Censorship review report due by end of year

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Broadband department focuses on voluntary ISP filters.

The Australian Law Reform Commission was expected to complete its review of the National Classification System before the end of the year, according to Department of Communications officials.

The Department of Broadband, Communications and the Digital Economy (DBCDE) deputy secretary, Abul Rizvi, revealed the timeline at Senate Estimates.

The planned completion was potentially a year faster than had been foreshadowed when the ALRC review was first announced in December last year.

Rizvi said that the department had not made a formal submission to the commission on draft terms of reference for the review; however, the department had satisfied itself of the terms in a prior consultation process.

“We’re comfortable with the terms of reference,” Rizvi said.

“We expect the ALRC will seek submissions on substantive issues during 2011. At this stage, we expect a final report from the ALRC by the end of the year.”

The Government’s planned introduction of mandatory ISP-level filtering had already been delayed to mid-2013 to allow for a review of refused classification (RC) guidelines that had since been incorporated into the broader classification system review.

Voluntary filters

The DBCDE was continuing to work with the Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA) and ISPs BigPond, Optus and iPrimus, who had committed to voluntarily filter out a list of child abuse URLs.

Rizvi said that the voluntary filter scheme was scheduled to start “around the middle of this year”.

He said that ACMA was working to develop a subset of the existing blacklist “which included only child abuse material”.

Rizvi said the challenge for ACMA would not be in creating the list subset but in finding a way to securely transmit it to participating ISPs.

“ACMA is intending to trial secure methods of transmitting the list to participating ISPs in the near future,” he said.

“We are monitoring that development process [of the technology for secure list transmission] but we are not involved specifically in that process.”

Rizvi said he understood that trials of the list transmission technology were intended to begin “earlier this year” but indicated he would check with ACMA officials for any updates to that timeline.

The department also said it was liaising with the Internet Industry Association on the creation of a framework that would allow other ISPs to join the voluntary filter program.

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