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Hundreds of Aussies turned out to protest against government plans to filter web content.

The anti-censorship movement Digital Liberty Coalition (DLC) organised demonstrations on Saturday in seven cities including Brisbane, Melbourne and Sydney.

According to reports, up to 300 protestors gathered at Sydney’s Town Hall to voice their opposition against the Rudd government’s planned internet filtering scheme.

“People NEED to pay attention and protest this issue, because the current Government is much more serious about the filter than governments have been in the past,” wrote protester Brenton Fletcher on his blog. He attended a DLC rally on the steps of Parliament House in Adelaide, South Australia on Saturday.

The DLC had expected up to 15,000 people to attend the demonstrations across Australia. However, reports – presumably based on police figures – estimate that protesters turned up in their hundreds rather than thousands, at the weekend events.

The Australian government’s plans to clamp down on the internet Down Under have been bubbling away since last year when Communications Minister Stephen Conroy first made the proposal.

Under the scheme, a server-level content filtering system would be put in place to block material unsuitable for children.

Parents will be expected to opt-in to what is effectively a blacklist compiled to “protect their children” when surfing online. Everyone else in Australia will be able to browse an internet supposedly cleansed of material deemed "illegal" by the government.

But opponents have lambasted such a clamp down in Australia, arguing it will significantly hamper internet connection speeds and accidentally prevent access to a large number of legitimate websites.

IT worker Jon Seymour, who runs the blogs Broadbanned Revolution and Filtering Fallacies, speaking at the end of the Sydney rally, said the government’s plans were flawed and “irrational” because the system could be easily circumnavigated with the use of peer-to-peer networks and encrypted tunnels.

“When the politicians tell you that it’s about child porn, don’t believe them, it’s not about child porn, it’s not about the criminals, its about middle Australia and controlling what they read.” ®

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