[LINK] Conroy backs down (delays?)

Jan Whitaker jwhit at janwhitaker.com
Fri Jul 9 13:33:33 AEST 2010

Conroy backs down on net filters

Asher Moses
July 9, 2010 - 12:56PM

Communications Minister Stephen Conroy has capitulated to widespread 
concerns over his internet censorship policy and delayed any 
mandatory filters until at least next year.

Academics, ISP experts, political opponents, the US government and a 
broad cross-section of community groups have long argued that the 
plan to block a secret blacklist of "refused classification" web 
pages for all Australians was fraught with issues, for example, that 
blocked RC content could include innocuous material.

Having consistently ignored these concerns, Senator Conroy today 
announced that implementation of his policy would be delayed until a 
review of RC classification guidelines can be conducted by state and 
territory censorship ministers.

This is not expected to begin until at least the middle of next year.

"Some sections of the community have expressed concern about whether 
the range of material included in the RC category ... correctly 
reflects current community standards," Senator Conroy said.

"As the Government's mandatory ISP filtering policy is underpinned by 
the strength of our classification system, the legal obligation to 
commence mandatory ISP filtering will not be imposed until the review 
is completed."

In the meantime, major ISPs including Optus, Telstra and iPrimus have 
pledged to voluntarily block child abuse websites. This narrower, 
voluntary approach has long been advocated by internet experts and 
brings Australia into line with other countries such as Britain.

"It will be just child porn, and that will be consistent with best 
practice in Scandinavia and Europe," said Peter Coroneos, chief 
executive of the Internet Industry Association.

But the Government does not seem to be backing out of the deeply 
unpopular mandatory filtering policy altogether, as it has today 
announced a suite of 
and accountability measures to address concerns about the scheme.

These include:

- an annual review of content on the blacklist by an "independent expert".

- clear avenues of appeal for people whose sites are blocked.

- content will be added to the blacklist by the Classification Board, 
instead of the Australian Communications and Media Authority.

- affected parties will have the ability to have decisions reviewed 
by the Classification Review Board.

- people will know when they surf to a blocked page as a notification 
will appear.

"The public needs to have confidence that the URLs on the list, and 
the process by which they get there, is independent, rigorous, free 
from interference or influence and enables content and site owners 
access to appropriate review mechanisms," Senator Conroy said.

One of Senator Conroy's strongest political critics, Greens 
communications spokesman Scott Ludlam, took the move by the 
government as a sign the critics were winning their battle to have 
the policy modified.

"A review of the RC is helping, that's a good idea. I think the fact 
that ISPs are putting their own initiatives forward voluntarily is 
also helpful," Senator Ludlam said.

"[But] if we're still pursuing mandatory ISP-level filtering then 
obviously we're not there yet. All we've got today is a useful 
acknowledgment of some of the flaws in the system and i'm hoping that 
they take this period to reflect on the overall objectives of the scheme."

He said even if the policy was narrowed to encompass just child abuse 
material, major issues remained such as that the filters are easy to 
bypass and will not block even a fraction of the nasty material 
available on the web. There was nothing stopping future governments 
from expanding the blacklist to cover other types of content.

"I don't interpret [the move] as killing it but I do interpret it as 
trying to neutralise the issue in the short term as far as the 
election is concerned," said Colin Jacobs, spokesman for the online 
users' lobby group Electronic Frontiers Australia.

"They're tinkering around the edges with the classification scheme 
without having a rethink around how do you apply a system that was 
designed for books and movies to the internet?"

The Safer Internet Group, which includes state schools, libraries, 
Google, iiNet, Inspire Foundation, Internet Industry Association, 
Yahoo and the System Administrators Guild of Australia today welcomed 
the new approach the government was taking on cyber safety.

Google, which has been at war with Senator Conroy over the policy, 
said it was "heartened" to see the government had taken into account 
"the genuine concerns expressed  by many" on the RC category.

"Our primary concern has always been that the scope of the proposed 
filter is far too broad. It goes way beyond child sexual abuse 
material and would block access to important online information for 
all Australians," said Google Australia managing director Karim Temsamani.

This story was found at: 

Melbourne, Victoria, Australia
jwhit at janwhitaker.com
blog: http://janwhitaker.com/jansblog/
business: http://www.janwhitaker.com

Our truest response to the irrationality of the world is to paint or 
sing or write, for only in such response do we find truth.
~Madeline L'Engle, writer

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