Feds quietly close mandatory internet filtering branch

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Feds quietly close mandatory internet filtering branch
Pic of Ministerial entrance to Parliament House

But remains committed to mandatory filtering regime.

The former branch head responsible for mandatory, ISP-level filtering in the Department of Broadband (DBCDE) has seen his branch abolished and now leads another area, according to its most recent organisational chart.

The head of the department's Content Program Branch, Lachlann Paterson, formerly responsible for mandatory ISP-level filtering, now heads the Department's Regional & Indigenous Communications Branch.

ITnews understands there are only two remaining members of the former Content Program branch.

They have been transferred to the Cyber Security and Asia Pacific Engagement Branch, led by Sabeena Oberoi.

The reorganisation was triggered by the Government’s scrapping of optional wider filtering programs worth $9.8 million, which was disclosed in last month’s federal budget.

A spokesman for Communications Minister Senator Conroy rejected suggestions that the abolition of the branch signalled any reversal in the Government’s desire to introduce mandatory, ISP-level filtering.

“Within a broader restructure, responsibility for technical aspects of ISP filtering have been moved to the Cyber Security and Asia Pacific Engagement Branch while broader online content and classification matters are looked after by the Cyber Safety and Trade branch within the Department,” the spokesman said.

The spokesman said that the Gillard Government remained committed to the introduction of mandatory, ISP-level filtering of refused classification (RC) content following a review of the National Classification Scheme.

A source told iTnews that the departmental reshuffle reflected its decision to support industry self-regulation to advance cybersafety generally.

Even if mandatory, ISP-level filtering of RC material proceeded, the source said many families would expect to receive some guidance on the appropriate tools for filtering out other forms of inappropriate content.

It was understood that increased support for education, research and support for families could be a recommendation by the Joint Select Committee on Cybersafety.

The Committee was unlikely to endorse ISP-level filtering in its report, due out next week.

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