Senator the Hon Stephen Conroy
Minister for Broadband, Communications and the Digital Economy
Deputy Leader of the Government in the Senate
Minister Assisting the Prime Minister on Digital Productivity
Measures to improve safety of the internet for families
The Australian Government today announced further details of its approach to improve safety on the internet for Australian families.
The Government’s approach to cyber-safety has been informed by the Government’s trial of internet filtering and extensive industry feedback about the most appropriate way to improve safety online.
The cyber-safety measures announced today include:
- Introduction of mandatory ISP-level filtering of Refused Classification (RC) –rated content.
- A grants program to encourage the introduction of optional filtering by Internet Service Providers, to block additional content as requested by households.
- An expansion of the cyber-safety outreach program run by the Australian Communications and Media Authority and the Cyber-Safety Online Helpline – to improve education and awareness of online safety.
The Government is also introducing new transparency measures to ensure the public can have absolute confidence in the process for material being placed on the RC Content list.
The Minister for Broadband, Communications and the Digital Economy, Senator Stephen Conroy, released publicly the Enex Test Laboratory report into the pilot trial of Internet Service Provider (ISP)-level filtering.
“We welcome the constructive input of Australia’s four largest ISPs – Telstra, Optus, iiNet and Primus. These companies came forward to help inform the Government’s approach. Between them these ISPs account for more than 80% of internet users in Australia,” Senator Conroy said.
“The Government has always maintained there is no silver bullet solution to cyber-safety. That is why we have established a comprehensive range of cyber-safety measures, including funding for 91 additional online Australian Federal Police officers and education.”
“Through a combination of additional resources for education and awareness, mandatory internet filtering of RC-rated content, and optional ISP-level filtering, we have a package that balances safety for families and the benefits of the digital revolution.”
The Government will introduce legislative amendments to the Broadcasting Services Act to require all ISPs to block RC-rated material hosted on overseas servers.
RC-rated material includes child sex abuse content, bestiality, sexual violence including rape, and the detailed instruction of crime or drug use. Under the National Classification Scheme and related enforcement legislation it is already illegal to distribute, sell or make available for hire RC-rated films, computer games and publications.
This material is currently subject to take-down notices by the Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA) if it is hosted online in Australia. However, ACMA is unable to directly regulate content hosted overseas. This action is an additional measure to the existing take-down regime for Australia-hosted content.
“ISP filtering reduces the risk of Australians being inadvertently exposed to RC-rated material when they are online,” Senator Conroy said.
“The report into the pilot trial of ISP-level filtering demonstrates that blocking RC-rated material can be done with 100% accuracy and negligible impact on internet speed,” Senator Conroy said.
The RC Content list will be compiled through a public complaints mechanism.
The Government will also add the specific internet addresses (URLs) of known child abuse material through sharing lists with highly regarded international agencies after an assessment of the rigour and accountability of classification processes used by these agencies.
The Minister for Home Affairs yesterday announced a public consultation process into whether there should be an R18+ classification category for computer games. Until this process is complete, online computer games will be excluded from mandatory filtering of RC content.
The Government expects to introduce legislation during the Autumn 2010 parliamentary sittings. There will be a twelve months process of implementation after the passage of the legislation.
“The Government will immediately undertake public consultation with the release today of a discussion paper on additional measures to improve the accountability and transparency of processes that lead to RC-rated material being placed on the RC Content list,” Senator Conroy said.
Some of the options raised include the use of block pages and appeal mechanisms, notification to website owners of RC content and the review by an independent expert and report to the Parliament.
The Government will allocate funds to ACMA to enhance the security of the RC Content list and to automate its transmission to ISPs.
The Department of Broadband, Communications and the Digital Economy and ACMA will consult with ISPs on the detailed implementation of ISP-level filtering, including the updating of relevant industry Codes of Practice.
The Government will discuss with industry measures to help smaller ISPs to filter the RC Content list if they cannot access a filtered wholesale or resold service.
Additional ISP-level filtering options
ISPs will be encouraged to offer additional filtering services through the availability of Government assistance but this will not be mandatory.
For those families that wish to have a wider range of material filtered, including possibly X18+ and gambling sites, the Government will establish a grants program to encourage ISPs to offer these services on a commercial and optional basis.
“These additional filtering services will help parents to choose what they want filtered without having to download and install software to their home computers,” Senator Conroy said.
ISPs are encouraged to register online (www.dbcde.gov.au/cybersafetyplan) for participation in consultations on the technical aspects of filtering.
Education, awareness and counselling
“Funding will also be used to continue and expand education activities. These will assist parents and teachers to help children understand and deal with cyber-safety risks, including cyber-bullying,” Senator Conroy said.
“This funding will reduce waiting times for schools to participate in ACMA’s cyber-safety outreach program and increase the Cyber-Safety Online Helpline operating hours to ensure it is available when children are most at risk.”
“The Government’s comprehensive range of cyber-safety measures provides Australians with information and tools to enjoy the benefits of the internet while avoiding its pitfalls.”
The Government’s policy has been informed by the Enex Testlab live pilot report, consultation with industry and representative groups on both sides of the debate.
- Enex Testlab report.
- Frequently Asked Questions.
- ISP registration.
- Public consultation paper on measures to improve accountability and transparency of RC content listing processes.
Date: 15 December 2009
Contact: Tim Marshall 0408 258 457