Australian opposition spokesperson Nick Minchin has bought the government's proposed internet content filtering scheme back to the political forefront, criticising the government over its lack of transparency regarding the trials. Communications Minister Stephen Conroy originally scheduled results of the internet filtering trial to be released earlier this year. Minchin says the results are overdue and has renewed calls for the Government to scrap its plans and return to the coalition's Netalert program.
"Almost two years after coming to office with a plan to censor the internet, Senator Conroy has not even managed to release results for long overdue filtering trials," he said.
The Government's plan for content filtering will require internet service providers (ISPs) to offer a clean feed Internet service to all homes, schools and public internet access points. Under the proposed scheme, there will be one blacklist blocking access to illegal material like child pornography; and another blocking a list of material deemed unsuitable for children. Minchin told ABC Radio he doubts the controversial scheme will ever go ahead and accused the government of wasting millions of dollars.
"All [Conroy has] done is cancel the Coalition's Netalert program, put nothing in its place [and is] wasting time, money and effort on his attempts to censor the internet."
Minchin accused the trial of being unable to produce meaningful results, given that most ISPs participating in the trial are small in size. Telstra, the nation's largest ISP, refused to participate in the trial, but has offered the results of an internal ISP filtering trial for consideration.
"It is time for Senator Conroy to end this farce and produce his long overdue trial results for independent assessment," he said.
The government's plans to censor the internet have endured widespread criticism from industries across Australia and the world since they were announced last year.
Security experts have argued that blacklists are the wrong approach to internet filtering.
Scholars from the world's top universities have called the plan frightening, while others have pointed out that young people will be able to quickly spread circumvention methods across social networks. More recently, Children's rights group, Save the Children, appealed to the government to drop its plans saying the scheme does not effectively teach children how to protect themselves from online danger. The scheme has also been criticised by the web security industry.
"If the Government is going to run the filter, it has to proactively look at internet sites for malware and provide a very high level of service," Websense president, John McCormack, told Computerworld. "It's a futile attempt — unless you have an active content understanding of the system, it's not practical to filter at that volume. I think they would do better by focusing on other issues.
"I'd encourage them to talk to industry experts to understanding the realities of making that sort of system work." Conroy's office has confirmed the trial is expected to be completed this month with a report to be provided to the minister following its conclusion.