Communications Minister Stephen Conroy this morning announced a number of wide-ranging modifications to the Government's controversial mandatory internet filtering policy, including a delay of at least a year to the project while the state and Federal governments review the Refused Classification category of content which the filter would block.
In addition, major ISPs such as Telstra, Optus and Primus will voluntarily block (at the ISP level) a list of sites which specifically serve child abuse and pornography content, until the mandatory filter is implemented. The list will be compiled and maintained by the Australian Communications and Media Authority.
Conroy's other additions to the policy this morning include:
- An annual review of content on the 'blacklist' of Refused Classification content by an independent expert, appointed in consultation with industry
- "Clear" avenues for appeal of classification decisions
- A policy that all content which is being considered for inclusion on the blacklist on the basis of a public complaint be classified by the existing Classification Board
- A policy that all parties affected by a content block have the ability to have decisions reviewed by the Classification Review Board
- The use of a standardised block page notification, which will allow ISPs to notify users that the content that have requested has been blocked, and how to see a review of the block
"The public needs to have confidence that the URLs on the list, and the process by which they get there, is independent, rigorous, free from interference or influence and enables content and site owners access to appropriate review mechanisms," said Conroy in a statement." "This suite of measures will help the public have confidence that only the content specified by the legislation is being blocked." The additions to the policy will be incorporated into the filter legislation, which is currently being developed.
Conroy acknowledged that "some sections of the community" had expressed concern about whether the range of material currently included in the RC category correctly reflected current community standards. "In order to address these concerns, the Government will recommend a review of the RC classification to State and Territory Ministers, be conducted at the earliest opportunity. The review would examine the current scope of the existing RC classification, and whether it adequately reflects community standards," he added.
Crikey correspondent Bernard Keane first revealed the news on Twitter, appearing to be tweeting from Conroy's press conference in Melbourne this morning on the matter. He noted that the review of RC content was expected to take a year.
The timing of the introduction of the legislation to support the filter, however, may still be later this year. Conroy said this week that he expected the legislation to be out this year -- and likely before December.
Earlier this year Greens Communications spokesperson Scott Ludlam predicted the filter legislation was unlikely to be introduced until after the Federal election, when the balance of power in the Senate could change. But it remains unclear when that election will be.