news National mobile carrier Vodafone yesterday confirmed it was currently looking at technology solutions which would enable it in 2012 to implement the limited Internet filtering scheme promulgated in Australia by the Australian Federal Police in cooperation with international policing agency Interpol.
The initiative was proposed by the Internet Industry Association in late July this year, as a voluntary code of practice that would see ISPs block a list of a “worst of the worst” list of child pornography sites generated by Interpol and overseen by the AFP. It has been seen as a more moderate industry approach developed in reaction to the Federal Government’s much more comprehensive filter scheme.
Only three ISPs are known to have signed up to the scheme so far, which has largely moved from the IIA’s remit. It now appears that the scheme is primarily overseen by the AFP directly, with the IIA unaware of which ISPs have signed up to the scheme.
“Vodafone supports the development of the new ISP code, which will help guide the mobile internet industry in appropriately dealing with illegal content,” a spokesperson for the company said yesterday. “We’re currently looking at solutions and I would say that it is in the pipeline for 2012.”
The mechanism for ISPs to implement the scheme is that ISPs speak to the AFP directly about it. Following their pre-consent, the AFP will then issue them with a notice under section 313 of the Telecommunications Act which requires them to filter certain content from reaching their users. Last week, the AFP revealed in a delayed response to a Senate Estimates question in October that two more ISPs had signed up to implement the scheme, to make a total of five.
It remains unclear who the remaining two ISPs who have signed up to the filter, however, Vodafone is not one of them.
The telco yesterday confirmed it had had discussions with the AFP, and that it would “willingly cooperate” with law enforcement agency requests — “including responding to requests under section 313”. However, a spokesperson for the telco later clarified that it had not yet received a Section 313 notice from the AFP with respect to the filtering scheme yet — it is expected that when Vodafone’s filtering system is ready, the AFP will issue such a notice to it.
Vodafone’s support for the Interpol filter may not come as a surprise. In July, as Telstra and Optus implemented their filters, Vodafone noted it supported the Internet filtering framework which had been developed by the IIA. “VHA (Vodafone) supports the development of the new Internet Industry Association (IIA) ISP code, which will help guide the mobile internet industry in appropriately dealing with illegal content,” a spokesperson for the telco said at the time.
However, at that stage, Vodafone hadn’t committed to actually implementing the filter.
The AFP has declined to reveal which ISPs had signed up to implement the scheme, stating that as it was voluntary for ISPs, it was up to the ISPs themselves to announce their participation in the trial. However, participation in the trial is not voluntary for customers of ISPs, whose Internet connections will be filtered without their knowledge.
Some civil libertarians have raised the issue of scope creep and whether the section 313 process could be used by the AFP to request that other forms of content illegal in Australia — such as detailed instruction in crime or even information about euthanasia — to also be blacklisted by the AFP. It has been speculated that this could lead to a defacto scheme similar to the Federal Government’s more comprehensive filter scheme, which does not currently have the parliamentary support to become law — although it remains Labor policy.