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Great Australian Firewall may be optional

Oz comms chief ponders 'voluntary' filtering

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The Australian government may be backing away from plans of enforcing its proposed internet filtering regime with legislation.

Aussie communication minister Stephen Conroy told a Senate estimates committee Tuesday that the Great Australian Firewall could materialize as a voluntary industry code, rather than a new law.

The controversial net nanny scheme was proposed as a means of censoring Australia from material like child pornography. But when the blacklists were inevitably leaked to the 'net, they were shown to include content like poker sites, Wikipedia pages, religious sites, ordinary pornography, and business sites.

Currently lacking the necessary support in the Australian Upper House to enforce the issue, there's a chance the Labor government is considering a softer option than it took into the 2007 election.

Australian IT reports that when questioned by opposition communications minister Nick Minchin today about how the filtering program could be imposed, Conroy said ISPs may instead adopt an industry consensus to block content.

"Mandatory ISP filtering could conceivably involve legislation... voluntary is available currently to ISPs," Conroy is reported saying.

"One option is potentially legislation. One other option is that it could be [on a] voluntary basis that they [the ISPs] could voluntarily agree to introduce it."

When Minchin responded that he never heard of a voluntary mandatory system, Conroy responded by saying, "well, they could agree to all introduce it."

The government is currently undergoing a filtering trial program involving nine ISPs, expected to conclude in July or August.

Aside from Conroy's comments, there hasn't been much real evidence of government waffling on compulsory internet blacklisting, but his words may give some new hope to the county's anti-censorship advocates. ®

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