Government says yes to Internet filter, Google says no

Senator Stephen Conroy announces plans to push ahead with controversial ISP-level Internet filtering

The controversial Australian Internet filter has been given the all clear by Senator Stephen Conroy, with the federal Minister for Broadband revealing plans to enforce mandatory ISP-level filtering.

Releasing further details of Internet filtering trial results, Conroy said the filter will "improve safety on the Internet for Australian families."

The senator revealed the federal government will go ahead with plans to introduce mandatory ISP-level filtering of content that has been refused classification (RC), and will also provide a program to encourage the introduction of further optional filtering by ISPs at a user's request.

"Through a combination of additional resources for education and awareness, mandatory internet filtering of RC-rated content, and optional ISP-level filtering, we have a package that balances safety for families and the benefits of the digital revolution," he said in a statement.

According to the government, RC-rated material includes child sex abuse content, bestiality, sexual violence including rape, and detailed instructions for crime or drug use. Questions have been raised regarding the restrictions on access to controversial but legal information — such as educational content on drug use and euthanasia — as well as the possible impact on Internet speeds.

"The report into the pilot trial of ISP-level filtering demonstrates that blocking RC-rated material can be done with 100 per cent accuracy and negligible impact on internet speed," said Senator Conroy.

Google is a critic of mandatory ISP filtering and this morning released a statement saying, "our primary concern is that the scope of content to be filtered is too wide."

"Google, like many other Internet companies, has a global, all-product ban against child sexual abuse material and we filter out this content from our search results," said Iarla Flynn, from Google Australia's policy team. "But moving to a mandatory ISP filtering regime with a scope that goes well beyond such material is heavy handed and can raise genuine questions about restrictions on access to information. We believe that government should not have the right to block information which can inform debate of controversial issues."

The government has also released a discussion paper on additional measures to improve the accountability and transparency of processes that lead to material being placed on the RC content list.

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