Liberals announce they will implement UK-style internet filter, say it was an “error” (despite selling it hours ago)

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tony abbott

UPDATE: Just less than 72 hours before the election, the Coalition quietly announced that they plan to bring in a UK-style internet filtering program – meaning that ISPs will turn on internet filters by default, though users can opt-out of the program by calling their ISPs. However, communications spokesperson Malcolm Turnbull has said that this was apparently posted in error.

“The Coalition will work with internet service providers (which provide fixed line broadband services to the home) to develop online safety standards for those services, recognising that they are very often accessed by children,” according to its original policy on online safety.

“As has recently been achieved in the UK, we expect these standards will involve the major internet service providers providing home network filters for all new home broadband services, which will be switched on as the default unless the customer specifies otherwise.”

The Coalition’s original policy document also noted that it plans to extend filtering to smartphones and mobile devices – again by default, saying that they will work with Optus, Vodafone and Telstra to do so. Users will be able to opt-out of such material by proving that they are over the age of 18.

While it is indeed different to the previous Labor proposal of having a mandatory filter in place, that was dropped late last year after Labor partnered with several ISPs – including Optus and Telstra – to implement a filter for child pornography based on a list provided by Interpol, and using powers under the controversial Section 313 of the Telecommunications Act to compel other ISPs like iiNet to follow suit.

Turnbull says that the policy, however, was uploaded as an error. Posting on Twitter, the communications spokesperson wrote: “Policy released today wrongly indicated we supported an opt out system of internet filtering. That is not our policy and never has been. Position is Coalition will encourage carriers to make software available for parents to install on own devices to protect kids.”

“In other words – no mandatory filter, no opt out filter, but support parents taking [responsibility] for their own kids’ activity online.”

However, the comments somewhat contradict the comments made by Paul Fletcher, a Liberal MP, to ZDNet Australia’s Josh Taylor. Fletcher told the site, “What we intend to do is work with the industry to arrive at an arrangement where the default is that there is a filter in the home device, the home network, that is very similar to the filters that are available today. This is very much about protecting children from inappropriate content, particularly pornography.”

“The key thing is it is an opt-out, so it will be open to the customer to call up and say, ‘look, I don’t want this’, and indeed, we will work with the industry to make this a streamlined and efficient process. The default is that you have the system turned on. You have the filter turned on, but anybody who doesn’t want it is free to have it off … irrespective if you’re a parent or not.”

Turnbull himself also defended the policy on ABC Triple J’s Hack programme hours before tweeting it was an error.

If it is indeed policy from the Coalition, it would be a massive backflip given they were against Labor’s mandatory internet filter. Under Howard, the Coalition offered free software to parents to install filters in their homes – though, it was easily circumvented. However, in anticipation of the negative response on the backflip, the Coalition said it was “empowering parents”.

Yes, empowering parents – by dragging everyone along with it.

Both the Greens and the Pirate Party have criticised Abbott’s plans to filter the internet and the timing to announce the policy within the dying days of the election campaign.

“The Liberals’ decision to release a draconian Internet censorship policy this close to an election is utterly disgraceful,” Brendan Molloy, NSW lead candidate for the Pirate Party, said in a statement posted online today. Molloy also said that the policy appears to be broader than the Labor mandatory filter, and is a waste of money.

“Opt-out filtering treats everyone like a child by default, and puts those who choose to opt-out from the Government-chosen list of acceptable websites on a list of deemed ‘undesirables’ that can be later abused. This is a reprehensible policy and we will fight it to the death,” Molloy says. “It’s simple: the Liberal policy will make censorship malware mandatory on your devices. That’s not okay.”

Senator Scott Ludlam, who is facing reelection and is the Green’s communications spokesperson, also says that it is much more broader than Labor’s mandatory filter and promises to defeat it.

“This idea is co-mingled with a large volume of unpopular policy garbage that the presumptive Prime Minister is offloading in the 40-odd hours before the election. It is indicative of the kind of Government we can expect to be subjected to on September 8. The Greens worked with the online community to defeat the Rudd filter – now Abbott has given us a taste of the contempt with which he intends to treat the entire adult population of Australia,” he said.

In the UK, their proposed filter has also been criticised for being broad enough to target innocent sites. Several authors and journalists warn that it could affect the LGBT community and adults by blocking access to health and education websites, and add that it could give a false sense of security.

“Focusing on a default on filter ignores the importance of sex and relationship education and sexual health. Worse, you are giving parents the impression that if they install Internet filters they can consider their work is done,” the group – who includes Belle de Jour writer Brooke Magnanti – wrote in an open letter.

“Simply blocking adult material by default will have three negative consequences. First, it will most likely block too much, especially as the filters will cover far more than pornography. It is likely that the filters will unintentionally block important sites related to sexual health, LGBT issues, or sex and relationship education. This will be very damaging for LGBT young people, for example, or vulnerable adults who may be cut off from important support and advice, in particular those with abusive partners who are also the Internet account holder.”

“Second, it distracts attention away from the need for consent-focused sex and relationship education and support for young people struggling with challenging issues. Third ‘one click to protect the whole family’ offers a false sense of confidence and does nothing to combat the real harms that children face, such as stalking, bullying or grooming.”

via ZDNet Australia

Join the Conversation

  • Gareth

    I would love to see internet filtering. I would like it to be easier to avoid undesirable aspects of the internet such as pornography. Don’t we realise by allowing children to stumble upon such stuff it can cause long-term chemical changes to their brain and do them damage? Pornography destroys relationships and encourages abuse. It encourages an insatiable hunger for greater levels of sex. Let’s filter it!

    • samantha

      Kids don’t ‘stumble’ across porn, they look for it. They will go to great lengths to find it, and if they can’t they’ll just go pick up a zoo magazine. Where is your proof that it destroys relationships and encourages abuse for every person? I watch porn, it has never ruined anyone of my relationships, and fairly sure it is there to stop the craving to have sex. Which it does.
      You should try it.

      • Gareth

        How can it not be abusive? It is emotionally abusive. It sends the clear msg to your partner that they cannot meet your needs sexually so you are going to instead use the internet to meet ones sexual needs. During sex your partner is left wondering if you think of her / him or fantasised about the images on the computer screen. The craving to have sex is there so we cling to our partners not the computer screen or a magazine. Kids will go to great lengths to get stuff that is not healthy for them but this does not mean we encourage them to get it. We restrict kids getting alcohol, cigarettes and buying porn magazines because we know kids brains become more easily addicted as their brain has not finished developing. I myself have found myself addicted to porn on the internet. Thankfully I have now been sober for a while. I have so much more desire for my partner. This desire motivates me to love and cherish her more. It is really hard but I would encourage you to fight the good fight and get it out of your life.

      • Anon

        ^^^ Needs to get laid.. Porn and the adult industry has been around for century’s in one form or another. It is commercial industry that has the largest following of any sites on the internet, blocking it out wont stop anyone from viewing, there are ways and means of getting around any filter. If people don’t want to look at it or are worried about there kids, install a private filter or simply stop searching for it. Why restrict something from the whole nation that isn’t illegal? We have enough policies and restrictive laws governing us everyday we don’t need anymore. Whats next, a tax on viewing sites?? Come on Australia get real…

  • rachel

    im confused about the problem.. The internet is full of rubbish and I would rather not see inappropriate stuff against my will. If you want to see this fair enough.. whats the big deal about opting out? But for people (particularly young children) who should not witness this, I think its a good idea.

  • cyril

    the sneaky posting of the liberals plan to censor the internet was quickly removed,when they reaslised what they had done
    they have the policy but didn’t want the people voting tomorrow to know about it……
    no way I’m voting for the liberals tomorrow…..

    • Rabelly

      Liberals always makes backfiring judgments – where else would the public mass knows any goods about the liberals if the internet was censored – say, a beginner voter like myself ? What, did those old farts think we should go back to books and pencils to study ?
      Everyone needs to realize that there is always a plus and minus to something. Those old freebies didn’t, unfortunately.

  • Zyzz

    Not voting for liberal. Now I dont trust EITHER of the two major parties. So much for the superior intelligence of the leaders Western Society, what a joke.

  • do tran

    was ready to vote for Liberal, now hell no. WHY do i have to waste my time calling ISP to opt out.

    Why not let the people want the filter do the #$%@#%@# calling to ISP to Opt in.

  • bangs

    makes me wonder about china !!!! and why the government thinks it knows best lol since it has fucked up everything it has ever come in contact with ! fuk off !!! information in any form is a right !!! how dare you
    try to decide what we can an can not access u fuken diktating assholes

  • Adam

    What are they going to cut to pay for this?

  • nix

    So the LNP’s expensive and slow-arse NBN will now be even slower by default, but if you don’t like the default settings you can opt out and (in doing so) potentially get put on some kind of blacklist of undesirables. Sounds awesome! Pretty dumb of them to try to sneak this one in the door at the last minute considering the people who it’s likely to really piss off are generally more tech savvy than most and will spread their dislike of the policy around the net in about 2mins!

  • Tim

    The article’s title is incredibly misleading. This filtering policy is OPT-OUT meaning if you do nothing, by default you will receive filtered content. This is what opt-out means. Opt-in implies you have to volunteer to be filtered and doing nothing will get you unfiltered internet.

  • Shaunoez

    Aww, I was all ready to vote for Liberal
    This has pushed me towards the awful Kevin Rudd.

    • luke

      if it makes you feel any better about voting for rudd, recently when discussing the death of a soldier, abbott simply stated “shit happens” live on TV. closely followed by 30 seconds of awkward silence.

      • james

        this is an awful comment. that was so long ago….and what you said was completely out of context…

      • joking

        the comment made by Abbott was to the deceased’s soldiers fellow combat veterans and not for public consumption. The media should have been respectful of a private conversation especially in these circumstances.

  • Anon

    @c129e82c1147068ecf6de71d545352e0:disqus – It’s opt-in by default meaning you take part in it by default. If you don’t want to be filtered you have to opt-out.

    • KuribosShoe

      Opt out by calling. Yay I get to be on hold and talk to machines that misunderstand me.

  • Tom

    Shouldn’t your title say “opt-out by default”?

    • M.Mike

      The default is that the filter is implemented, i.e. we are ‘opted in’ by default. Opt out would be by request

      • Doowap

        This is deliberately misleading