Aussie Internet Filtering Plans Shot Down

BRISBANE, Australia -- The Australian government's plan to introduce mandatory Internet censorship through an ISP filter has been shot down, thanks to one senator siding with the nation's opposition parties.

Aussie Senator Nick Xenophon had previously supported the Federal Cyber Safety Plan, because it would block gambling sites, which is his cause célèbre.

Xenophon told the Brisbane Times he withdrew support for the scheme because "the more evidence that's come out, the more questions there are on this."

Australian surveys found less than 10 percent of its citizens supported Web censorship championed by the nation's communications minister, Stephen Conroy.

Despite technical experts saying a filter or filters would slow Internet use and also be unable to sort out all questionable content, Conroy pressed on. He not only targeted sex sites, but Web pages containing references to drug use, crime, sex, cruelty, violence or as he put it, "revolting and abhorrent phenomena" that "offend against the standards of morality."

This meant, for example, that an anti-abortion site with graphic images was among those added to a blacklist of more 10,000 sites.

A government press release issued last fall stated there would be two blacklists: one blocking illegal material such as child porn and another blocking material "deemed unsuitable for children."

The opposition coalition, which includes Australia's Green Party, believes mandatory filtering can now only be pushed through with some form of legislation.

Meanwhile, filtering trials launched by Conroy with six Australian ISPs have come under fire for not including three of the country's largest ISPs, as recently reported by AVN Online.

Conroy originally proposed the filters to block child porn, but then, his plan took on a much wider scope and drew the ire of free-speech advocates.

According to the Brisbane Times, of 1,370 sites on a secret government blacklist, only a little more than half fell under child porn concerns, while the rest were classified as R18 or X18, legal to view for any Aussie adults, though the sites would be blocked under the filtering scheme.

The plan's cost has been estimated at $123 million U.S., according to DSLReports.

One of the Aussie ISPs involved with the trials, iiNet, said it took part because it believed the filtering would not work, calling it a "simplistic response," also "failing to acknowledge the wider and undesirable impact it will have on all Internet users."

"Filtering websites misses the target altogether," said Michael Malone, managing director of iiNet, who stated it all begins with responsible Internet use.

The site FutureGov reports the Aussie government previously attempted an anti-porn, PC-based filter. A 16-year-old got around it within a half hour.