Internet content filtering a waste of money: child groups

Several child protection groups have issued a joint statement opposing the government's proposed Internet filtering scheme

Children’s rights group Save the Children has appealed to the Labor Government to drop its controversial plans for a mandatory Internet filter, saying the scheme does not effectively teach children how to protect themselves from online danger.

The group issued a joint statement with other civil rights organisations, including the National Children's and Youth Law Centre and Civil Liberties Australia, voicing concern over the government's $125.8 million cyber-safety plan, announced October 2008.

The government’s plan for content filtering will require Internet Service Providers (ISPs) to offer a clean feed Internet service to all homes, schools and public Internet access points.

Under the proposed scheme there will be one blacklist blocking access to illegal material like child pornography; and another blocking a list of material deemed unsuitable for children.

The statement says the proposed Internet filter does not “effectively prevent the distribution of material refused classification under laws that properly respect free speech.”

“The proposed filter fails to meet the test of an effective child protection measure that respects the rights of children. Mandatory internet filtering curtails our human rights without offering any effective protection for children.”

The lobby groups argue that the mandatory Internet filter will be easily circumvented by people with a basic understanding of IT and that the millions of dollars proposed will be better spent on the prevention of child abuse.

Save the Children spokesperson Annie Pettit said the focus is on supporting children and young people to be active citizens and make choices for themselves, "so we strongly support the education of children and young people on how to use the internet safely".

“The introduction of this style of filter doesn’t address child protection issues," Pettit said. "If we’re talking about the abuse of children through the production child pornography, the introduction of limited access to a broad range of Web sites is not going to actually address the issue of child abuse in that context."

"We’d be better off spending money on providing police with additional resources to protect children.”

Lobby group GetUp! also supported the statement and has already started television advertising in a bid to drum up public opposition to the filter.

Since May six ISPs - Netforce, Tech 2U, Highway 1, Primus Telecommunications and OMNIConnect - have been involved in the government’s Internet filter trial and a report on the outcomes is expected to be released this month.

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