Internet filtering could cause business chaos

The Federal Government will block access to 10,000 internet sites as part of its mandatory internet filtering program – but it will not reveal which ones.

The Federal Government will block access to 10,000 internet sites as part of its mandatory internet filtering program – but it will not reveal which ones.

The $44.2 million scheme, which is the brainchild of Broadband, Communications and Digital Economy Minister Stephen Conroy, will create a private “blacklist” of 10,000 sites that will be blocked at ISP level.

The scheme was originally designed to block access to child pornography, but Conroy has since extended the plans for the scheme to “unwanted content”.

Pilot testing by service providers is set to begin on 24 December.

“The pilot will specifically test filtering against the Australian Communications and Media Authority blacklist of prohibited content, which is mostly child pornography, as well as filtering of other unwanted content,” Conroy told Parliament.

“While the ACMA blacklist is currently around 1300 URLs, the pilot will test against this list – as well as filtering for a range of URLs to around 10,000 – so that the impacts on network performance of a larger blacklist can be examined.”

But the plans have been met with opposition from industry leaders.

Early ACMA testing revealed the filter blocked sites with no objectionable content, while slowing speeds by up to 87%. Experts also argue the filter will be easy to dodge, and carries too many difficulties.

The chair of non-profit organisation representing internet users Electronic Frontiers Australia, Dale Clapperton, says not only is it likely businesses would have their sites wrongly blocked, “it’s not entirely clear what legal recourse those businesses would have”.

“At the very least it will diminish the security at which they conduct online business,” he says.

Donna Ashelford, president of the System Administrator’s Guild, argues the filter is extremely bad for businesses as their sites are “highly likely” to be caught as collateral damage.

“What we’re looking at is having legitimate sites blocked on filtering. Businesses having their own sites blocked is very, very likely to happen. In the trials in 1999, the government was even having its own sites blocked.”

Telstra Media’s Justin Mile, iiNet’s Michael Malone, and Internode’s Simon Hackett all say the filter has too many technical difficulties to work.

Malone, iiNet’s managing director, says his company will only take part in December, “to prove how stupid it is”.

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