Aussie Website Blacklist to be Examined

SYDNEY, Australia – Australia's near-notorious website blacklist will be examined while it appears the government is backing off its call for mandatory Web filtering.

According to Australia's TheAge, the so-called secret blacklist of banned websites will be reviewed by either a select Aussie panel or a parliamentary committee.

Monday, Aussie Communications Minister, Senator Stephen Conroy told an estimates committee in the Senate the government was "considering options for greater transparency and accountability in respect of the blacklist."  The plan would include a regular review of the list as well.

In what many considered a surprise, Conroy also said that filtering could be implemented through voluntary industry code. The remarks were a departure from his past intense push for filtering and a response to questions from opposition Senator Nick Minchin, reports AustralianIT.

Conroy suggested Internet service providers may adopt an industry consensus to block restricted content voluntarily.

"Mandatory ISP filtering would conceivably involve legislation -- voluntary is available currently to ISPs,” Conroy said.

Minchin responded he was unaware of any past proposals for a voluntary mandatory system.

The website blacklist, which dates back to 2000, is maintained by the Australian Communications and Media Authority. It is compiled and revised based on complaints from the public, various groups and law enforcement agencies.

While the list is supplied Web filter makers, publication of the list is a criminal offence and created a massive stir when one version was posted on the whistle-blower site Wikileaks earlier this year. 

While the list included child porn, bestiality, rape and extreme violence sites, it was ridiculed for also including online gambling sites, a dentist's webpage and a site devoted to euthanasia.

The ACMA blacklist, said to contain some 977 sites currently, is being used to conduct the current Aussie filtering trial, which involves nine ISPs. A results report is expected in late July or early August.

According to a government spokesperson, the trial is employing different filtering technologies in a live Internet environment, assessing effectiveness, the impact of filter on Internet speeds and other factors.

For more about Australia's website blacklist and filtering plans, view the news archives.