NetAlert helps public libraries

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Australian public libraries will receive free ISP security filtering to help protect users from online dangers.

Australian public libraries will receive free ISP security filtering to help protect users from online dangers as part of the Federal Government's $189 million National Filtering Scheme announced yesterday.

In addition to providing ISP filtering for every Australian household, the program will be extended to make free filters available for public libraries in all states and territories.

Many state, territory and local libraries do not filter their computers, except the National Library of Australia which filters all public internet terminals, according to Minister for Communications, Information Technology and the Arts, Senator Helen Coonan.

“Clearly, all levels of government who run these libraries have a duty of care in relation to limiting risk for children in their care and this includes the online, as much as the physical, environment,” said Senator Coonan.

The failure of the majority of states and territory governments - except Tasmania and the ACT - to fund filtering programs within their library network forced the Federal Government to step-in said Senator Coonan.

However, the Australian Library and Information Association has rejected this description of it's security policies and said the role of libraries, first and foremost, is to promote the free flow of information.

"Australia's public libraries already have detailed policies and guidelines for internet access. Many libraries are already using filtering software on public access terminals" said Sue Hutley, director of the Australian Library and Information Association.

Hutley added that the association is interested in the robustness of the product and hopes the government will look into providing good quality filtering.

As part of the initiative the government will also launch a new NetAlert website and toll free internet safety helpline and spend $22 million towards a public awareness and education campaign.

Furthermore, $1.4 million in 2007-08 and $2.8 million per annum for three years will go to the Commonwealth Director of Public Prosecutions (CDPP) to undertake additional prosecutions.

Senator Coonan said all filter vendors under the National Filter Scheme will be required to continually update their products to allow for advancements in technology and actively discourage the circumvention of their products.

A spokesperson for Optus said the vendor is currently studying the announcements.

The new NetAlert website will have filters ready for download or or delivery via the post on a CD-ROM from 20 August.

NetAlert helps public libraries
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