Government abandons internet filter plan

In a win for small businesses and internet users, the Federal Government has abandoned its plans to create a wide-reaching internet filter and instead will leave the issue up to individual telcos.

The planned filter had been one of Labor’s priorities for years, but the proposal has been weakened by voter backlash, opposition from the communications industry, and multiple demonstrations that the filter wouldn’t necessarily work as planned.

Small businesses have also been alarmed by reports the filter could inadvertently block innocent websites.

“We’ve reached agreement with all of the telco service providers that they will block the worst of the worst – the child abuse pornography material that’s available on the public internet,” Communications Minister Stephen Conroy told ABC Radio program AM this morning.

“Police have issued notices to a whole range of companies and the few remaining companies that make up about 10% will soon start receiving notices.”

The telcos will block about 1,400 websites that are tracked by Interpol, which has a stricter definition of sites that must be watched.

Conroy says the decision to leave it up to telcos wasn’t due to a blockade in Parliament, but rather the findings of the Law Reform Commission, which said the filter was simply too broad.

Opposition communications spokesman Malcolm Turnbull also told the ABC the filter would have been ineffective anyway because child pornographers tend to trade material through private networks rather than on public websites.

The second problem was that the filter was going to block sites on a blacklist. That blacklist was to be kept secret, but in 2009 it leaked – and contained websites that weren’t offensive at all.

The most intriguing entry was the website of a Queensland dentist.

Turnbull told The Australian the move was “always a bad idea”.

“It would never have been effective. It would have just given parents a false sense of security. There is no substitute for parents taking responsibility for their children.

“It’s an overdue acknowledgment that they don’t have the numbers in either house to get their legislation through.”

The Greens have opposed the filter since the idea was first proposed.

 

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