

Conroy announced Tuesday he planned to push ahead with the controversial plan after a seven-month trial found Internet service provider (ISP) filtering of blacklisted sites could be done with 100 percent accuracy and would have minimum impact on connection speeds.

The minister said 15 other Western democracies had also taken steps to implement filtering of offensive content, with Italy and Germany already passing the necessary legislation.

"ISP-level filtering is a useful measure as part of an overall cyber-safety plan and Australia is not alone in working to ensure it is in place for the benefit of the community," he said in a opinion piece distributed to media.

The government will introduce legislation next year requiring service providers to block blacklisted material hosted on overseas servers. Australia's four largest Internet service providers have said they back the plan.

But Internet user groups, the pornography industry and others have likened the system to those operating in repressive regimes such as China and Iran.

Some industry experts have questioned whether the filter could be effective, and one, Bjorn Landberg, told Fairfax media it was "clear that there are very strong political motives behind this."

Search engine Google questioned whether the filter would go too far, by blocking access to harmless material on areas of legitimate political debate such as euthanasia, sexuality and terrorism.

But Conroy said the filter would only apply to material from overseas that was already illegal to distribute in Australia and that the blacklist would be maintained via a public complaints mechanism managed at "arms length from the government."

"Most people acknowledge that there is some internet content which is not acceptable in any civilised society," he said.

Explore further: Study: Social media users shy away from opinions

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Australia says Web blacklist combats child porn

Mar 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.

Australian Internet 'blacklist' prompts concern

Mar 20, 2009

(AP) -- A whistle-blower organization claims a secret list of Web sites that Australian authorities are proposing to ban includes such innocuous destinations as a dentist's office.

China to stick to controversial software rule

Jun 23, 2009

China will not back away from a new rule requiring that Internet filtering software be shipped with all computers sold in the country despite heavy criticism of the plan, state media has said.

Google to step up anti-porn efforts in China

Jun 19, 2009

(AP) -- Google Inc. said Friday that it was working to block pornography reaching users of its Chinese service after a mainland watchdog found the search engine turned up large numbers of links to obscene ...

China slams Google over porn

Jun 18, 2009

China stepped up its war on Internet censorship Thursday, slamming Google China for allowing pornographic content to seep into the nation and threatening to punish the search engine.

Recommended for you

Study: Social media users shy away from opinions

Aug 26, 2014

People on Facebook and Twitter say they are less likely to share their opinions on hot-button issues, even when they are offline, according to a surprising new survey by the Pew Research Center.

US warns shops to watch for customer data hacking

Aug 23, 2014

The US Department of Homeland Security on Friday warned businesses to watch for hackers targeting customer data with malicious computer code like that used against retail giant Target.

Fitbit to Schumer: We don't sell personal data

Aug 22, 2014

The maker of a popular line of wearable fitness-tracking devices says it has never sold personal data to advertisers, contrary to concerns raised by U.S. Sen. Charles Schumer.

Should you be worried about paid editors on Wikipedia?

Aug 22, 2014

Whether you trust it or ignore it, Wikipedia is one of the most popular websites in the world and accessed by millions of people every day. So would you trust it any more (or even less) if you knew people ...

Philippines makes arrests in online extortion ring

Aug 22, 2014

Philippine police have arrested eight suspected members of an online syndicate accused of blackmailing more than 1,000 Hong Kong and Singapore residents after luring them into exposing themselves in front of webcam, an official ...

User comments : 3

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

3.7 / 5 (3) Dec 16, 2009
with Italy and Germany already passing the necessary legislation.
Of course.
not rated yet Dec 16, 2009
Do we really have to be baby-sat in this way?

If content is unacceptable to a user, they do not have to look.

not rated yet Dec 17, 2009
Interesting that the list of blocked sites itself is secret. Do Australians trust their government that much?