Children’s rights groups have spoken out against the Federal Government’s plans to introduce mandatory ISP-level filtering, saying it will not effectively protect children.
International child rights group, Save the Children, said while it congratulates the government on its attempt to improve the safety of children online, an ISP-level filter is not the best way to offer protection.
Child rights specialist, and organisation spokesperson, Dr Annie Pettitt, said it would be more appropriate for the government to educate children and families about appropriate and safe Internet use.
“The filter could lull parents into a false sense of security, thinking that it is working, but we know hackers are always ahead of those filtering technologies,” Pettitt said. “We could be left in a situation where we think that the filter is sorting out stuff, when in fact it’s not.”
The government’s plan for content filtering will require Internet Service Providers (ISPs) to offer a clean feed Internet service to all homes, schools and public Internet access points.
Under the scheme there will be one blacklist blocking access to illegal material like child pornography; and another blocking a list of material deemed unsuitable for children.
Pettitt said simply filtering material which displays child pornography, doesn’t effectively address the child protection issue, but rather authorities like the AFP need to continue to be supported to stop it from happening in the first place.
“Money is better spent on protecting children where it really counts and more effort should be put into supporting the authorities that are actually already doing a great job in this area.”
The same concerns were echoed by the National Children's and Youth Law Centre (NCYLC).
“One of the elements that still seems to be missing from the government’s policy is an understanding of the agency of the children, a recognition of their desire to be protected and also their desire to develop the skills to be able to use the Internet for their own personal development,” NCYLC director James McDougall said.
“The measures have been developed in response to anxieties of parents rather than focusing on evidence-based measures that are going to build capacity both in terms of children and parents and those who work with them.
“You can’t possibly develop a mechanism that’s going to protect children unless you understand how children are going to react and respond to a particular measure.”
Earlier this year, Save the Children and the NCYLC, issued a joint statement with other civil rights organisations, including Civil Liberties Australia, voicing concern over the government's plan.
Lobby group GetUp! also supported the statement and launched its popular television campaign in a bid to drum up public opposition to the filter.
The introduction of mandatory ISP-level filtering follows the release of the Enex TestLab report which trialed the viability of ISP-level filtering among nine Australian ISPs.