Slideshow

The content filtering story

The long road to banning 'unsavoury' websites

  • December 2007: Minister for Broadband, Communications and the Digital Economy Senator, Stephen Conroy, announces plans for an Internet filter scheme that will see it mandatory for Internet service providers (ISPs) to provide clean feeds to subscribers. He states that customers that do not wish to participate will have an opt-out option.
  • January 2008: Despite a flood of criticism, Senator Conroy persists with the national content filter scheme with a $125.8 million budget allocation. Conroy says the filter is part of the government’s plan to combat child pornography.
  • July 2008: The Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA) releases its latest Internet content filter report claiming the technology has improved drastically since 2005 when that year’s trial returned poor results. ACMA tested six Internet filters but none of the products could identify illegal material through Peer-to-Peer (P2P) file streaming networks, the preferred system for child pornography rings.
  • October 2008: Experts claim that Australians will not be able to opt-out of the pending Internet filter scheme. Under the government’s Plan for Cyber-Safety, users can only swap between two blacklists that either blocks material unsuitable for children or blocks illegal content. The blacklists will include 10,000 banned Web pages, including the ACMA block list.
  • November 2008: Senator Conroy dodges a question by the Greens which claim his statement in an October Senate estimates hearing, that countries such as Sweden and Canada had mandatory internet filtering systems similar to those now being trialled in Australian, is false.
  • December 2008: Hundreds flock to Australian capital cities to protest and voice their opinions against the Internet filters.
  • February 2009: Senator Conroy announces six ISPs as being on-board for the six-week pilot of the content filter scheme: Primus Telecommunications, Tech 2U, Webshield, OMNIconnect, Netforce and Highway 1. Optus and iiNet are still in discussions with the Department of Broadband, Communications and the Digital Economy (DBCDE). In the same month, Independent South Australian senator, Nick Xenophon, speaks out against the Government’s filter scheme, highlighting his concern that it will not stop P2P pedophile networks.
  • March 2009: The clandestine Internet filter blacklist of ACMA is leaked on Wikileaks. The list contains more than 2300 banned URLs, including a handful legitimate business websites.
  • March 2009: iiNet announces that it is pulling out of negotiations with the DBCDE to be part of the Internet filter trial. The ISP cites poor communication with the government department and the leaking of the ACMA block list as reasons to withdraw from the scheme. iiNet also claims that the trail is a waste of taxpayers’ money. In light of the pull-out the six ISPs that are involved in the filter trial continue to show support for the scheme, declaring their commitment to the content filter plans.
  • March 2009: Senator Conroy admits public concern about the possibility of ACMA’s block list “creeping” to include legal content Web sites is justified, but does not guarantee the government can prevent it.laims that the trail is a waste of taxpayers’ money. In light of the pull-out the six ISPs that are involved in the filter trial continue to show support for the scheme, declaring their commitment to the content filter plans.
  • March 2009: Appearing on ABC’s live broadcast program, Q&A, Senator Conroy declares that the national Internet filter will only block restricted content and will not prohibit political material. He also fights claims that the big ISPs have rejected the filter trials by claiming Optus is still in discussions to be part of the scheme. The following day, Optus confirms Senator Conroy’s statement.
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