Xenophon speaks out against Internet content filtering

South Australian independent senator raises concerns and says there are better ways to spend the money

Independent South Australian senator, Nick Xenophon, has spoken out against the Government’s Internet content filtering plan saying “there are better ways to deal with the problem”.

Xenophon told ARN he had serious concerns about the ability of the Government’s proposed filter – currently in trial by six ISPs – to block harmful content.

“My concern has always been about online gambling, but it is not access to the content that causes harm, it is the access to your credit card details,” he said.

“From what I have seen so far, I have some serious concerns that it is not going to stop what the Government is hoping. It won’t stop peer-to-peer pedophile networks. There is a strong argument the money could be better spent in tracking down those. I also think parents should supervise computers.”

The national clean feed Internet scheme, part of the government's $128 million Plan for Cyber Safety, will impose national content filtering for all Internet connections and will block Web pages detailed in a blacklist operated by the Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA).

The senator was unwilling to say whether or not he would support content filtering if the Government’s trial produced workable results but said he would be monitoring the outcome.

“I think the Government’s intentions are good but I don’t think it will achieve what it was meant to achieve.

“The other broader issue is it could make the Internet unusable for the great majority of Australians who use it responsibly. Do you punish everyone for the actions of a few when you could target those few in a much better way?”

The ISPs involved in the first phase of the live pilot are: Primus Telecommunications, Tech 2U, Webshield, OMNIconnect, Netforce and Highway 1, who have thrown their support behind the capabilities of filtering technology. The pilot will involve six weeks of testing once filtering equipment has been installed.

Enex Testlab has been contracted to run the pilot, but no specific starting dates have been announced.

Minister for Broadband, Communications and the Digital Economy, Senator Conroy, has previously said the government is aware of technical concerns about ISP filtering, and will look at the efficiency and effectiveness of a range of technical solutions, as well as other issues such as ease of circumvention, impact on Internet speeds and user experience.

Conroy’s shadow, Senator Nick Minchin, has also criticised the trials.

The government's Internet content filtering scheme has split opinions with opponents hitting the streets in a series of protests and supporters calling for the public not to pre-judge the capabilities of the content filters until results are available from the trials.

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