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ACS on Internet Filtering 1997..2008 [May. 17th, 2008|11:58 am]
Bob Bain
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According to Cnet.com

By Brett Winterford on 14 May 2008

The plan, as pitched during the Rudd Government's Election campaign, will move the emphasis from parents onto Internet Service Providers to filter "inappropriate content" from the Web surfing experience of Australians.


Australian Computer Society president Kumar Parakala responded to the plan by saying that the ACS welcomes Senator Conroy's targeted plan to create a safer online environment for Australian children.

"I think it is an excellent initiative and as the use of cyber-technology increases among young children, something like this is a necessity," he told ZDNet.com.au.

Parakala said he doesn't expect ISP filtering to create a major overhead on broadband capacity.

Flashback to 1997

Former Presidents of the ACS - Tom Worthington (left) and Philip Argy (right) image borrowed from http://www.acs.org.au/news/senate.htm

Monday 5 May 1997, Canberra - The Australian Computer Society today said the Federal Government should resist pressure to censor material available through on-line services.

In a submission to the Senate Select Committee on Community Standards’ Inquiry into Computer On-line Services, the Society called for Australians to have unrestricted access to all material available on the Internet, saying that any regulation by authorities must be consistent with that applied to off-line services.

"The ACS believes that most adult Australians should be able to read, hear and see whatever they wish, totally unimpeded," said Philip Argy, head of the Economic, Legal, and Social Implications of Computing Committee of the Society’s Community Affairs Board.

"Within that broad philosophy, we accept that the interests of minors justify controls or regulatory activity in relation to content that is likely to harm them. However, the ACS is concerned to ensure that any controls be carefully designed so that accommodation of the exception does not warp the primary principle."

While recognising the need of children to be protected from some material available on-line, the ACS believes the responsibility fall to parents to supervise their children’s use of the Internet.

"For the most part, the ACS believes the degree of community concern about the availability of objectionable material to minors through on-line services is exaggerated. However, those people who find some of the material available through on-line services distasteful can make the choice not to view such material. And if they wish their children to find it equally distasteful, they should bring them up with a set of standards that will achieve that result," said Mr Argy.


The ACS is also critical of recent moves to hold service providers liable for objectionable material, saying they should not be held responsible in that capacity for the content of what they carry.

"This is a burden analogous to making Telstra responsible for preventing swearing in telephone conversations. It is both unreasonable and unrealistic," he said.

The Submission pointed out that people using the Internet have to make a conscious decision to view illicit or objectionable material and it is at that point that regulation is possible.


Mr Argy said the ACS opposed any requirement that Australian access providers filter out data packets from addresses on some refused access list, pointing to the recent problems experienced in Germany where authorities attempted to censor material available through CompuServe.

"We are greatly concerned at recent moves to indict an executive of CompuServe’s agent in Germany for failure to censor material. This is highly likely to lead not only to Germans being deprived of access to large amounts of material, but potentially all CompuServe users along with them," he said.


Phil Argy, Head of the Economic, Legal and Social Implications of Computing Committee of the ACS Community Affairs Board (1997)

Tom Worthington, ACS President (1997)

Link to the Economic Legal and Social Implications Committee Web Page (2008)