Proposed internet filter takes another hit

The Federal Government’s internet content filtering plan, designed to protect internet users from child pornography, is coming under fire.

The Federal Government’s internet content filtering plan, designed to protect internet users from child pornography, is coming under fire.

Telstra – the nation’s largest internet service provider – now says it will not take part in trials of the filter, while the second largest ISP, Optus, says it will only participate in a scaled-back version.

The filter has also come under political opposition, with the Greens urging the Government to dump the plan.

While Telstra says it is conscious of security issues, it says it will not be participating in the trials due to “customer management issues”. It has not specified what these are.

“Telstra is not in a position to participate in the Government’s internet filtering trial. We will continue to work constructively with all stakeholders, including the Government, to help provide a safe internet environment for children,” the group said in a statement.

The Government has asked ISPs to test the filter, but so far most have rejected the offer. Optus has only agreed to test a scaled-back version of the system, while iiNet says it will only participate to prove how “stupid” the filter is.

Communications Spokesperson for the Greens, Senator Scott Ludlam, says the lack of participants indicates a clear rejection of the scheme.

“These internet service providers are sending a clear message to the Government – they don’t think mandatory internet filtering will work and they don’t want to participate in it,” he says.

“This trial is simply all show. It won’t give any meaningful indication of how mandatory internet filtering would work in practice. The Government’s policy is flawed and won’t work. It will slow down the internet at a time when they are trying to speed it up, especially in regional Australia.”

The trials, which are due to start in the next two weeks, are to show how the filter would work in a real-world environment. Results from Australian Communications and Media Authority tests show the filter would slow internet speeds up to 87% and block legal content accidentally.

But the Minister for Communications, Senator Stephen Conroy, has written to internet providers saying the tests will not involve customers. Critics say this means any new trial will not show how the filter actually works in a real-world environment.

Opposition communications spokesman Nick Minchin says customers must be involved in any tests. “How on earth could you conduct a ‘live’ trial if there are no customers to assess?”

Conroy has not revealed why the trials will not involve actual customers.

Critics also point to the internet “blacklist” of 10,000 sites labelled as “unwanted content,” which would be blocked under the filtering scheme. The Government says it will not reveal which sites will be blocked.

“The minister also continues to be deliberately vague and cryptic about the definition of unwanted content and now he is unable to clarify how this so-called live trial will be conducted, even though he wants it to start before 24 December,” Minchin says.

The filter has now been opposed by the Federal Opposition, the Greens, the internet industry and even some child welfare groups. Major protests against the filter, organised by advocacy group GetUp! are planned for major capital cities this weekend.

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