August 13, 2007 9:54 AM PDT

Australia's porn-blocking plan unveiled

Australian Prime Minister John Howard has announced a plan by the country's Coalition political parties to clean up Internet porn, in an effort to woo Christian voters.

Protecting Australian Families Online program, which will cost $160 million, is under the auspices of NetAlert, Australia?s Internet safety advisory body. The program will kick in August 20 and include a package of measures that the government says will help parents protect their children from online dangers.

Howard announced the slew of changes last week in a joint Webcast with opposition leader Kevin Rudd, broadcast to 770 churches and watched by an estimated 100,000 Christians.

The lion's share of the cash--$71.8 million--will go into a filtering program offered to individual homes and public libraries. Parents will be able to choose either to install filtering software on their home PCs or to request a "clean" connection from their service provider, which will be responsible for blocking pornographic content at the ISP level.

The government will post a list of approved filtering software providers on its Web site and mandate that all sanctioned vendors update their products as the threat landscape changes.

While individual filters will be available beginning later this month, ISP-level blocking may take some time to implement. The Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA) is currently planning a trial of ISP-level filtering in Tasmania that will inform the government's decision on a national launch.

The federal government has already examined the potential ISP-level filtering three times, starting in 1999.

Following the most recent trial, Coonan acknowledged problems with the concept saying: "Each report has found significant problems with content filter products operating at the ISP-level...The Australian trials have also found the effect on performance of the Internet by ISP filtering to be substantial and a lack of scalability of the filters to larger ISPs."

NetAlert's Protecting Australian Families Online program will also see publicity campaigns stepped up, including an $18.6 million awareness scheme to "inform parents and (caretakers) of children about online safety issues and provide information about where they can go to receive support and assistance", and 10 new ACMA Internet safety officers who will visit schools to talk about online dangers.

More "Web police" will be added to the Online Child Sex Exploitation Team, which will receive a $36.8 million cash injection to pay 36 new hires in 2007-08, rising to a total of 90 in 2009-10. The Commonwealth Director of Public Prosecutions will also receive a funding boost to cope with the expected increase in prosecutions resulting from the additional Web police.

Other changes include an extension of the ACMA Blacklist, which includes pornography denied classification by regulators, to cover malicious software and terror sites.

The plan comes in addition to a previously announced government initiatives to curb online pornography. Communications Minister Helen Coonan first unveiled the plan to launch content filters last year, although the program has been beset with delays since then.

Coonan welcomed last week's announcement, saying in a statement: "Unfortunately, no single measure alone can protect children from online harm and, in fact, traditional parenting skills have never been more important."

Jo Best of ZDNet Australia reported from Sydney.

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Helen Coonan, Tasmania, porn, home PC, trial

40 comments

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Isn't that illegal?
I know Australia isn't he US and they have different laws, but is it really legal for the government to mandate that commercial isp install porn filters? Isn't this a job better suited to parents?

I've never seen a child search for or receive porn when their parent is sitting right there next to them. It just doesn't happen.

Doesn't it make more sense to let the parents be the parents and keep the goverment and big business out of the home?
Posted by thedreaming (573 comments )
Reply Link Flag
I agree
Parents need to be parents.

If parents would keep tabs on what their kids are doing on the family computer, this would never be an issue.

Of course, many adults today only know how to serf the web and check email, and their kids are the ones with all the computer knowledge.
Posted by Ushiikun (30 comments )
Link Flag
Read the Article
What's wrong with wanting porn filtered out of my house? It's not stopping you from accessing all you want. And it's not just "Christians" who don't want their kids having access to things they aren't ready for.
Posted by ShamusMac (22 comments )
Link Flag
When did Australia become China?
This story is unbelievable. I thought Australia was a free country. Wow, it sounds like it is becoming China.
Posted by R. U. Sirius (745 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Or worse than China
Perhaps it's becoming like New Zealand!
Now that's an interesting thought.
Posted by Gonzo BobH (8 comments )
Link Flag
Good idea, that is bound to fail
IMO, we use one of the best internet filters available and I am
constantly having to make changes to allow access to legitimate
sites.

Normal sites get blocked and objectionable sites get through. And
it isn't hard, if you know what you are doing, to bypass filters
entirely.

Filters don't work.
Posted by rcrusoe (1305 comments )
Reply Link Flag
It's not as easy to bypass filters if they are on the ISP level.
You could also block proxy servers and VPNs from the ISP level.
Posted by ralfthedog (1589 comments )
Link Flag
The end of freedom...
The end of freedom and democracy always starts with the best of intentions.

Who doesn't want to 'protect the children' and 'fight the evils of child pornography', or even protect us from those 'evil terrorists'? Obviously we all do, but at what point do the ends no longer justify the means? When do a government's efforts to "protect" us become worse than the dangers from which we're being protected?

Installing mandatory, government-issued filters to limit free thought on the Internet is a DANGEROUS activity, one that Australians should be extremely wary of, even if the proposal only calls for blocking out porn. As the initial filters fail miserably in their designed task the choice will have to be made to scrap the idea or to make the filters MUCH more draconian.

Protecting the children of our world may well be the most noble cause out there, but that does not mean one should blindly accept a proposal just because it purports to do so!
Posted by Hoser McMoose (182 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Australia's Porn-Blocking Plan
What's truly obscene is the political pandering to right-wing religious fanatics. Filters block far more content than you would expect, and it is the off-line actions that are taken by ignorant people (frequently illegal behavior), not web content that causes harm to people. Nobody ever died from reading a book or looking at a picture or movie. Usually, it is because they did something off-line.
Posted by kevinbwalker (2 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Porn, Porn, Porn...
I am against stopping, especially kids, being exposed to porn, however, parents can already purchase filters and put them on their computers.

The plan for ISPs to provide "clean" connections is a joke, as well as this funding to provide ALL parents with filters... over half will not install the software, understand how to configure it etc.

An an Australian, this is a waste of public money. I am against porn, however, I am also against election-year, policy-on-the-run decisions.
Posted by rturner2 (125 comments )
Reply Link Flag
I am against ...
this stupid policy and I am a Christian they are trying to appeal too!!
Posted by rturner2 (125 comments )
Link Flag
Porn, Porn, Porn - huh
ME: I quote your comment.

YOU: Reader post by: rturner2
Posted on: August 13, 2007, 3:55 PM PDT
I am against stopping, especially kids, being exposed to porn...

ME: Don't think this is exactly what you meant to say. Or are you really against stopping kids being exposed to porn. Hmmmm.
Posted by Gonzo BobH (8 comments )
Reply Link Flag
err, what I meant was...
I think what they were trying to say is they are FOR kids MAKING porn, as long as it's done in a Christian way.
;)
Posted by skeptik (590 comments )
Link Flag
Filtering Folly
No matter how much the authorities try to prevent the nasty content they'll never achieve 100% blocking. The nature of Web filters is based on trying to block well-known URL and domains. However, the trend is to aggregate content from various sites making tracking the offensive content almost impossible. You may as well take th 170 million dollars and spent it on user education rather that pouring it down the Web filter hole year and after year.
Posted by Schratboy (122 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Good in theory.
If the ISP level filtration is voluntary (for the customer) it is a good thing. If you make it mandatory, this would be very bad.

In the early days of the commercial internet, my company started being blocked by a number of porn filters. After some research, I found out that it was because we shared an IP address with a porn site.

later we moved to our own server, however we were blocked by an anti spam filter. Why? because we use Server Beach. The anti spam company did not like Server Beaches TOS, so they labeled all Server Beach customers as spammers.

This is now fixed, but it shows that filters can be dangerous.
Posted by ralfthedog (1589 comments )
Reply Link Flag
RBL's are rather dangerous things...
An RBL (Realtime BlackList) has to be chosen carefully by any competent admin, but can be useful. a fixed blacklist is worse than worthless.

Not all RBL's are bad. With a little research, they can actually be very useful.

But... none should be made mandatory. If an ISP wishes to filter the nasty bits, good for them; I hope they sell well. If an ISP is forced to, then it becomes gov't meddling in business, and due to the nature of any blacklist, it is a restriction on free speech. I'm not sure what guarantees Australia has concerning freedom of speech, but one would hope it would be respected.

/P
Posted by Penguinisto (5042 comments )
Link Flag
Idiots...
Doesn't the government notice how sex offenses dropped with porn being readily available? Sheesh. I'd personally much rather have assorted rapists fap themselves silly at home, in front of their monitors, than doing the alternative.

And why would the Christians care either way?! Their Bible pretty much said /not/ to judge anything, that being God's job.
Posted by KiraiAnca (4 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Idiots about porn?
I don't believe only christians think about this, at least everybody should not want porn on internet, because - I already wrote - it is respectless and worthless to Everybody, man and woman! And about 'judging' by God: God created people with mind within basic presence of responibility to and about other creatures - although unfortunately in many cases people don't listen do this 'internal signal'!
Posted by Eupha (9 comments )
Link Flag
Since The Government...
is taking upon itself to police the Internet by forcing ISPs to filter pornography, then what liability does the ISP have if child pornography gets thru to a customer?

It should be noted that filters also block stand alone pure text pages from porn sites. If one wants an article from an adult site, say an industry organization, describing efforts to prosecute child pornographers, or promoting safe search techniques, the filter will block it.
Posted by dayebreak (27 comments )
Reply Link Flag
This does not force the ISP to block porn sites.
It forces the ISP to offer optional blocking. If the porn filtering was mandatory for all customers, I would think this would be bad.

I like the idea of the ISP asking the user, "Do you want porn filtering?"

They do need to make sure that the account holder has the ability to bypass the filter, and that the filter is accurate.
Posted by ralfthedog (1589 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Christian parent should monitor their kids online
I am a Conservative Christian in the US, I am about as conservative as they come, and this looks like bad idea to me. Why spend so much money doing something that these parents should be doing on their own? Are they incapable of monitoring their children in their own homes? It isn't like this software is available on an individual level already anyway.

I agree that pornography is something I don't want in my home, but I don't need the government to take care of that for me. I perfectly capable of doing so myself. If other parents can not do the same I fail to see why tax dollars from people who don't even have kids, some who probably love internet pornography, should go to help these totally inept and lazy parents.
Posted by zgreenwell (156 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Re: Christian parents should monitor their kids online
How do you know their parents are "totally inept and lazy"?

Personally, I have no problem with there being additional help from the government on items like this and I would have no problem watching my tax dollars be used towards keeping youngsters away from that type of garbage.

They're not outlawing adult material. Your tax dollars are used for plenty of things you don't agree with. Why would you be so against this one?

Charles R. Whealton
Charles Whealton @ pleasedontspam.com
Posted by chuck_whealton (521 comments )
Link Flag
The Internet is for porn
Hasn't anyone seen Avenue Q?
Posted by solrosenberg (124 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Internet and Porn
Internet is a free 'room'for everyone; BUT IT IS NÓT FOR PORN! This dirty stuff belongs in the sewer because it is respectless to ALL human beings! Worthless and respectless, and EVERYONE who respect him/herself does not want this mud to be confronted with.
Posted by Eupha (9 comments )
Link Flag
Complete Facist Nutter
If you can't stop spam, you can't stop porn. Parents should supervise their kids, simple as that.
Posted by garrywdm (44 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Stop trying to keep children ignorant
of sex and sexuality, and they will be more safe online and in real life! That is what the problem is: these 'Christian' parents want to keep their children ignorant of sex and sexual things and that is NOT the way to keep them safe.

I sat my daughters down and told them what sex was at the tender age of 2, explained what it was and what it was for (pleasure, baby-making) with no fabrications or ********. They are now 15 and 17, have never been sexually assaulted (though they have been sexually active since very early, by their own admission to me) and are very good students and very good people.

It is time to realize that much of the 'bad' in the world is coming from people trying to protect other people from knowledge that they think is 'obscene' or 'bad'. Those people need to have a SERIOUS wakeup call, to the point of being put in prison if they try to force their religious and sexual views on everyone else, INCLUDING and ESPECIALLY children!
Posted by Leria (585 comments )
Reply Link Flag
So in your opinion...
Internet pornography is the perfect education tool for helping children learn about sex and sexuality? You sound like a wonderful parent.
Posted by Hardrada (359 comments )
Link Flag
Poster Leria - About
This poster "Leria" is actually a pro-pedophile activist. For more information, see <a class="jive-link-external" href="http://www.corporatesexoffenders.com/wiki/Christopher_Kidwell" target="_newWindow">http://www.corporatesexoffenders.com/wiki/Christopher_Kidwell</a>
Posted by auntie 1 (2 comments )
Link Flag
Forget Porn, Religious Filter Needed!
As these politicians shamelessly pander to religious groups what's needed is a little perspective. Exposure to pornography at a young age may not be desirable but how many lives are really harmed? What about the exposure of willful ignorance disguised as moral training by parents to their young offspring? How much intolerance and shame is induced in children by their indoctrination into religious beliefs that are wholly unsupportable by any demonstrable evidence? I'm convinced that religious "training" in young children produces far more problems for society than glimpsing images of people making love. The real obscenity is poisoning young minds with archaic anti scientific teachings. When you teach kids lies as the truth that's child abuse.
Posted by zanzzz (138 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Well that was fun...
Just spent the last hour circumventing both the Windows offerings without any help from the net (or from just uninstalling them).... One of the offerings had 100mb of RAM and a bunch of CPU tied up as well... considering most home PC's would have 256mb (or 512mb if your lucky, and Norton AV using the other 100mb of RAM) you can kiss using the internet (or the PC for that matter) goodbye.
Posted by Antarell (1 comment )
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