Government to delay introduction of internet filtering legislation until after election

The Federal Government has seemingly backed down on plans to introduce mandatory internet filtering legislation, instead saying the scheme will be pushed back until later this year.

That would push the scheme’s introduction to August at the earliest, with critics saying a more likely scenario would see the legislation introduced into Parliament after the Federal Election.

The Australian reported yesterday the filtering legislation would not be introduced until later this year. While the Government used the filter as an election promise three years ago, it has faced growing opposition from lobby groups and even allies, which some analysts have said is forcing it to rethink its position.

“The Government is committed to the cyber-safety policy, which includes [internet service provider (ISP)] level filtering of refused classification content,” Conroy’s office told ZDnet.com.au in a statement.

“A public consultation on improved transparency measures has been held and the department is now working with other government agencies to consider the submissions and examine whether the ideas can be used to enhance the proposed accountability and transparency measures. The department is also continuing to consult ISPs on the implementation of ISP-level filtering.”

The statement said that once all of those processes are complete, then the legislation will be introduced into Parliament. SmartCompany contacted Conroy’s office for comment, but no reply was received before publication.

The Government intends to use the filter to block content that is “refused classification”, basing content on a blacklist that will not be open to public view. This plan has been attacked by several groups, including Electronic Frontiers Australia and GetUp!, saying it will emulate the censorship seen in nations such as China and North Korea.

Additionally, critics have also pointed out the filter is not 100% effective and innocent sites, including those of SMEs, could be blocked. This criticism is based on an extensive report the Government released outlining the trial process for the filter.

More recently, the US Government has pointed out its opposition to such a scheme, with representatives from the State Department saying they have voiced their concerns to Minister Conroy.

Additionally, internet search giant Google has said it would be opposed to any plan that would limit free speech. In a written statement, the company has said it would abide by any rules the Government imposes, but that it would speak out against limiting freedom on the internet.

The company recently abandoned its Chinese operations in response to the country’s internet censorship policies.

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