ISP filtering legislation on the way

(TheAustralian) – THE federal government hopes to introduce legislation to enable its controversial internet filter by the end of the year.

Communications Minister Stephen Conroy said the legislation would be this year “sooner rather than later”.

Timing for the web filter legislation, which has earned the ire of ISPs and internet freedom advocates, depends on the date for the looming federal election and whether Labor wins office.

Political commentators have earmarked August to October as possible election dates. The polls are likely to occur before the Victorian election in late November.

Since the plan was mooted in 2007, Senator Conroy has changed his mind several times on how the filtering scheme would eventually work.

The latest measure is to create a list of web pages comprising refused classification-rated content and force internet service providers to automatically block them.

Legislation will be introduced to require all ISPs to filter the RC content list.

New Prime Minister Julia Gillard backs the filtering plan. She made her support known to ABC radio today, saying she understood public concerns over the scheme but that Senator Conroy was working to find a resolution that would be in the “right shape”.

When asked if Ms Gillard had set a deadline for the filtering legislation to be introduced, Senator Conroy said: “We are prepared to spend as much time as necessary to make sure we get it right.

“The discussions we’re having behind the scenes with various players are more interested in getting the implementation and the actual policy right rather than saying it’s got to be done by some artificial deadline.”

Those talks include consultation with ISPs on how to increase accountability and transparency for RC material.

“I expect it (the legislation) to be this year. I expect that we will table the legislation this year sooner rather than later.

“If you’re thinking ‘does that mean December?’ – no, I wouldn’t think it would be December, but there could be intervening events that I am not in control of,” Senator Conroy told reporters in Sydney today.

The policy would be implemented 12 months from the passage of legislation.

RC broadly consists of illegal content but Google and various internet experts believe the list could potentially contain legitimate material.

Labor Senator Kate Lundy’s suggestion for an opt-in approach has been rejected.

US Ambassador to Australia Jeff Bleich has urged the government to ditch the plan, saying child pornographers can be captured and prosecuted without using mandatory internet filters.

Ms Gillard told ABC Darwin she was happy with the policy aim of the filtering plan.

“Clearly you can’t walk into a cinema in Australia and see certain things and we shouldn’t on the internet be able to access those things either so Stephen Conroy is working to get this in the right shape.

“I’m happy with the policy aim and the policy aim is if there are images of child abuse, child pornography … they are not legal in our cinemas, you would not be able to go to the movies and watch that … you shouldn’t … no one should want to see that.

“You’re not able to go to the movies and see those kinds of things why should you be able to see them on the internet? I think that that’s the kind of moral, ethical question at the heart of this.”

But she understood concerns raised over the filtering program, especially how it would impact speed and remove proper use of the internet.

“It’s not my intention in any way to jeapordise legitimate use of the internet,” she said.

The filtering legislation was expected to be introduced in the autumn or winter parliamentary sessions but former prime minister Kevin Rudd postponed it until after the next election.

Source: The Australian

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