Last year, Australia’s Communications Minister Senator Stephen Conroy welcomed a report demonstrating advances in Internet content filtering technologies.
“The Internet is a wonderful tool that is delivering benefits to increasing numbers of Australian families but the Government wants to find ways to make it safer, particularly for children. This report will assist the Government to deliver on its election commitment to create a safer online environment,” he said.
Ostensibly to protect children online, ISP filtering is just one part of the Australian government’s increasingly costly plan, but it has been roundly criticized for its projected lack of effectiveness.
Additionally there had been concerns that in trying to create a system to filter out material on the Internet, eventually such a system could be used by the “back door” to target copyright infringement issues too.
However, in March 2009 documents which appeared to be the ACMA-maintaned website blacklist leaked onto the Internet. From a list of more than 2,400 sites, just 2 torrent sites were included so maybe blocking torrent sites was never on the agenda.
Interestingly, Stephen Conroy now says that blocking or filtering P2P traffic was never a government target, even though many people were under the impression that it was.
According to a new report this morning, Senator Ludlam of the Greens said that Conroy had previously indicated that P2P filtering technology existed and would be trialled as part of the overall filtering plans.
In response and accusing Ludlam of misleading the public, yesterday Senator Conroy said, “..there has never been a suggestion by this government that peer-to-peer traffic would or could be blocked by our filter.”
Senator Ludlam said Conroy was “moving the goalposts” and that the whole filtering plan was misguided and had riled Internet users.
In reponse, Conroy’s office said that when he said P2P filtering had never been considered by the government, he was referring to “the mandatory part of the filter proposal.” ISP filtering would be an option for ISPs to consider and they could put forward their own proposals if they choose.
Blocking websites is not going to be an effective solution against the menace of child abuse. It is the individuals who operate and frequent such sites that need to be targeted and punished to the full extent of the law but due to a serious lack of funding, these misguided filtering “solutions” will always seem attractive to those who simply don’t understand how easily they are circumvented.