Budget explains Internet censorship plan, a bit

The vagueness of the Labor government’s planned kid-friendly “clean feed” Internet become a tiny bit less vague last night. The Federal Budget dumped Howard’s NetAlert scheme and replaced it with a $125.8 million Cyber-safety Plan.

Budget Paper No. 2 says there’ll be “a range of initiatives to combat online threats and protect children from inappropriate material on the internet.” There will be ISP-level filtering of “an expanded Australian Communications and Media Authority blacklist” — which presumably means the already-illegal material such as child pornography — plus an “examination of options to allow families to exclude other unwanted content”.

To me, this implies that families will be in control of their Internet filtering, and it’ll be opt-in. As it should be. Presumably this will become clearer once the “options” are “examined”.

The plan includes other measures “such as”:

  • an education program for teachers and the community
  • a Youth Advisory Group to assist the Government to formulate age-appropriate measures to
    protect children
  • an expanded Consultative Working Group focussed on cyber-safety issues,
  • a dedicated website for children
  • research projects on cyber-safety issues

ISPs will get a one-off subsidy in 2009-10 to install the filters, with funding in following years only for new providers. The Australian Federal Police and the Director of Public Prosecutions continue to get their funding to combat child sexual exploitation. Again, as they should.

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7 comments

  1. bernard’s avatar

    How about funding the DPP and AFP to combat spam?

    These figures may be only from one large (non-Australian) ISP, but in recent months their filters knocked back a minimum of 85% and a max of 99% of the delivery requests they received.

    Get rid of that, and our bandwidth costs would plummet.

  2. Stephen Stockwell’s avatar

    Hear, hear!

    And isn’t it a bit sus ramping up these ISP-level filters along roughly the same timeline as the broadband rollout? I mean, are the government hoping the extra speed gained by fibre-to-the-node will mean we won’t notice the slump incurred by the net nanny?

  3. Michael Meloni’s avatar

    Stephen: Maybe it’s a case of ‘Hey, we’ve given you heaps fast interwebs, now you owe US one. Let us filter it.’ Some folks may just be so overwhelmed with their faster Underbelly downloads that they don’t give two craps. (Ah well that is until MIPI wants file sharing filtered… but that’s another can)

  4. Alex Willemyns’s avatar

    Wayne Swan: “This money is not ours, it belongs to the Australian people.”
    Heckler: “Well, give it back then!”

    (My favorite part of the budget.)

  5. Anastasia’s avatar

    As a parent, I think it’s an incredible waste of funds, and as an almost former drone of a major telco, I think subsidies for ISPs are amusing, considering certain CEO’s receive 6 million dollar bonuses a year on top of their inflated salaries. The bureaucratic processes within large companies costs money and take up time that can be spent elsewhere. I think some funds can be used to improve departments like DOCS. I agree with law enforcement receiving funds to investigate Internet crime, but a filter is over the top.

    Parents need to take some responsibility and take control of their children’s internet usage to begin with. Personally, I’m fed up with whining parents that make out like the internet is some sort of separate entity that is out to brainwash their children, like some sort of demon or monster. It’s quite easy to solve the problem of children/teens and internet usage (and possible access to adult content — which is what this filter is about, to create some form of porn hysteria): parents shouldn’t buy them laptops and give them wireless internet, and they can always monitor usage.

    I can’t say that I like the idea of opting in, enforced censorship (with the option of opting in), which is what a filter is, would enable ISP’s to gather data relating to people opting in, and then it blur the concept of privacy. The UK is experiencing a similar debate on a filter, which enables data collection.

  6. Stilgherrian’s avatar

    @bernard: I will assume that my irony detector is working correctly and that your suggestion for the AFP and the DPP to chase spam is a joke. But… While spam is certainly irritating, it’s not a particularly serious crime in itself — although the phishing and other scams transmitted by spare are crimes.

    Your figures for the percentage of email traffic which is spam is typical. My business Prussia.Net‘s email server rejects around 70% of all inbound email connections as being from known spam sources, and roughly 70% of what is then delivered ends up being spam. However this isn’t the major use of Internet bandwidth: BitTorrent is.

    @Stephen Stockwell: Nah, I don’t think there’s any connection between the broadband rollout and the filtering. They just happen to be election promises which are both being implemented.

    @Anastasia: You’ll find that I’ve previously written a lot about censorship in the articles so tagged. One of the makes the point, from John Birmingham, that filtering the Internet is expecting the government to do people’s babysitting for them.

    The wording in the Budget is significantly less worrying than Senator Conroy’s mouthings-off last year.

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