Aussie Net Filtering to be “Voluntary Mandatory”

Senator Conroy mocked over suggestion that ISPs could all voluntarily agree to mandatory filtering of Internet connections.

It’s been a long battle between Australia’s Broadband Minister Stephen Conroy and those opposed to his plans for mandatory Internet filtering, but at last the scheme may be coming to an end as suggested during testimony given by Senator Conroy yesterday to a Senate estimates committee.

He testified that instead of a mandatory filtering mechanism it could instead by done by a voluntary agreement by all ISPs.

“Mandatory ISP filtering would conceivably involve legislation … voluntary is available currently to ISPs,” Senator Conroy said.

“One option is potentially legislation. One other option is that it could be (on a) voluntary basis that they (ISPs) could voluntarily agree to introduce it.”

The plan was quickly mocked by a bemused Senator Nick Minchin, Shadow Minister for Broadband, Communications and the Digital Economy, member of the Liberal Party, leader of the opposition in the Senate, and longtime critic of the plan, who said he couldn’t understand how a mandatory system could be voluntary.

“Well they could agree to all introduce it,” added Senator Conroy.

The filtering began as a voluntary system intended to protect children, but quickly spiraled to include all “inappropriate content” and “offensive and illegal material,” P2P sites, and even gambling-related sites.

It was Senator Minchin who long ago criticized the plan by observing that the underlying message is “that parents cannot be trusted to mind their children online,” and furthers by saying that “there is no technological substitute for adult supervision and it’s irresponsible and misleading to infer otherwise.”

The plan has faced stiff opposition since it switched from voluntary to mandatory, culminating in massive street protests last December.

At one point the blacklist the govt intended to use for the filters contained more than 10,000 sites.

The govt is currently conducting a trial of the filtering plan, the results of which are to be released in late July or early August.

Stay tuned.

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