For release: Friday, November 9, 2012

The Australian Christian Lobby has said that the federal government’s announcement that it will require internet service providers (ISPs) to block a list of child abuse websites is welcome but falls well short of the internet safety commitment it gave prior to the last election.

In answer to ACL’s 2010 federal election questionnaire, the ALP committed to “introduce mandatory ISP level filtering of content that is rated Refused Classification”.

ACL Managing Director Jim Wallace said that while it was positive the government was enforcing the obligation of ISPs under the Telecommunications Act 1997 to block illegal child abuse websites on the INTERPOL list, this did not obviate the need for more widespread filtering of other harmful online content.

“Although child abuse material is the most heinous element of the Refused Classification category, it is just a part of the prohibited online content the government committed to blocking at the ISP level prior to the last election,” Mr Wallace said.

“Having ISPs block only illegal child abuse material does not meet the government’s cyber safety election commitment to mandatory ISP filtering of Refused Classification material.

“The government’s decision not to legislate to the full extent of its commitment is a great disappointment.”

Mr Wallace also said the fact that there are no reports of adverse impacts on internet speeds and congestion by the several Australian ISPs already blocking sites on the Interpol list for over a year made a nonsense of the scare campaign perpetuated by civil libertarians against ISP filtering.

It also proved that it was technically possible to block further harmful content where there was political will to do so.