Australian ISPs Will Start Voluntary Internet Censoring


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Starting July, a number of Aussie’s Internet service providers will start blocking customer access to over 500 sites. Meanwhile, industry observers complain of a lack of transparency of such practice, as well as inability for online services to appeal placement on the secret list.

Telstra, Primus and Optus are going to voluntarily implement Internet censoring policy beginning sometime in July. The plan is currently involving over 500 websites and is supposed to primarily target those containing child porno as identified by ACMA (the Australian Communications and Media Authority). The outfit promised to compile and manage a list of URLs of kids abuse material to be blocked.

Australian Communications Minister Stephen Conroy has been calling for a “voluntary obligatory” Internet censoring regime for a while now, but his plan has been delayed because the government has failed to implement a number of transparency and accountability measures it had promised would accompany the enforcement of ISP filtering.

The list of content to be censored includes child pornography, detailed instruction in crime or drug use, bestiality, incitement of a terrorist act, and extreme violence including rape. However, it is still unclear whether websites containing such material will originally be included on the list of services to block.

The EFF has already pointed to some problems with this scheme. First of all, the outfit argued that the suggested plan was multi-layered: there was no transparency in the selection of websites to be censored, as well as there was no accountability from the regulatory authorities creating the lists. Secondly, the Australian Communications and Media Authority has previously had problems with its blacklist – for example, they for some reason included the site of a dentist there, who apparently had nothing to do with kids porno. Finally, the EFF noted that the proposed scheme largely fails to halt child porno, because perpetrators usually use peer-to-peer and encrypted VPN connections to distribute illegal content, but not publicly accessible sites.

The critics also point out that the blacklisting scheme has no mechanism for websites to appeal their placement on the list, which sets a precedent that censoring is acceptable.