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Friday, 26 July 2013 11:47

Australia responds to UK porn filter Featured

By
IIA CEO Peter Lee IIA CEO Peter Lee IIA

Australia's Internet Industry Association has responded to the UK government's controversial porn filtering proposal, calling for restraint and considered debate.

The Assocation represents Australia's ISPs and other stakeholders, and through a statement yesterday it didn't agree or disagree with the UK government's censorship proposal, but instead said any Australian equivalent would have to be well thought through and thoroughly considered.

The UK's proposal of mandatory filtering of pornography has sparked heated debate worldwide, amid criticisms that the mastermind behind the proposal "doesn't know how the internet works."

The Australian Government was considering similar policies a couple of years ago, but has since decided to shelve the plans.

The full statement follows below. 

The recent reforms announced by the UK Government to implement filters to block access to pornographic material on the internet by default, with end-users needing to “opt-out” should they choose to not have the filters applied, poses some interesting questions.

The degree of importance in our global society to keep children safe from abuse and protect them from harmful online material should never be underestimated or taken for granted. However, while the Internet Industry Association (IIA) supports the morality in taking positive steps to protect  children from exposure to pornographic material, the introduction of any filtering system needs to be carefully and fully considered to ensure it will effectively achieve its intended outcomes.

In Australia, there has been widespread interest and at times controversy over the Government’s previously proposed mandatory filter legislation. However, the Australian Government moved on from its original position to focus its efforts purely on blocking access to illegal child abuse material.

This move was consistent with community expectations and supported by industry, in blocking access to child abuse websites and working collaboratively with Australian law enforcement agencies, while also meeting their obligations under Australian telecommunications laws.

“A balanced and well considered approached is required when it comes to allowing people to have the freedom to openly choose what they do online, where it is legal to do so, over some form of Internet governance, censorship or filtering being imposed by government,” said Peter Lee, Chief Executive of the IIA. 

“We need to remember that parents remain an important ‘link in the chain’ when it comes to protecting, educating and communicating with their children in relation to what they do online, regardless of whether we believe our children may know more about the Internet and technology than parents do.”

In Australia today, the Government, Industry, Regulators, Service Providers and Schools, just to name a few, are all playing an active role in educating both parents and children in cybersafety, by providing the tools and resources needed to ensure our kids can enjoy the benefits provided by the  Internet, and remain safe while doing so.

Any proposal to implement default filters should not mean that anyone should become complacent in respect of continuing to educate our society.

The IIA has for many years now been supporting and promoting a Family Friendly Filter (FFF) program. However, the IIA’s initiative is one that promotes education by the ISPs and free choice by consumers about their filtering options when purchasing an Internet connection, rather than imposing a default filter on the service that a customer may not fully understand, before allowing them to make a conscious decision on whether they would like that particular filter to be installed, or not.  

In other words, the difference between what is being proposed in the UK compared to the IIA FFF program is that the IIA FFF program is “opt-in” - I’d like a filter installed on my service, not “opt-out” – We will install a filter on your service by default and you need to tell us if you don’t want it).

In the case of the IIA FFF program, the recommended filters are required to go through an accredited testing regime to ensure that they continually meet specified guidelines, are effective and achieve the desired outcomes. Similar accreditation processes should be considered as part of the proposal by the UK government if the filters being considered are to be effective and creditable.

“As we understand, the proposed reforms by the UK Government would still need to pass through the Parliament if legislation is being considered, requiring further detail and debate. As we have seen here in Australia and around the world, the public typically does not take too kindly to the thought of Governments attempting to censor or control their access to the Internet,” Lee said.

“As such, there should always be as much transparency, consultation and education as possible by Governments to ensure that key stakeholders and the broader community are well informed, widely consulted and play an active role in any such proposed reforms.”

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