UPDATE: ISPs, pollies & activists speak out on internet filter

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UPDATE: ISPs, pollies & activists speak out on internet filter

Mixed support for Government announcement.

Electronic Frontiers Australia has expressed concern over the Federal Government's decision to introduce mandatory ISP-level filtering, as several ISPs indicated support contingent on further "consultation".

Communications Minister Stephen Conroy today revealed the Government's intention to introduce legislation to block "refused classification" content hosted on overseas servers.

EFA spokesman Colin Jacobs told iTnews the Federal Government's stance on just blocking child pornography was misleading.

"Refused classification is definitely more than just illegal child pornography," Jacobs said.

"It's anything that doesn't fit into the Classification Board's other ratings and that include video games aimed at adults, criminality and euthanasia and all sorts of controversial things."

"Our concern is that once there is a secret blacklist in place it is going to be very difficult for the public to know what's on it and if it will be increased in scope as time goes on."

Primus backs policy

But a participant in the controversial trials, Primus Telecommunications, backed the Government's policy "to block online child pornography".

He said that Primus would "work with the Government to further develop and implement" the policy.

"Primus Telecom believes that the introduction of an ISP filtering regime into Australia requires a balance between protecting Australians' rights of free expression and access to information with the need to improve online safety and the need to take action against the providers of objectionable content," Bhatia said in a statement.

"The scope and operation of an ISP filtering regime for on-line safety needs to be governed by a set of clear and focused policy principles, use efficient and effective processes in determining and removing prohibitions on content, and operate in a transparent and accountable manner.

"[We welcome] the chance to expand on these matters in further consultation with the Government."

Telstra's reaction

Telstra's group managing director of public policy and communications David Quilty was also supportive of the Government's intention "to legislate its approach, thereby ensuring that it applies across the industry, is clearly spelt out and is enforceable by law.

"We also welcome Senator Conroy's commitment to consult further with ISPs on the details of the Government's plans," he said.

Family First sees 'fine line'

Family First Senator Steve Fielding welcomed the release of the Enex report on this year's controversial filter trials, and also put up his hand to participate in further consultation processes.

"I believe there needs to be some sort of filtering on the Internet the same way every other medium has some level of protection," Fielding said.

"We all know there is some pretty awful stuff on the web and we need to make sure this doesn't make its way into our homes.

But he warned: "There's a fine line sometimes between filtering and censorship and it's important we get this balance right."

Coalition seeks independent audit

Shadow Communications Minister Tony Smith called for an independent audit of the Enex test results before he would add support to the mandatory filtering plan.

"Our concern with Labor's proposed mandatory filtering plan has always been that it would be both unworkable and ineffective," Smith said.

"Whilst the Coalition remains concerned that the Rudd Government's approach will simply be unmanageable, we have also said from the beginning that we were prepared to assess any credible trial results.

"Now that Senator Conroy has finally produced the report, that detail needs to be assessed."

Smith said an audit of the Enex report "should occur as soon as possible."

He also said the Coalition "will consult extensively with Telstra, other ISP providers and relevant stakeholders over coming weeks, and will examine the government's proposals in detail."

Democrats slam proposal

The Democrats slammed the Government's decision to push ahead with mandatory internet censorship, branding it "a waste of taxpayers' money and a violation of their freedom".

Its national technology policy coordinator Geordie Guy also said it established "a bad precedent for Government control of information."

Guy said internet users generally were "still waiting for some sort of sensible explanation from the Senator about why this is a better idea than empowering law enforcement and supporting the choices of individual Australians."

"Those who have been able to access the [Enex] report have been disappointed with page after page of jargon and graphs," he said.

"The missing context of any assertions is horrifying. There's not even detail of how many people participated in the trial, whether they requested to do so or really under what sort of conditions."


More to come...

Read the latest breaking news on the filtering announcement here.

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