The Australian Government will no longer introduce Mandatory Filtering legislation in Australia.
Labor’s planned filtering legislation would have seen a broad range of legal content (originally defined as “prohibited content” and later re-framed as content that had been “refused classification”) blocked to Australian Internet users. Instead ISPs will now be required to restrict access to child abuse material that is listed on the INTERPOL block list.
Update 7:35AM: The Australian Financial Review is reporting that the government intends to force ISPs to block blacklists maintained by INTERPOL and ACMA. The ACMA blacklist contains a wide range of completely legal websites that don’t meet Australia’s strict classification standards, including websites on abortion, anorexia and sexual fetishes such as spanking. AFR journalist James Hutchison tells me on twitter that the ACMA list is still being actively maintained but the intersection and exact use still unclear. His investigations continue.
Communications Minister Stephen Conroy said in a statement that “Australia’s largest ISPs have been issued notices requiring them to block these illegal sites in accordance with their obligations under the Telecommunications Act 1997”.
“The Australian Federal Police will now begin issuing notices to smaller ISPs and will work closely to assist them in meeting their obligation under Australian law and prevent their services being used for illegal activities,” Conroy said.
“Given this successful outcome, the Government has no need to proceed with mandatory filtering legislation.”
According to SMH, “Australia’s main internet service providers have agreed to block the child abuse sites”.
Despite expert advice from literally every man and his dog in the Australian technology, social welfare and academic sectors warning against the plan, and widespread hatred from Australian Internet users, Senator Conroy and the Government pushed ahead with their mandatory filtering plan for over 5 years.
It’s early days (and early morning as I write this) but this is welcome news. Questions around how all Australian ISPs will filter the list, the Government’s ability to add websites out of INTERPOL’s scope (the ACMA Blacklist) with ease and the transparency surrounding the INTERPOL block list now need to be answered.