[Ars Technica] 'Net filters "required" for all Australians, no opt-out
Australians may not be able to opt out of the government's Internet filtering initiative like they were originally led to believe. Details have begun to come out about Australia's Cyber-Safety Plan, which aims to block "illegal" content from being accessed within the country, as well as pornographic material inappropriate for children. Right now, the system is in the testing stages, but network engineers are now saying that there's no way to opt out entirely from content filtering.
Australia moved forward with its plans despite widespread public outcry and began testing the system in Tasmania in February of this year. At the time, the Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA) said that the filters would be enabled by default and that consumers would have to request unfiltered connectivity if they wished to opt-out of the program.
Well, it turns out now that those promises were only partially true. Internode network engineer Mark Newton told Computerworld that users are able to opt out of the "additional material" blacklist—which targets content inappropriate for children—but not the main blacklist that filters what the Australian government determines is illegal content.
Assuming this is in fact the way the scheme is implemented in practice, it raises plenty of troubling questions. "Illegal" is a broad definition, leaving users wondering exactly what kinds of content will end up falling prey to the government's apparently mandatory filtering restrictions. Will Big Content be ringing up the Aussie government soon to have tracker sites added to the blacklist? What about sites that discuss topics like at-home bomb making, or something a little less explosive, like DVD decryption tools? And how about those sites that advise users on how to get around the filters? Will various Wikipedia pages be blocked?
Australia continues to ignore its own government-funded studies from 2006 that show ISP-level filtering to be ineffective and costly. The Australian government's disregard for those prior studies suggests that the driving force behind the current plan is more political than technical.