As reported last fall on TLP, Australian regulators are preparing to instutite national Internet filtering. And many Australians, including civil-rights activists, engineers, Internet providers and politicians from opposition parties, are increasing their protests against the plan. Hundreds of free-speech supporters rallied in each of Australian’s state capitals in recent weeks to protest the plan, which they assail as blatant censorship.

The Australian govenrnment plans to filter out an estimated 1,300 Web sites that are known to contravene Australian laws, most involving child pornography, excessive violence; providing instructions on how to commit crimes, use illicit drugs; or advocating terrorism.

One thing that has free speech advocates up in arms is that the list of sites to be banned has not been made poublic and is not subject to review by any independent authority.

Protest organizer Justin Smith of Melbourne warns that secrecy could allow politicians or political parties to use the filtering scheme to further their own agendas.

“I think the money would be better spent in investing in law enforcement and targeting producers of child porn,” Smith told the Associated Press.

Internet service providers (ISPs) caution that filtering could make browsing much slower for Australian users — up to 86 per cent slower, in fact. ISPs also express doubts that filtering all achieve its intended goal of making the Net safer for Australians. They point out that the best filtering systems currently available can boast only a mediochre accuracy rate.

The Australian government has earmarked (A)$45 million for the filtering plan, which in turn is just one aspect of a planned overall Internet safety program expected to cost more than (A)$128 million.

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