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Web filtering system to be tested in Australia

11 Dec 2008

SYDNEY, Australia -- As reported by The New York Times: "The Australian government plans to test a nationwide Web filtering system that would force Internet service providers to block access to thousands of sites containing questionable or illegal content, prompting cries of censorship from advocacy groups.

"The proposed filter is part of a $82 million 'cybersafety plan' started in May with the goals of protecting children online and stopping adults from downloading content that is illegal to possess in Australia, like child pornography or materials related to terrorism.

"But the plan has ignited opposition from online advocacy groups and industry specialists who say it would slow browsing speeds and do little to block undesirable content.

"...The government says the list, which is not available to the public, includes only illegal content, mostly child pornography. But critics worry about the lack of transparency and say the filter could be used to block a range of morally hazy topics, like gambling or euthanasia.

"'Even if the scheme is introduced with the best of intentions, there will be enormous political pressure on the government to expand the list,' said Colin Jacobs, the vice chairman of Electronic Frontiers Australia, a technology advocacy group. 'We worry that the scope of the list would expand at a very rapid rate...'"

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