Greens, EFA critical of ISP filtering plans

Growing number of dissenting voices including the Federal Opposition and Google.

The chorus of voices critiquing the Federal Government’s mandatory ISP-level filtering plans has grown larger with the Greens and Electronic Frontiers Australia joining the likes of the Federal Opposition and Google in opposing the filter.

Greens communications spokesperson, senator Scott Ludlam said in a statement that the party was “deeply concerned” about the Federal Government's intention to plough ahead on ISP level filtering

“The pointless nature of this proposal is set out in the report itself, which admits that the filters will be circumvented by people seeking blocked material," Ludlam said.

"The Government has also indicated the open-ended nature of the filter by acknowledging they will be importing blacklists from overseas to supplement the Australian list. As many people have said, this is the thin end of the wedge. The policy is simply misguided.”

Ludlum said unless the Government changed tack on its plans, the Greens would move significant amendments to this legislation if it is introduced to the Senate.

Electronic Frontiers Australia (EFA) spokesperson Colin Jacobs claimed in a statement that the criteria for success of the Federal Government’s trial of the mandatory ISP-level filter was set far too low. “Given the pilot’s modest goals, it was designed from the beginning to pass,” Jacobs said. “Although it may address some technical issues, what it leaves out is far more important – exactly what will be blocked, who will decide, and why is it being attempted in the first place?”

The EFA noted that, since the last election, the Federal Government’s cyber-safety plan had shifted away from providing tools to shield minors on the web to a black list of almost exclusively Refused Classification content aimed at adults.

“The Government knows this plan will not help Australian kids, nor will it aid in the policing of prohibited material. Given the problems in maintaining a secret blacklist and deciding what goes on it, we’re at a loss to explain the Minister’s enthusiasm for this proposal,” Jacobs said.

“We’ll be interested to see how the Internet service providers respond. We know they are critical of having such intrusive Government interference in their networks,” he added.

The EFA said that although communication minister Stephen Conroy had hailed the pilot a success, many concerns about the proposal remained ignored, with neither draft legislation nor a comprehensive policy document have yet been released to the Australian public, though legislation is expected in 2010.

“Successful technology isn’t necessarily successful policy,” Jacobs said. “We’re yet to hear a sensible explanation of what this policy is for, who it will help, and why it is worth spending so much taxpayers’ money on.”

Google has also 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.

The new shadow communications minister, Tony Smith, has also called for an independent audit of the Federal Government's controversial ISP-level content filtering trial results released today. Email Computerworld or follow @computerworldau on Twitter.

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