Aussie ISPs Plan to Begin Voluntarily Filtering the Web

Aussie ISPs Plan to Begin Voluntarily Filtering the Web

Starting next month, Telstra, Optus, and Primus will block customer access to more than 500 websites; critics complain of a lack of transparency and inability for sites to appeal placement on the secret list.

Aussie ISPs Telstra, Optus, and Primus are reportedly planning to voluntarily implement a web filtering regime beginning sometime next month.

The plan, which reportedly involves more than 500 sites, would primarily target ones containing child pornography as identified by the Australian Communications and Media Authority and unnamed “reputable international organizations.”

“The ACMA will compile and manage a list of URLs of child abuse content that will include the appropriate subsection of the ACMA blacklist as well as child abuse URLs that are provided by reputable international organizations (to be blocked),” said a spokesman for Communications Minister Stephen Conroy.

Senator Conroy has long been pushing for a “voluntary mandatory” web filtering regime, but the plan has been delayed for at least a year now as the govt’s been unable to deliver a series of transparency and accountability measures it’s promised will accompany the introduction of ISP filtering of Refused Classification content such as child pornography.

Refused Classification also includes bestiality, extreme violence including rape, detailed instruction in crime or drug use, and incitement of a terrorist act, though it’s not clear if sites containing these types of content will initially be included on the list of sites to block.

The Electronic Frontier Foundation has pointed out a number of problems with the scheme.

“The problem with such a plan is multi-layered: First, there is no transparency in the selection of URLs to be blacklisted, and no accountability from the regulatory bodies creating the blacklists,” it said. “The ‘reputable international organizations’ providing child abuse URLs have not been named, but may include the Internet Watch Foundation, a UK-based organization that in 2008 advised UK ISPs to block a Wikipedia page containing an album cover from the 1970s that they deemed might be illegal.”

The AMCA has also had problems with its blacklist, at one point listing the site of a dentist who had nothing to do with child pornography.

The EFF added that scheme does little to halt child pornography as perpetrators largely use P2P and encrypted VPN connections, and not publicly accessible websites.

More importantly, the scheme lacks a mechanism for sites to appeal their placement on the list, and sets a precedent that filtering is acceptable.

“If the ACMA were to make the decision that sites deemed “indecent” or politically controversial–for example–should be off-limits, would the ISPs comply?” it asked.

If there were a silver lining in it all, it’s that Telstra is not yet fully commiutted to the deal out of concern that hacktivist groups like Anonymous and LulzSec would target it for retaliation.

Stay tuned,

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