[LINK] Web porn software filter takes biggest hit

Bernard Robertson-Dunn brd at iimetro.com.au
Sun Feb 17 11:58:28 EST 2008

Web porn software filter takes biggest hit
Heath Gilmore
February 17, 2008
Sun Herald

The Rudd Government has branded as a failure the $85 million software 
filter scheme to protect young Australians from online pornography and 
will review its future.

Federal Communications Minister Stephen Conroy is assessing the NetAlert 
program, which will come under scrutiny at the Senate estimates hearings 

The filter scheme was a central feature of the Howard Government's $189 
million NetAlert program launched last August to address the perceived 
threat of online sexual predators and unsavoury content to young 
internet users. A multimillion dollar advertising blitz followed, 
including a booklet delivered to every household across the nation.

It was expected 2.5 million households would take up the free 
porn-blocking filters within 12 months but only 144,088 filter products 
have been downloaded or ordered on CD-ROM since August last year.

The Department of Broadband, Communications and the Digital Economy has 
estimated about 29,000 of these accessed filter products were still 
being used - less than 2 per cent of the set target.

"The program has clearly failed, despite over $15 million being spent in 
advertising to support it," Mr Conroy said.

"Labor has always said that PC filtering is not a stand-alone solution 
to protecting children from online dangers. The Government has a 
comprehensive cyber-safety plan that includes the implementation of 
mandatory ISP-based filtering to deliver a filtered feed to all homes, 
schools and public internet points.

"Education for parents and teachers as well as children is a priority."

Mr Conroy said the Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA) 
would examine all aspects of ISP-level filtering, with a laboratory 
trial completed by the end of June 2008, followed by a pilot test in a 
real world environment.

Sixteen-year-old Tom Wood, aka "The Porn Cracker", who shot to national 
prominence when he showed the new NetAlert filters could be bypassed by 
any savvy teenager in a matter of minutes, said the scheme had been a 
waste of time and money.

"Although these are amongst the best PC-based filters available, it 
didn't take long for teens to work out how to bypass them," said the 
schoolboy with a passion for cyber-safety.

Opposition communications spokesman Bruce Billson said the Rudd 
Government was rushing to criticise the NetAlert program to set the 
scene for a "harebrained, half-baked policy dreamt up in the lead-up to 
an election".

"NetAlert is a program which is relatively new, as is the minister in 
his role, and I'm sure he would like a little more than six months or so 
before the public decide if he has been a failure or not," he said.

"Proper supervision should be front and centre of any efforts to protect 
children from inappropriate material on the internet; supported by 
additional tools such as content filters, not some mandatory and 
ill-conceived 'clean feed' measure by a government that believes only it 
has the authority to decide what's appropriate or inappropriate content 
for computer users."

hgilmore at sunherald.com.au



Bernard Robertson-Dunn
Sydney Australia
brd at iimetro.com.au

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