Australia's Conroy Admits Filter Won't Stop Pedophiles

SYDNEY, Australia - Australian Communications Minister Stephen Conroy has admitted his filtering proposal for the Internet will not stop child pornography or pedophiles.

"We've never tried to pretend that this was a silver bullet, we've never tried to suggest this was the sole solution,'' Conroy said last week on Australia's ABC-TV program "Q & A," according to AdeliadeNow.

The Aussie Senator said the goal of the filter was to block already-illegal materials and suggested other technology should be used in conjunction with law enforcement departments to crack down on pedophiles and peer-to-peer rings on the Internet.

Conroy denied his intentions went beyond stopping child porn and is not about censoring political material.

"I don't want to block political content, and never said we were going to block political content," he said. "It is possible to support a black list and support free speech."

Conroy claimed a dentist's site was blocked because Russian mob hackers had illegally used it to post child porn, according to the Sydney Morning Herald. He argued that blacklists are needed to deal with child porn, pro-rape and incest websites.

The Australian Communications and Media Authority targets more than 2,000 websites in a "secret blacklist" that was recently published on whistleblower website Wikileaks, which was then threatened with a government ban and fines.

Opponents of filtering have said the leak was in indication of public dissent against the plan. Political lobby group GetUp! - Action for Australia called the scheme "a failure."

"The minister's comments have proven internet censorship just won't work," GetUp! National Director Simon Sheikh told the Herald.

"It would go against the fundamental tenets of the Labor Party to suggest we'll block political content, which is the China line and Saudi Arabia line," he said. "It's clear the minister has watered down his support for internet censorship and hopefully, will see him walk away from internet censorship altogether."

Conroy argues that the ACMA's filtering approach is no different that than of Australia's classification board for TV, film, radio and other media.  The board's site was hacked the same day the senator appeared on Australian television.

Australian Liberal Party MP Greg Hunt called Conroy's proposal dangerous to overall freedoms because it is not focused enough.

"We need to increase the resources to take on people who will engage in child pornography and increase penalties for those acting illegally," Hunt said.

In related news, Conroy said Monday the country would soon name the winning bidder in plans to build a multi-billion-dollar national broadband network. According to Australia, an announcement is expected next week, when Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd returns from the G20 meeting in London.

The leading contender is said to be telecommunications Company Acacia, after major firm Telstra was left out of the bidding last fall.