Aussie Govt Postpones Net Filter

Aussie Govt Postpones Net Filter

Plans for “voluntary mandatory” system for ISP-level filtering of of “inappropriate content” and “offensive and illegal material” put on hold until after the next election.

I’ve been covering Australia Broadband Minister Stephen Conroy’s efforts to implement a proposed “voluntary mandatory” Internet filtering regime to “protect children” for some time now. The plan, which initially targeted child pornography, quickly deteriorated as Conroy added “inappropriate content” and “offensive and illegal material to the list, as well as legal pornography, gambling, and even P2P traffic, making Australian citizens rightly upset.

According to The Australian, those plans have been put on hold and won’t be introduced in next month’s or the June sittings of the Australian Parliament. This means any filtering law is unlikely to be passed before the next election.

The govt has been facing increased pressure from a variety of sources, including the US govt, search engine giant Google, and online freedom advocate Electronic Frontiers Australia.

The US Ambassador to Australia also chastised the govt for going to such extremes to fight a problem that has more reasonable solutions.

“We have been able to accomplish the goals that Australia has described, which is to capture and prosecute child pornographers … without having to use internet filters,” the US Ambassador to Australia, Jeff Bleich, told reporters earlier this month. “We have other means and we are willing to share our efforts with them … it’s an ongoing conversation.”

Google, having already made the headlines recently for its principled decision to leave China rather than continue filtering search results at the behest of communist authorities, also objected to Conroy’s plans, and could conceivably leave Australia too the filter was enacted lest it risk the appearance of a double-standard.

“The governments of many other countries may justify, by reference to Australia, their use of filtering, their lack of disclosure about what is being filtered, and their political direction of agencies administering filtering,” it told the govt.

Through it all Conroy has been undeterred by the criticism. His spokeswoman says the filter’s delay is only temporary, that the govt is still consulting with ISPs and reviewing public concerns, and that once that process is complete, it will introduce the legislation into parliament.

Stay tuned.

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