Two major internet companies, Google and Yahoo, have criticised
the mandatory internet filtering system planned by the Australian government,
calling it a heavy-handed and reactionary move which will have a negative
impact on that country’s internet performance.
The filter will be applied to all Australian ISPs, requiring
them to block sites on a government-created blacklist. The move is aimed primarily
at child pornography, but internet and civil liberties groups claim the criteria
applied are too broad and open to abuse.
In submissions to the federal government on the filtering
policy, Google says it has listened to the views of many groups, particularly
its own users. The strong view from parents was that the Government's proposal
goes too far and would take away their freedom of choice around what
information they and their children can access.
“Our primary concern is that the scope of content to be
filtered is too wide,” Google’s submission said. “At Google we have a bias in
favour of people's right to free expression. While we recognise that protecting
the free exchange of ideas and information cannot be without some limits, we
believe that more information generally means more choice, more freedom and
ultimately more power for the individual.
“Some limits, like child pornography, are obvious. No
Australian wants that to be available – and we agree. Google, like many other internet companies, has a global, all-product ban against child sexual abuse
material, which is illegal in almost every country, and we filter out this
content from our search results and remove it from our products. But moving to
a mandatory ISP level filtering regime with a scope that goes well beyond such
material is heavy-handed and can raise genuine questions about restrictions on
access to information.
“Another key concern is that the implementation of a
mandatory filtering regime – across all of Australia's hundreds of ISPs,
millions of internet users, and billions of web pages accessed – is a massive
undertaking which could negatively impact user access speeds. Furthermore, the
filtering of material from high-volume sites (for example Wikipedia, YouTube,
Facebook, and Twitter) appears to not be technologically possible, as it would
have such a serious impact on internet access.”
Yahoo says mandatory filtering of all Refused Classification (RC) material
could block content with a strong social, political and/or educational value
- Safe injecting and other harm minimisation websites,
- Euthanasia discussion forums,
- A video on creating graffiti art,
- Anti-abortion websites,
- Gay and lesbian forums which discuss sexual experiences,
- Explorations of the geo-political causes of terrorism where specific
terrorist organisation, and propaganda is cited as reference material.
depending on one’s political beliefs, rather offensive,” Yahoo said “However we
maintain that there is enormous value in this content being available to
encourage debate and inform opinion. Furthermore, the existing classification
regime has developed in a piecemeal and reactionary manner with little regard
to or basis upon empirical evidence around public attitudes or expert studies
into how consumers interact with media, and particularly digital media.
which only blocks URLs will not address the threat of children being approached
by predators in chat rooms, through Instant Messaging software, or within
social media applications. In addition, the dissemination of illegal images of
children through peer to peer file sharing networks will also be left untouched
by the Government’s current filtering proposal.”
A date has
yet to be set for the legislation concerning filtering to be introduced to
parliament. All the submissions can be read here.
has just introduced a voluntary filtering system which has yet to be adopted by
any major ISPs.