Google “concerned” over Australian mandatory ISP-level filter

Scope of content to be filtered is too wide, says the search giant

Google has expressed its concern over the Federal Government’s plans to introduce a mandatory filtering regime for Internet Service Providers (ISP) in Australia, arguing that the scope of content to be filtered is too wide.

In a blog posting, Iarla Flynn of the Policy Team at Google Australia wrote that the company had a “bias in favour of people's right to free expression”.

“While we recognise that protecting the free exchange of ideas and information cannot be without some limits, we believe that more information generally means more choice, more freedom and ultimately more power for the individual,” the blog reads.

According to Flynn, the company advocated limits on freedom, such as in the instance of child pornography, but added that a mandatory ISP filtering regime with a scope that goes well beyond such material was heavy handed and could raise genuine questions about restrictions on access to information.

“Refused Classification (or RC) is a broad category of content that includes not just child sexual abuse material but also socially and politically controversial material -- for example, educational content on safer drug use -- as well as the grey realms of material instructing in any crime, including politically controversial crimes such as euthanasia,” the post reads.

“This type of content may be unpleasant and unpalatable but we believe that government should not have the right to block information which can inform debate of controversial issues.”

Flynn wrote that in Google’s view, online safety should focus on user education, user empowerment through technology tools and cooperation between law enforcement and industry partners, rather than censorship.

“Exposing politically controversial topics for public debate is vital for democracy,” the post reads. “Homosexuality was a crime in Australia until 1976 in ACT, NSW in 1984 and 1997 in Tasmania. Political and social norms change over time and benefit from intense public scrutiny and debate. The openness of the Internet makes this all the more possible and should be protected.”

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