Mandatory ISP filtering stalled until mid-2013

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Classification reviews delay the filter.

Legislation to introduce mandatory ISP filtering has now been deferred to the second half of 2013, according to strategy papers issued by the Department of Broadband Communications and the Digital Economy (DBCDE).

Following the convention adopted by Treasury and Finance Departments, DBCDE has released a "redacted" version of its official advice [PDF] to the incoming Minister, Stephen Conroy.

The redacted version blanked out considerable portions of its 61-page strategy paper.

But in connection with ISP filtering, the department advised that legislation requiring ISPs to filter RC content needs to await completion of a review of the RC category.

However, the standing Committees of Attorneys-General (SCAG) would first need to consider whether to proceed with the RC classification review at its November 2010 meeting.  If SCAG decided to proceed, the committee would consider the scope and methodology for the review in March 2011.

DBCDE estimates that recommendations from the review would then be provided to SCAG for consideration early 2012. It may then take SCAG a number of meetings before it reaches consensus on any recommendations from the review.

"This suggests legislation for mandatory filtering may not be able to be introduced into Parliament before the middle of 2013," the brief said.

The strategy brief goes on to discuss the range of issues that need to be considered in implementing the "voluntary filtering" of overseas hosted child abuse material as well as revising funding for mandatory ISP filtering, announced on July 9.

It suggested that three key challenges need to be managed for the "successful introduction" of voluntary filtering of child abuse material.

The first concerns ISPs requiring immunity from civil action by content hosts. Early advice suggests this issue can be addressed through an industry code registered with ACMA. If the ten largest ISPs committed to voluntary filtering, this would represent 92 percent of internet subscribers.

Secondly, the brief noted concerns about secure transmission of the blacklists to participating ISPs. It noted that ACMA is working with the industry to develop a secure transmission process to minimise "human interaction" with the list.

The third concerned accountability and transparency measures to support voluntary filtering, pending whether the Government proceeds with the mandatory filtering scheme.

It explained that the Department will work actively with IIA (Internet Industry Assocation) and telecommunications regulator ACMA on new industry code to support voluntary filtering of child abuse material. Such a code can provide ISPs with protection from civil proceedings and encapsulate most of the transparency and accountability measures yet to be announced.

This would also enable incorporation of overseas lists of child sexual abuse material such as the recently announced INTERPOL lists.

However the brief noted that a review by an independent expert on the processes of compiling the black list for voluntary take-up can only be done administratively as long as "the independent expert does not view the actual child abuse material."

A legislative amendment ".would be required to provide the independent expert with immunity from criminal proceedings in relation to access of child abuse material, and also to be given standing to seek review of Classification decisions."

The brief also hinted at funding reallocations for at least one initiative connected with mandatory filtering.

Some $840,000 over the next three years funding would be allocated to the development of a software tool to assist small and medium ISPs to meet their mandatory filtering obligations.

"Alternatively this funding could be used for other priorities," it noted.

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