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Friday, 09 July 2010 14:31

Google on the filter: We told you so

By

Search giant Google has welcomed government's planned review of Refused Classification category guidelines for internet content, but says the proposed mandatory internet filtering plan is still a bad idea.


Google Australia managing director Karim Temsamani said interim filtering measures announced today by Communications Minister Stephen Conroy - which create a voluntary scheme with the scope of prohibited content narrowed to child abuse material - was both "welcome and appropriate."

After months of wrangling with Senator Conroy over a Federal Government request that it voluntarily implement the filter within its high-volume sites like YouTube, Google is claiming a cautious victory in the bitter filter debate.

Temsamani makes clear the search giant's preference for the industry being allowed to police its own content rather than being forced to implement a government-mandated scheme.

"While we're yet to see full details, a voluntary proposal by ISPs, limited to child abuse material, is consistent with the approach taken in many of Australia's peer countries worldwide," Temsamani said in the statement.

"We support industry efforts to tackle child abuse material online. For our part we have a global all-product ban against child porn, which is illegal in virtually every country. We remove this material and report it to the authorities as appropriate."

Relations between Google and Senator Conroy office have been testy since the company declined publicly to help government implement the filtering scheme, saying its own corporate guidelines were a sufficient safeguard.

For the months Google and Senator Conroy have traded barbs, most recently with the Minister yesterday declaring "big internet companies" - a likely reference to favoured targets Google and Facebook - could not be trusted because they were driven solely by the profit motive.

For its part, Google has marshaled the considerable resources of the US Government - through the State Department - to apply direct pressure on Australia to abandon its filter plans. Most recently US Ambassador Jeffrey Bleich told ABC television an internet filter risked stifling innovation and would be a threat to free speech.

Google's Temsamani said he was "heartened" that government had taken into account the "genuine concerns expressed by many on the Refused Classification category."

"While our position on the Government's proposed filter has not changed, we welcome the recommendation to conduct a review of the RC classification and we look forward to the opportunity to provide input," he said.

"Our primary concern has always been that the scope of the proposed filter is far too broad. It goes way beyond child sexual abuse material and would block access to important online information for all Australians."

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