Political parties address internet filter concerns

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Political parties address internet filter concerns

ACL identifies parties’ positions on mandatory and voluntary filtering.

Eight political parties hopeful of gaining seats in Election 2010 have responded to a survey by the Australian Christian Lobby (ACL) that canvassed policy positions on ACMA content classification and ISP-level filtering.

The parties to respond included Australian Labor Party (ALP), the Liberal-National Coalition and a number of minor parties.

Parties took a range of positions on the incumbent Labor Government's mandatory filtering proposal - with some opposed, some supportive, and others proposing voluntary filtering measures.

The Christian Democratic Party "fully [supported] the filtering of RC [refused classification] material at the ISP level to protect children.

"Self-regulation is not working," the Christian Democratic Party stated. "A new scheme is required. Serious breaches should result in loss of license for the broadcaster."

Socially conservative Family First stated that it was "one of the first groups to begin the campaign for tighter regulation of RC material."

While it did not directly reject Labor's mandatory filtering proposal, the party appeared to support a voluntary regime, stating: "Family First ... welcomes industry moves to voluntarily block certain RC content.

"However, it also recognises that it [filtering] is not a complete solution. New technologies, including peer-to-peer networks which cannot be filtered, remain an ongoing challenge.

"Ultimately, parents must be responsible for monitoring their children's internet use and be provided with the tools and information required to do so."

The Liberal National Coalition used ACL's survey as a platform to berate Labor for scrapping the previous Liberal Government's voluntary NetAlert filtering scheme.

"The best internet filter a child can have is a parent that is engaged in what their children do and see on the internet," the Coalition stated.

Speaking to iTnews on camera last week, Liberal MP Paul Fletcher would not discuss whether or not NetAlert, or any form of voluntary filtering, would be revived under an elected Liberal Government.

Similarly, the Coalition's statement to the ACL did not suggest or rule out any mandatory or voluntary measures beyond that Labor's proposal may not be effective.

"The Coalition supports sensible and workable measures to protect children from illegal or inappropriate content," it stated.

"Ultimately, it will be a range of measures such as strong and well-funded online policing, support for teachers and parents, international cooperation and technology options that will keep our children safe in an online world."

The Non-Custodial Parents Party was more direct in putting the onus on parents to keep their children from accessing undesirable content.

"The internet should be determined by the parents and not by the Government," it stated.

"Our party would support the provision of commercial filtering products for parents to protect children from legal but otherwise harmful internet content."

Neither the Australian Greens nor the Australian Sex Party had responded to the ACL's queries.

While, Greens Senator Scott Ludlam has been an outspoken opponent of "mandatory net censorship", the Greens declined to participate in the ACL survey, stating: “This group [the ACL] don’t actually represent any churches, and won’t disclose where their funding comes from.

"The answers to all of the questions in the survey they conducted this year are available on our website and as they are not a real representative body they were not provided a full response to their survey."

One of the policies on the Sex Party's website is "to overturn mandatory ISP filtering of the Internet and return Internet censorship to parents and individuals".

The Climate Sceptics Party was "strongly opposed", claiming that "this presents a serious danger to freedom of speech ... we support voluntary internet safety measures."

Meanwhile, the incumbent Australian Labor Party reiterated its commitment to "education, law enforcement, research and mandatory ISP filtering of RC content", noting that there was "no silver bullet approach to cyber-safety".

Labor's filtering legislation has not yet been introduced to Parliament. Early last month, it announced that it would delay introducing a mandatory filtering regime until a proposed review of RC guidelines is completed.

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