The government's proposed mandatory internet filter was extremely unpopular. So now that it's been delayed, interested parties are beginning to respond to today's announcement.
Karim Temsamani, Managing Director, Google Australia and New Zealand
We’re heartened to see Government has taken account of 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.
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.
Karim Temsamani, Managing Director, Google Australia and New Zealand on the voluntary ISP child abuse filter:
"We welcome this significant development. 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.
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."
Electronic Frontiers Australia
Electronic Frontiers Australia today welcomed the delay in the Gillard Government's internet censorship policy but expressed disappointment that it is still on track to be implemented in the Government's next term.
In an announcement today, Communications Minister Stephen Conroy indicated that the filter will be delayed until a 12-month review of the "Refused Classification" category is completed in conjunction with the states.
"While we welcome a review of the RC category, this is just tinkering around the edges of the filter's problems," said EFA Chair Colin Jacobs. "Applying a classification scheme designed for books and movies to the internet was never going to work. Altering the definition of one category won't change the fact that the government will never, ever, be able to review enough web pages to make any difference to anyone."
The Minister also announced that Australia's 3 largest ISPs will be implementing a voluntary filter targeted only at child abuse material. "The industry has been trying to engage with the Minister for a long time, and we're glad he finally decided to listen. It's still not clear who will be helped by taking the next step to a compulsory government filter," said Jacobs. The Minister also announced several measures designed to improve transparency, but indicated the blacklist would remain secret.
"The Minister had an excellent chance today to let the filter die a natural death. Instead they've left the ailing policy on life support for another year. We still urge the Government to listen to the experts, drop the filter, and focus on improving broadband access for all Australians," said Jacobs.
Government’s Refused Classification review highlights net filter flaws
Communications Minister Stephen Conroy’s announcement of a review of the Refused Classification category prior to introducing a mandatory internet filter is an acknowledgement of the deep flaws in the proposal, the Australian Greens say.
“The review of the open-ended and controversial RC category, along with enhanced transparency and accountability measures represent the first signs of acknowledgement that critics of the filter have a point,” said Greens Senator Scott Ludlam.
“The fact remains though, the Government still intends to legislate for a mandatory net censorship scheme, and these measures are seeking to take the heat out of the debate to keep this vastly unpopular scheme from boiling over during the election campaign.”
“Ultimately those seeking banned material will simply bypass the filter, and those at risk of inadvertent access would be far better served by a free and more comprehensive PC-based filtering solution.
“But today, opponents of the filter should pause to reflect on a partial win. It may have seemed as though the Minister hadn’t heard a word we have said for the past two years, but some of it is obviously getting through,” Senator Ludlam said.
David Crafti, Pirate Party Australia President
"I think the Government might be backing away from the filter policy, but are doing it in a way to save face. But we should be cautious, because for all we know, the review of refused classification could be broadened in scope.
I also think it's a bit premature to celebrate. I'd hate to think that the ALP would be elected in the thought that the filter is dead. It's likely is Labor wins the next election, they'll claim they have a real mandate to implement it."
The Sex Party:
Senator Conroy’s announcement today of a delay in the implementation of a national internet filter and a review of the guidelines of the Refused Classification (RC) category, throws Labor’s claim to a uniform national classification scheme into chaos, according to the Australian Sex Party.
The review is aimed at ostensibly shrinking the guidelines for RC material to exclude some legal acts and philosophies that are currently caught by the classification.
Sex Party spokesperson, Robbie Swan, said that while Labor was busy extending the boundaries of the RC rating at a federal level, they were ignoring the fact that state Labor governments were now jailing people for dealing in material that was below RC. “We support Senator Conroy’s review of the guidelines around RC material but how can he support an ALP censorship policy at a federal level that is illegal at a state level? Before he reviews what material may be excluded from the uppermost classification level, surely he needs to bring state laws into line with what already exists”.
Some states in Australia have online legislation that defines ‘objectionable material’ as very different from the federal RC definition and provides heavy penalties for distribution. “Senator Conroy’s move only shows that the Classification Scheme in Australia has had its back broken by the internet and is not relevant anymore”, he said. “The Australian Sex Party supports Tony Abbott’s call for a total review of the Classification Act – albeit for different reasons”.
In Sydney last month a man was sent to jail for three months for selling material that is perfectly legal to sell under Senator Conroy’s proposed filter. In all states of Australia it is illegal to sell material on and offline that is legal to view and download under Senator Conroy’s proposals.
We'll add more responses as we hear them from various industry bodies - NB