Australians against government internet filter

81 percent of recent contributors to a poll asking, ‘Do you agree with Australia’s proposed internet filter?’ disagreed with the Federal Government’s plan to block specific types of online content accessed by Australian computers. On the Compare Broadband (www.comparebroadband.com.au) poll, which ended on April 12, 2010, a massive 367 out of a total 454 votes emphatically expressed that average Australian internet users are against the new internet filter the current Labor government plans on implementing in the near future.

As government is designed to represent the collective beliefs of their voting constituents, this number could be seen as quite surprising. There’s been a lot of fear about the negative effects of the internet in recent times, but it looks like Australians would rather have their personal freedom to choose what they can and cannot see, rather than have that choice taken away from them.

This view corroborates with that of recent US Government opinion, as well as that of various anti-censorship and internet groups. Internet behemoth Google recently expressed concern over the issue. ‘At Google we are concerned by the Government's plans to introduce a mandatory filtering regime for Internet Service Providers (ISP) in Australia, the first of its kind amongst Western democracies…Our primary concern is that the scope of content to be filtered is too wide.’

The proposed filter would theoretically block users from seeing offensive material like child pornography and instructions for criminal activity that originate on overseas websites. However, Google’s concern that too much content only connected to these serious issues by minute tangential threads will also be blocked, is possibly the main worry in most Australian and international internet users’ minds.

Groups like ‘No Clean Feed’ have subsequently sprung into existence to voice their opinion against the internet filter. Their website states, ‘The filter will do almost nothing to prevent the people who are wilfully making, trading, and accessing child sexual abuse material,’ and it ‘will not prevent children from accessing inappropriate material.’

No Clean Feed also believes, ‘The category of material that has been “refused classification” includes websites about euthanasia, controversial movies such as 'Ken Park' and 'Baise-moi', and many games that are designed for people over 16 years of age.’
This perception looks to be the main reason people are against the proposed filter, with the democratic notion of free speech obviously being brought into question. Numerous ISPs, State governments, and media and censorship experts have voiced an objection to the plan.

In May of 2008, the government began its $82 million dollar ‘cyber safety plan’, which includes a mandatory filter that can’t be opted out of. The government is also urging Internet Service Providers to offer a further optional service to customers that would aim to further cut out adult content of which parents may not want their children to see. However, various politicians like Labor senator Kate Lundy have stated they think the only filter option should be that of an‘opt out’ voluntary choice.