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Briefing paper shows mandatory filtering not common approach to Internet filtering

18 January, 2009
By Allison Orr

The NSW Parliamentary Library Research Service has issued an E-Brief on Internet Censorship and Mandatory Filtering, and concludes that mandatory filtering schemes are not a common feature of Internet regulation in countries reviewed.

The paper introduces the Federal Government’s proposal for a two-tiered filtering system of Internet content, one mandatory for ISPs and the other optional, and summarises some of the responses to that proposal from the Federal Opposition as well as lobby groups.

The paper then goes on to review filtering schemes in the UK, the EU, the US, New Zealand and others.  According to the authors: "With the limited exceptions of Germany and Italy, mandatory ISP level filtering is not a feature of any of the countries reviewed. In place, rather, are voluntary ISP filtering schemes designed to prevent accidental access to a defined list of illegal sites containing child pornography." 

(Furthermore, in a comment on this paper by the IIA, they argue that Italy’s decree is not law and therefore their filtering cannot be described as mandatory, and that Germany’s regulation attaches to search engine providers, not ISPs and was implemented by agreement.)  The authors do point out, however, that in some countries, the difference between being mandatory and being voluntary is not clear-cut.

In concluding, the authors point out the practical difficulties of Internet filtering: the potential impact on Internet speed and the indiscriminate blocking of innocuous material.

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