Tuesday, November 04, 2008

Australia creates flap with "mandatory" content filters


Australia has created a bit of a flap by trying to require mandatory content filtering throughout the country.

The filtering resides at two levels. One level filters content deemed illegal under Australian law. The second level, which apparently users must have on their computers, can be opted out by adults. The filters reportedly degrade network performance from by 20% to 75%.

Electronic Frontiers Australia has a report on “Labor’s Mandatory ISP Blocking Plan” here. Still, two thirds of parents don’t have the filters installed.

Ars Technica has a report by John Timmer titled “Aussie Govt: Don’t Criticize Our Terrible ‘Net’ Filters,” link here. The current Australian government seems determined to implement the program despite evidence developed by local journalists that it is flawed.

In the United States, the use of voluntary filters are the main way that parents can prevent objectionable content being viewed by their children. A more progressive system would be voluntary content labeling, with the cooperation of software developers and ISPs, as proposed and documented by the ICRA and discussed here before. It would appear that Australia is attempting to implement something like “COPA” in its filtering system.

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