Australia Announces Free Porn-Filtering Software

Michael Hayes
CANBERRA, Australia — Having explored a number of options to keep minors safe from Internet pornography, the Australian government has decided to issue filtering software free of charge to its 6 million Internet users.

Communications Minister Helen Coonan will launch the initiative with federal money by further funding NetAlert, the country’s online safety agency. However, the government, which does not wish to endorse any single software maker, plans to create a list of approved software companies from which the public can choose.

In March, Australia’s Labor Party called for a general ban at the Internet service provider-level of all pornographic sites. Claiming that nearly two-thirds of Australian homes had failed to install filtering software because of lack of technical savvy, Labor Party Leader Kim Beazley urged the government to subsidize software to help parents block their children’s access to pornography.

While the ISP-level filtering system ultimately stalled because government studies predicted that it would dramatically slow national Internet traffic, Tasmania has begun such an experiment at the insistence of Liberal Sen. Guy Barnett, who introduced the legislation to Coonan.

Regardless of the outcome of that experiment, Coonan, among others in the Australian government, believes that subsidized filtering software for families will likely be the only practical solution to keep children away from Internet pornography.