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Immediately the blogosphere flooded with quips on whether Conroy means political or religious faith. Most said they had none of either.


Speaking at the annual Australian Telecommunications User Group conference, Conroy described some of this opposition as “conspiracy theories”. He ridiculed suggestions the filtering trial is “the thin edge of the wedge” ­ the beginnings of a government cracking down on political dissent.


Conroy also reiterated that the Government is clear on which content is to be filtered and how. It will attack RC (Refused Classification) content, he said, using the same rationale under which the Australia Communications and Media Authority (ACMA) already classifies content under the Broadcasting Services Act.


“We are not building the Great Wall of China,” he said. “We are going after the filth ­ like child pornography. It’s been done around the world and it can be done here.”


But despite this brave public stance, the mechanism of Internet filtering of Australian ISPs looked like a loose cannon of censorship, more likely to damage the Government than protect children.

 


ACMA last week forced ISP Bulletproof Networks, hosting the popular Whirlpool site, to pull a reference to an anti-abortion site, which ACMA had secretly blacklisted. The regulator threatened to fine the ISP up to $11,000 a day for publishing a link to one of its list of banned Internet Web pages.


The list is also, apparently, secret.


The worry is that ACMA proposes to use this list to block sites if or when the filtering system is introduced.


According to Australian IT, Whirlpool (which republished the report), pulled the reference after ACMA warned its forums page “may contain links to other Web sites that may contain ‘prohibited content’ or ‘potentially prohibited content’ “. ACMA notified Bulletproof of an “interim link-deletion notice” and gave it 24 hours to act or face the fines.
The background, according to Oz IT, is that “on January 5, “Foad”, an Internet user in Melbourne, lodged a complaint with ACMA about ‘offensive content’ on an anti-abortion Web page.
“The man said his motive was to test the system and show that Web pages not showing material connected with sexual abuse of children could end up on the blacklist,” the report said.
“Some two weeks after, the complainant received a reply from ACMA informing him it was ‘satisfied that the Internet content is hosted outside Australia, and the content is prohibited or potentially prohibited content’.”

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