Comp-sci professionals voice opposition to Internet filter

Group concerned filter is ineffective and could negatively impact the NBN

A conglomerate of Australasian computer science academics has voiced opposition to the Federal Government’s plans to introduce mandatory ISP-level Internet content filtering.

The policy, announced by Communications Minister Stephen Conroy in December last year, will block URLs that received a Refused Content classification by the Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA).

University of Sydney associate professor Bjorn Landfeldt, said the filter was ineffective and could negatively impact the National Broadband Network (NBN).

“Proposed amendments the Broadcasting Services Act to introduce compulsory filtering is unlikely to exclude much of the unwanted content,” he said. “It is inapplicable to many of the current methods of online content distribution and has the potential to restrict Internet bandwidth.”

Computer Research and Education Association (CORE), which represents Australasian computer science lecturers and professors, publicised its opposition to Internet content filtering at its recent annual general meeting.

An excerpt from CORE’s statement reads as follows:

“A key concern is the limitations of list-based filtering schemes, which build on reporting by the general public and actioning by a Government-nominated organisation. With the pace and volume at which content is added to the Internet, such lists can only capture a small fraction of the material that would be classified as harmful. Also, the emergence of short-lived data such as live data streams and dynamic content generation, and the use of dynamic addressing, leads to a situation where any given list rapidly becomes inaccurate or obsolete. It is therefore unlikely that any significant protection can be offered by such an approach.”

CORE is calling on the Government establish a working party to properly address a number of issues it sees surrounding its policy.

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