Page last updated at 10:19 GMT, Tuesday, 15 December 2009

Australia introduces web filters

Keyboard and mouse - Science Photo Library
Some internet users are deeply opposed to web "censorship"

Australia intends to introduce filters which will ban access to websites containing criminal content.

The banned sites will be selected by an independent classification body guided by complaints from the public, said Communications Minister Stephen Conroy.

A seven month trial in conjunction with ISPs found the technology behind the filter to be 100% effective.

However, that claim has been questioned and there has been opposition from some internet users.

Twitter users have been voicing their disapproval by adding the search tag "nocleanfeed" to their comments about the plans.

"Successful technology isn't necessarily successful policy," said Colin Jacobs, a spokesperson for Electronic Frontiers Australia, a non-profit organisation that campaigns for online freedom.

"We're yet to hear a sensible explanation of what this policy is for, who it will help, and why it is worth spending so much taxpayers' money on."

Mr Conroy said the filters included optional extras such as a ban on gambling sites which ISPs could choose to implement in exchange for a grant.

"Through a combination of additional resources for education and awareness, mandatory internet filtering of RC (refused classification)-rated content, and optional ISP-level filtering, we have a package that balances safety for families and the benefits of the digital revolution," he said.

The filter laws will be introduced in parliament in August 2010 and will take a year to implement.

'noble aims'

"Historical attempts to put filters in place have been effective up to a point," Dr Windsor Holden, principal analyst at Juniper Research, told BBC News.

The "noble aims" of the filter could be lost in its implementation, he warned.

"Clearly there is a need to protect younger and more vulnerable users of the net, but one concern is that it won't just be illegal websites that will be blocked," he added.

"You have to take extreme caution in how these things are rolled out and the uses to which they're put."

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