Telstra and Optus this morning confirmed they would cooperate with a request from Communications Minister Stephen Conroy to voluntarily block child pornography online while the Government’s mandatory internet filtering policy is finalised.
Conroy announced the ISPs’ cooperation this morning — along with that of Primus — as part of a wide-ranging package of reforms to the filter policy, which will also see a review conducted into the Refused Classification category of content the filter would block. The review is expected to take a year to complete.
In a statement, Telstra group managing director of Public Policy & Communications David Quilty said Conroy had asked ISPs “to take a leadership position” by voluntarily blocking a list of known child pornography and abuse sites — compiled by the Australian Communications and Media Authority — while the review took place.
“Telstra is happy to do this and continue our strong industry leadership in cyber-safety,” said Quilty. However, the executive noted there was “no magic solution which will make the internet 100 percent safe”, pointing out Telstra itself had a wide range of programs to address the area.
“Educating Australian kids, parents, teachers and carers about safe and secure internet and techology use is an integral part of our business and we are determined that our customers have the tools and the knowledge to help protect themselves and their children online,” Quilty said.
A Telstra spokesperson said the company was still going through the details of how it would implement the filter, but confirmed the telco’s intention was not to mandate the filter for wholesale customers. “Really it will be at their discretion,” they said.
Optus also confirmed its participation in a separate statement.
“Over the coming months, we will work with other members of the internet industry and Government to implement this approach, which we believe will have broad industry support,” said the telco’s director of Government and Corporate Affairs Maha Krishnapillai in a statement.
“We will develop a voluntary code to focus on blocking child abuse and child pornography material, which will bring Australia into line with the voluntary filtering schemes being successfully implemented by ISPs in the UK, other parts of Europe and Canada.”
Like Telstra, Optus said there was no one solution to secure the internet.
“There is no silver bullet solution to prevent criminal behaviour on the internet,” Krishnapillai said, adding adequate policing was also important, as well as education and ensuring security software was installed on devices which connected to the internet.
The Optus executive also welcomed Conroy’s reforms this morning (which are designed to address concerns about transparency and accountability of the filter project), and said it was important that safeguards apply to the list of child abuse and pornography sites it will filter voluntarily.
“We believe it is essential to the success of this approach that the list of child abuse and child pornography sites for filtering has adequate safeguards and governance to ensure its integrity,” Krishnapillai said.