Australia Ready to Test Web Filters

Australia Ready to Test Web Filters
Tod Hunter
CANBERRA, Australia — Australia's mandatory net filtering system is being prepared to block 10,000 websites as part of a blacklist of "unwanted content." Some 1,300 websites have already been identified for blocking by the Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA), up from 1,000 at the beginning of the year.

Communications Minister Sen. Stephen Conroy revealed details of the government's proposed web filter this week. Internet service providers will test different ways to filter Internet content using volunteer subscribers. The trial will start before Christmas and is expected to last six weeks.

"The pilot will test filtering specifically against the ACMA blacklist of Internet prohibited content, which is mostly child pornography, as well as filtering of other unwanted content," Conroy said in response to a question by Sen. Scott Ludlum.

"The pilot will specifically test filtering against the ACMA blacklist of prohibited content, which is mostly child pornography, as well as filtering of other unwanted content," Conroy told Parliament. "While the ACMA blacklist is currently around 1300 URLs, the pilot will test against this list — as well as filtering for a range of URLs to around 10,000 — so that the impacts on network performance of a larger blacklist can be examined."

An ACMA trial of web filtering technology earlier this year found that filters could slow Internet access by at least 2 percent and as much as 87 percent.

Colin Jacobs, a board member of civil liberties advocacy group Electronic Frontiers Australia, said the group was concerned at what would be deemed "unwanted content."

"It is unclear how ACMA will scale up their blacklist to 10,000 websites and what will go on the list," Jacobs said. "Conroy said the list would contain illegal and unwanted content — but we still have to see what would end up on that list. Under the current mandate that includes adult material, which would mean most material that could be rated R and, in some circumstances, material rated MA15+."

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