Telstra, Australia’s largest telecoms firm, has just started filtering its internet traffic implementing a blacklist of sites compiled by Interpol, the international policing organization. This will block access by its users to a list of websites Interpol identify as containing child pornography. This is the first publicly applied voluntary filter in Australia and it is anticipated that other ISPs will adopt it later this year.
Users who try to hit a blacklisted site will encounter an Interpol ‘Stop’ page explaining the content contained on the page is illegal, and with advice to challenge Interpol’s blacklisting. This allows site owner to request a review of the site if they dispute its blacklisting. The blacklist was initially constructed in 2009.
Sites added to this list must have been stipulated as illegal, and containing images of children who either are or can be perceived as under 13, by law enforcement agencies in two or more jurisdictions. It is thought that some ISPs in other countries have been using the Interpol blacklist to block customers from using illegal sites. For some time the European Union has debated enforcing the mandatory implementation of this list by member countries, but has stepped back from this position at present.
The implementation of this blacklist is considered controversial by some, and in Aus was almost derailed, due to concerns about reprisal attacks from hackers and hacktivists who believe any filtering of the internet is a breach of their civil liberties. There are concerns too about the age defined in the list since in some areas a child is defined as under 18 years.
The internet has historically been based on openness and a shared ethos, and the Chinese model of restricting content delivered to those within its borders is seen as diametrically opposed to this openness and an infringement of fundamental liberties.
So, what is your view: should the internet be completely open and unfiltered? Should governments be dictating to their people the nature of content they can recieve, or is this the thin end of the wedge? On the other hand, should we make every conceivable effort to protect our children from abuse by closing down the market and network of people exchanging abusive material?
What do you think?