The association representing Australia’s internet industry today claimed that 80 to 90 percent of Australians would have their internet connections filtered for child pornography this year, following the release of an industry code in July that will focus on a blacklist of sites supplied by international policing agency Interpol.
“We anticipate that we will have ISPs representing between 80-90 percent of the Australian user base complying with the scheme this year,” said Internet Industry Association chief executive Peter Coroneos in a statement today announcing the imminent finalisation of the code. Both Telstra and Optus have already signed up to support the effort.
Neither Coroneos nor other spokespeople from the IIA have been available today to clarify which ISPs have signed up so far to block Interpol’s list of sites.
The news follows the revelation on Saturday that Telstra was close to achieving internal executive sign-off for its own proposal on filtering child pornography from its users. The news represented the first time that the Interpol blacklist had been named in public as a filter focus for ISPs.
Previously, ISPs Telstra, Optus and Primus had been proposing to filter a blacklist of sites containing child pornography developed by the Australian Communications and Media Authority. The voluntary filtering effort constitutes a limited filtering initiative agreed to by ISPs and the Federal Government in mid-2010, while a review is carried out into the Refused Classification category of content which the Government’s wider mandatory filter project is slated to block.
The Interpol list is believed to have been in use for a number of years, with telcos such as BT, O2 and Virgin having blocked addresses on it from reaching customers for some time. It believed to be a more limited list — with tighter restrictions on how sites are listed — than the ACMA blacklist.
For a site to get onto the list, it is believed that law enforcement agencies in at least two separate jurisdictions have to validate the entry and being illegal and not just objectivable. In addition, the age of children depicted through content on the sites must be younger than 13 years of age, or perceived to be less than 13.
Under the IIA’s scheme, ISPs who use the Interpol list to block access to child pornography would be doing so in accordance with what the IIA today dubbed “a legal request for assistance” under Australia’s existing Telecommunications Act (section 313). Because of this, and unlike the wider mandatory filtering scheme the IIA believes that no new legislation will be required to implement its Interpol-focused framework.
Those who attempt to access blocked sites will be directed to an Interpol page explaining why the site has been blocked, and users will not be tracked or reported under the scheme. Those who believe their site has been blocked unfairly will be able to complain to the Australian Federal Police or Interpol itself and ask for a review.
“The current role of the ACMA in receiving complaints from Australian users will continue,” the IIA said.
The IIA believes that a voluntary code focusing on Interpol will bring Australia into line with Scandinavia and Europe on prohibiting access to child pornography. “While we fundamentally maintain the internet is predominantly safe and useful, we acknowledge community and law enforcement concerns about access to illegal materials online, particularly child pornography and so we are taking these practical steps to help make a positive difference,” Coroneos said this morning.
However, it remains unclear to what extent Australia’s ISPs will actually implement the voluntary code promulgated by the IIA. The nation’s largest ISPs Telstra and Optus have already committed to filtering their traffic for child pornography, and both are now on board with the IIA’s policy.
“Optus can confirm that it will honour its commitment to block child sexual abuse material on the web,” said Optus general manager of regulatory compliance Gary Smith in a statement this afternoon. “Optus will work with the AFP to implement the Interpol ‘Worst of’ list — an approach which blocks the worst of the worst child sexual abuse material.”
“This is a safe, credible and tested approach which has been implemented in other countries with proven results. Optus will work with the IIA and other ISPs to develop a code based on the framework released today by the IIA.”
However, when asked about the issue, this morning both iiNet and Internode reiterated that they would comply with the law when it came to filtering content for their user base. “As always, Internode’s position is that it will continue to do what it is lawfully obliged to do,” a spokesperson for the ISP said. “Throughout the filtering debate, iiNet has maintained it would always cooperate with law enforcement agencies,” a spokesperson for iiNet said.
It is not clear yet whether either will support the IIA model.
Primus, which had initially signed on to support the voluntary filter in mid-2010, has made several posts on Whirlpool over the past several days (now deleted) indicating that it was still considering whether to go ahead with the proposal. Other major ISPs such as TPG have not yet responded to a request for comment.