The federal government is pushing ahead with its controversial plan to filter the internet, saying illegal material can be blocked with “100 per cent accuracy”.
Labor will introduce legislation next year requiring all service providers to ban “refused classification” material hosted on overseas servers.
Communications Minister Stephen Conroy says RC material includes “child sex abuse content, bestiality, sexual violence and the detailed instruction of crime and drug use”.
“Most Australians acknowledge there is some internet content which is not acceptable in any civilised society,” Senator Conroy told reporters in Melbourne after giving the mandatory filter the green light.
“It is important that all Australians, particularly young children, are protected from this material.”
Independent body to determine banned sites
The list of banned sites will be maintained by an independent body “at arms length from the government”.
Senator Conroy said the list would be “compiled through a public complaints mechanism”, but the government will add sites containing “known child abuse material” obtained from “highly regarded international agencies”.
Currently, the Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA) is responsible for issuing take-down notices for black-listed content hosted in Australia.
The government released on Tuesday the results of a filtering rial, claiming it proved blocking sites was technically feasible.
“The live trial has shown that filtering of a defined list of URLs (web addresses) can be done with 100 per cent accuracy and negligible impact on network performance, despite the many claims that have been touted,” Senator Conroy said.
Critics have argued the filter will slow internet speeds.
Filter won’t stop everyone: Critics
They also believe it’s an attempt at censorship, and won’t stop those hell-bent on accessing illegal content.
Greens communications spokesman Scott Ludlam says the policy is a dud.
“The test results themselves say the filters will be able to be circumvented,” he told ABC Radio.
“So I don’t know why the government is persisting with this policy.”
Senator Ludlam also suggested the “internet censorship” legislation would have a “bumpy” ride through the Senate.
Laws to be introduced in March
Senator Conroy said Labor would introduce its draft laws by March, and the filter would start 12 months after they were passed.
However, the opposition says it remains concerned the filter will be unworkable and ineffective.
“Appropriate adult supervision and guidance should be front and centre of all online safety efforts,” coalition communications spokesman Tony Smith said in a statement.
“(But) while our reservations about the effectiveness of the (filter) proposal are strong, we will examine and assess the detail as we have consistently said we would.”
Activist group GetUp argues the filter will hand control of the internet “to the moral minority”.
“Innocent people, such as a dentist from Queensland, have already been caught in the ACMA blacklist,” acting director Oliver MacColl said.
“The introduction of Senator Conroy’s great firewall of Australia may lead to many more innocent small business people being caught out.”
The Australian Christian Lobby and Family First’s Steve Fielding welcomed Tuesday’s announcement, arguing a filter would help protect children.
Leading telcos also offered support – albeit qualified.
Telstra said filtering sites was “feasible and practical” so long as the blacklist was “limited to a defined number of URLs”.
Optus similarly stated it was “technically feasible to block a finite list of illegal content without significant impact on the customer’s experience or network performance”.