Child porn filter coming mid-2011

But one committed ISP, Primus Telecom, remains uncertain on its implementation

Telstra and Optus will impose a filter on child pornography and abuse websites for all internet subscribers from halfway through 2011.

Primus Telecom, however, remains non-committal to its implementation.

The filter will apply to the 450 child abuse websites identified by the Classification Board in a list maintained by the Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA). The filter will not apply to all refused classification (RC) material, as originally intended under the Labor party’s filter proposal.

The three service providers were identified by communications minister, Senator Stephen Conroy, as “voluntarily” implementing the child porn filter ahead of a review of the refused classification category by the Classification Board. However, under both Telstra’s and Optus’ plans, users won’t get a say as to whether the filter will be applied to them, nor will there be an opt-in or opt-out exclusion to it, according to spokespeople for the telcos.

Like Labor’s proposal, however, the filter will only block offending material travelling over standard web protocols such as HTTP. Other traffic from FTP sites, email as well as peer-to-peer networks such as BitTorrent will not be stopped.

“We have always worked with law enforcement in blocking criminal activity [but] the filter allows us to block access to criminal sites hosted overseas,” Optus director of corporate affairs, Maha Khrishnapillai, said at the announcement of the RC review.

The new filter, which is expected to cover approximately 70 per cent of Australian internet users,  will operate on similar terms as service providers implemented during the Government’s filter trial, including the use of M86 Security 8e6 R3000 filtering services. Optus is believed to use Cisco hardware and services to implement its filtering solution.

Though involved in the filter initially for a limited subset of customers, Optus indicated that it would take roughly 12 months from Conroy’s announcement to switch the filter on again for the total subscriber base.

Primus Telecom chief executive, Ravi Bhatia, told Computerworld Australia that the ISP had no plans as yet to implement the filter, and remained non-committal to the filter as a whole.

“Honestly, I haven’t even thought about it,” he said. “All I can say, all of us are obliged to obey the laws of the country, but before the laws are properly formulated we would have to have a vigorous discussion.

“If it does happen, if there’s law, everybody has to do it. If there’s no law, we have to listen to what our customers say. We are a customer-driven organisation at the end of the day.”

Bhatia said the company would look to canvas customer opinion regarding the filter through an online forum, but could not say which direction the filter would head under a Primus scheme.

If re-elected, the Labor party will put forward legislation for the filter once the results of the Classification Board’s review are submitted. Computerworld Australia approached the Classification Board for timing of the review’s release, but did not receive a response at time of writing.

As part of new transparency measures Conroy announced last month, the Classification Board would continue to review the refused classification category on an annual basis.

However, it is expected the legislation will not pass Parliament, with both the Greens and Liberal party pledging to block it.

“This is a debate that will get reopened I’m sure after the election,” Bhatia said. “And post-election what you will find is the debate will be much more rational, even under a Labor win, because the heat of the election has gone out of it.

“We can sit back, take a deep breath and think about it.”

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