Primus CEO Ravi Bhatia has made a rare and brave show of support for Senator Conroy's plans to introduce a mandatory ISP-level internet filter, in stark contrast to the position taken by fellow service provider iiNet.
ISP iiNet issued a press release late yesterday to reassure customers and the industry that it does not support Senator Conroy's plans to filter the internet, refuting comments the Senator made in a Sydney Morning Herald article.
Senator Conroy had claimed his policy has been "approved by 85 per cent of Australian internet service providers, who have said they would welcome the filter, including Telstra, Optus, iPrimus and iiNet."
Michael Malone, CEO of iiNet, was outraged.
"Any claim that our participation in that consultation process is support for the Government's policy is an outright lie," he said in a statement.
"The proposed filter is fundamentally flawed, will not achieve its stated purpose and simply will not work. It is fundamentally bad policy. We do not and never have supported such a system."
"No western country operates a mandatory filter like this," Malone said. "This proposal lines Australia up with Burma, Saudi Arabia and China ... [and] is a waste of money that should be instead spent on additional law enforcement and education resources."
iTnews has contacted Optus, Telstra and Primus to seek their position.
In support of the filter, but not censorship
Primus CEO Ravi Bhatia stood behind Senator Conroy's plans to filter, pledging support for a policy he believes to be undersold and misunderstood.
Bhatia said Primus does not support any censorship of free speech or political thought, and is spirited about the role the internet can play in protecting political freedom and democracy.
He also believes that opponents of Conroy's web filtering plan are "well meaning". But he nonetheless asserts that many of them are fogged by "emotional responses" to the filter policy.
Concerns "a future government may misuse the ISP filters and extend the policy to cover freedom of speech or political dissent" were unfounded, he said.
"While this concern is borne out of good intentions, Australia has a vibrant democracy with strong checks and balances and institutions to protect our freedoms," Bhatia said.
"Our exceptionally strong democratic traditions and political-legal systems would countenance any attempts by a future government to use ISP filter to stifle free speech or political rights.
"That said, I understand the Government will be implementing robust processes around determining which content will be blocked. There will be recourse available if someone believes content has been wrongly blocked."
The Primus chief also disagrees with those who oppose the filter plan on the premise that it is technically flawed.
"Sure, some people may wish to get around the filter, and we will deal with that in time," he said. "But I don't believe many Australian families will want to bypass it."
Bhatia said it is also important to note that the filter is "one component of the cyber-safety measures" required to protect Australians from harmful content.
"If a filter helps keep families safe on the internet then I'm not going to object to it," he said. "Should we for example repeal anti-money laundering or drug laws just because they are only partially effective?"
Bhatia asserts that if most Australians were polled specifically around the details of Senator Conroy's filtering plan, there would be "overwhelming support" in relation to content that involves "child porn, rape, bestiality, drug making and training for terrorism et al".
But he does not believe the Government needs to narrow the scope of the filter plan to reach a compromise with dissenting ISP's and civil liberty groups.
"The government needs to present its case much, much better than hitherto," he said.