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NetAlert a failure, Government commits to ISP-filtering

27 February, 2008
By Allison Orr

According to the Sydney Morning Herald, the Rudd Government has branded the previous government’s software filter scheme a failure after only 144,088 households downloaded or ordered the software, far fewer than the expected 1.4 million households.  The Department of Broadband, Communications and the Digital Economy estimates that only about 29,000 of those were still in use.

Said Senator Conroy, Minister for Broadband, Communications and the Digital Economy, in the Senate Estimates Committee,  "… it has clearly failed in its objective."  Followed by "Let’s be clear: spending $22 million to achieve 30,000 filters when the claim was—and I have corrected this—1.4 million filters were anticipated would suggest that the program has been less than successful in achieving its objective. It is an objective that, as you know, I support, but there are perhaps more efficient ways to achieve the objective that we have debated over some considerable period."

The Labor Government believes that mandatory ISP-level filtering is a more efficient way to achieve the objectives of Internet safety, and the government’s commitment to this practice was confirmed in the Senate Estimates Committee.

The committee was told that testing is currently taking place on this kind of filtering, and that the ACMA is looking to expand the blacklist, which currently lists only 800 websites.  The list will be expanding by drawing on experience from around the world, and as an example, the BT Cleanfeed system in Scandinavia was cited, which is regularly updated and has about 1500 URLs on their list at any one time but over the course of any month those URLs would turn over, so the list changes very rapidly.

More detailed information:
Full transcripts of the Estimates from the Standing Committee on the Environment, Communication and the Arts from 18 Feburary 2008. 
Also, Senate estimates hearings are broadcast live over the Internet at www.aph.gov.au/live.

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