Friday, August 10, 2007

Australia to mandate ISP level filtering

The Sydney Morning Herald reports:
INTERNET service providers will be forced to filter web content at the request of parents, under a $189 million Federal Government crackdown on online bad language, pornography and child sex predators.

The Prime Minister, John Howard, said that the Government would increase funding for the federal police online child sex exploitation team by $40 million, helping investigators to track those who prey on children through chat rooms and sites such as MySpace and Facebook.

In a separate development, convicted sex offenders in NSW will have to register their email address with police as part of State Government efforts to stop them using the internet to prey on children.

Mr Howard will also confirm a previous announcement that the Government will pay $90 million to provide every household that wants it with software to filter internet content.

Those unable to install the software or who have concerns about their children's internet use will be able to get advice by phone, another proposal previously suggested by the Government.

The more efficient compulsory filtering of internet service providers (ISPs) was proposed in March last year by the then Labor leader, Kim Beazley. At the time, the Communications Minister, Helen Coonan, and ISPs criticised his idea as expensive.

Three months later Senator Coonan announced the Government's Net Alert policy, which promised free filtering software for every home that wanted it. She also announced an ISP filtering trial to be conducted in Tasmania. That trial was scrapped.

Today Mr Howard will hail the ISP filtering measure as a world first by any Government, and is expected to offer funding to help cover the cost. Parents will be able to request the ISP filter option when they sign up with an ISP. It will be compulsory to provide it.
This is a remarkable about face from the Australian government's previous position. No details yet on how the filtering systems will operate or be funded, but presumably the filtering categories will be based on the existing system under which the Australian Communications & Media Authority (ACMA) classifies content and issues takedown notices / notices to filtering software makers. Electronic Frontiers Australia has detailed criticism of the plan.

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