Feeds

Australia backs down from Internet filter plan

Only the vilest smut from Interpol's lists to be blocked

Secure remote control for conventional and virtual desktops

Australia will not proceed with its plan to filter the Internet on behalf of its citizens.

Stephen Conroy, the nation's Minister for Broadband, Communications and the Digital Economy, has issued a statement saying that internet service providers will be required to block some content – child abuse sites listed by Interpol – but that plans for a wider filter will not be pursued.

It's not clear why Conroy has backed away from the filter, which he has defended as government policy and as a measure that will protect the vulnerable.

The decision to insist that ISPs at least block material on Interpol's list keeps the faith with one of-stated purpose for the filter, namely blocking child pornography. Several ISPs already filter sites on Interpol's list voluntarily, and Conroy now says that effort has been such a success that a full filter is not needed.

He has directed the Australian Federal Police to work with the remainder of Australia's ISPs to ensure they also block sites Interpol lists.

Support for the filter came largely from socially-conservative groups, and it has been assumed that the policy was a way for the progressive government to win favour from such organisations. But criticism came from The Greens, and even the economically conservative opposition parties felt it represented an unwelcome dent in personal liberties. Technologists also pointed out the plan to filter any material refused classification by Australia's Classification Board was likely to be unworkable.

ISPs, who were asked to do most of the heavy lifting, generally disliked the filter and the costs it would impose on them.

The filter became infamous around the world, as the proposed censorship regime it represented meant that Australian internet controls would be the toughest imposed by any liberal democracy, and comparable to those imposed by some of the planet's nastiest dictatorships.

The filtering plan also looked rather out of place, given the government's generally progressive approach to technology: Australia is spending $AUD40bn on a fibre-to-the-premises network, and has conducted a Gov 2.0 inquiry that saw social media guidelines issued to government agencies and led to government documents being issued under a Creative Commons license.

Local politicians hardly go a day without talking up the importance of connectivity to Australia's economic future.

The government had edged away from the filter to some extent, all but parking development of the policy in 2010 by initiating a review of Australia's content classification system. That review emerged early this year and suggested that only a very narrow range of content depicting criminal acts be blocked.

That recommendation now seems to have been accepted and become policy. As the review was conducted independently, the government has a policy fig leaf it can use to deflect criticism from conservative groups.

The demise of the filter doesn't mean the end of anachronistic technology policy in Australia: the nation still has a law on the statute books forbidding its citizens from visiting gambling websites hosted offshore. The decade-old law has never been applied. ®

New hybrid storage solutions

More from The Register

next story
Hey, Scots. Microsoft's Bing thinks you'll vote NO to independence
World's top Google-finding website calls it for the UK
Phones 4u slips into administration after EE cuts ties with Brit mobe retailer
More than 5,500 jobs could be axed if rescue mission fails
Apple CEO Tim Cook: TV is TERRIBLE and stuck in the 1970s
The iKing thinks telly is far too fiddly and ugly – basically, iTunes
Israeli spies rebel over mass-snooping on innocent Palestinians
'Disciplinary treatment will be sharp and clear' vow spy-chiefs
Huawei ditches new Windows Phone mobe plans, blames poor sales
Giganto mobe firm slams door shut on Microsoft. OH DEAR
Phones 4u website DIES as wounded mobe retailer struggles to stay above water
Founder blames 'ruthless network partners' for implosion
Found inside ISIS terror chap's laptop: CELINE DION tunes
REPORT: Stash of terrorist material found in Syria Dell box
OECD lashes out at tax avoiding globocorps' location-flipping antics
You hear that, Amazon, Google, Microsoft et al?
prev story

Whitepapers

Providing a secure and efficient Helpdesk
A single remote control platform for user support is be key to providing an efficient helpdesk. Retain full control over the way in which screen and keystroke data is transmitted.
WIN a very cool portable ZX Spectrum
Win a one-off portable Spectrum built by legendary hardware hacker Ben Heck
Storage capacity and performance optimization at Mizuno USA
Mizuno USA turn to Tegile storage technology to solve both their SAN and backup issues.
High Performance for All
While HPC is not new, it has traditionally been seen as a specialist area – is it now geared up to meet more mainstream requirements?
Security and trust: The backbone of doing business over the internet
Explores the current state of website security and the contributions Symantec is making to help organizations protect critical data and build trust with customers.