June 21, 2006 6:26 AM PDT

Australia to give away porn-filtering software

The Australian government plans to spend about $86 million to provide all the country's families with free Internet pornography-blocking software.

Helen Coonan, the minister for Communications, Information Technology and the Arts, announced the initiative Wednesday. A representative of Coonan told ZDNet Australia that the first free filters should be available for download from a government portal within six months.

Helen Coonan Helen Coonan

"It puts a safer Internet experience within the grasp of every Australian family, and it is a solution to the problem posed by Internet pornography that is simple, safe, effective and free," Coonan said in a statement.

"Every parent will be able to receive a free filter for their home computer, (and) there will be child-safe terminals in libraries across Australia."

It's likely that the Australian government will covet political mileage from the initiative, with the minister's release tipping a "comprehensive national community education campaign" designed to "ensure that all Australian families are aware of the benefits of regulating their children's Internet experience by using a safe and effective computer filter."

At this stage, no specific filtering software has been selected for the initiative. The minister's representative said an accreditation process will be put in place. Internet service provider-level filtering will also be an option for customers of providers that offer it.

"Under this scheme, families will be offered a filtered service or a free filter for their home computer, either for download from a dedicated Web site or delivered to them on CD-ROM," Coonan stated. "All ISPs will also be required to offer filters to new and existing customers at no additional cost."

ISPs will be rebated if they choose to offer filtering at a service provider level.

The government's Internet safety agency, NetAlert Limited, will receive a $3.68 million funding boost and become co-located with the Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA).

Of the total spending, $68.69 million will be spent on filtering software over three year. Coonan's representative says the program will be reviewed in its third year.

According to the representative, almost no ISPs currently offer any kind of content filtering, so the government will study the feasibility of ISP-level filtering for a fourth time.

Patrick Gray of ZDNet Australia reported from Sydney.

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7 comments

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Which platformsh
It says that every Australian family will be able to have software on
their home computer. What if I own a Apple computer or have a
Linux machine at home. Or is this more of a well most of
Australians will be able to have free protection on their computer. I
would rather they give me a voucher for software to be claimed at
any software store. That way only those that choose to have it will
cost the government. Anyways, I hope they include Mac Software
because I have three Kids that will soon be using the Net.
Posted by ALPICH (51 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Which platforms?
It says that every Australian family will be able to have software on
their home computer. What if I own a Apple computer or have a
Linux machine at home. Or is this more of a well most of
Australians will be able to have free protection on their computer. I
would rather they give me a voucher for software to be claimed at
any software store. That way only those that choose to have it will
cost the government. Anyways, I hope they include Mac Software
because I have three Kids that will soon be using the Net.
Posted by ALPICH (51 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Again with the filters...
So now national governments are getting into the promotion of filtering software. Does NO-ONE tell ANYONE that filters DO NOT WORK? SO Frustrating!

If you don't know what an anonymous web proxy is, ask your 12 yr-old kid. They might tell you.
Posted by gefitz (1116 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Filter or block?
Ohhh this will *block* porn. Because I was thinking if it could filter it, maybe it would filter it *in,* thereby saving me all the hassle of having to *look* for porn.
Posted by MrNougat (78 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Take e-mail into account
Offering porn-filtering software to families might not be a bad idea. After all, children are very impressionable members of society and need to be guided while they're developing.

Hopefully Australian officials will choose a software that will not only target web surfing, but also e-mail. Pornography makes up a large part of spam mail that floods inboxes daily, so this issue is definetly something that should be addressed.
<a class="jive-link-external" href="http://www.iwantmyess.com/?p=55" target="_newWindow">http://www.iwantmyess.com/?p=55</a>

Tbough we probably have to wait until the program is implemented to discuss its effectiveness, Australia seems to be making a step in the right direction.
Posted by ml_ess (71 comments )
Reply Link Flag
more than surfing
ml_ess makes a good point about email security, being safe on the web is more than surfing and blocking content. There are other ways Australian citizens can be at risk.
Posted by marileev (292 comments )
Link Flag
Free software alternatives
Instead of wasting millions of dollars of taxpayers' money by buying single use licenses of propietary programs (wich, as another commentary says, will probably only work on ms windows) the australian govenrment should use free software. With much less than $86 million any existing piece of filtering software can be adapted to suit the project needs, or even a new application can be developed from scratch. That investment would be much more redituable, because the goverment would have infinite copies of the software to give away, plus all the other benefits of free software.
Posted by ElijahBaley (1 comment )
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