Mandatory ISP-level filter won't lift cyber safety

Facebook, Yahoo!7, Microsoft, ninemsn say a mandatory ISP-level filter will have minimal effect on lifting children's cyber safety

The Federal Government’s proposed mandatory Internet Service Provider (ISP) filter has been dealt another blow with some of the internet’s largest companies arguing the technology alone will not increase the cyber safety of young Australians.

Read more on the government’s proposed ISP-level filter

Speaking at a joint committee hearing into cyber safety, Jennifer Duxbury, Compliance, Regulatory and Corporate Affairs Director at ninemsn, said the mandatory ISP-level filter would not aid cyber safety.

“The government’s proposed response to the issue [of cyber safety] — that is the mandatory filter — our view would be that the decision was made very quickly and we believe it would be good to see the possibility of a voluntary program explored before we have to move to a regulatory response,” she said.

According to Duxley, the experience of other countries, particularly the UK, had shown that a voluntary ISP filter can achieve positive results.

Yahoo!7 legal and policy director, Samantha York, also stressed the use of a voluntary ISP filter and noted the Internet Industry Association’s development of a voluntary ISP code of conduct.

“The government’s policy was broader in scope than just focusing on child abuse images and the breadth of scope was something that was of concern for us at Yahoo!7,” she said.

“We also felt imposing a filter through legislation might have been a bit pre-emptive in terms of trying to seek a collaborative process with industry more broadly before taking that step.”

Microsoft Australia chief security advisor, Stuart Strathdee, said the reliance on a single method of protection was problematic.

“I’d highlight the difficulties in selecting a single technology to try to implement that style of protection,” he said.

“I think this issue is a challenging one and we need to look more broadly at a combination of technologies and education to combat it. One technology isn’t going to be the solution.

“A key consideration, even in voluntary filters, is complacency. If a technology is introduced people over a very short period of time believe they are protected and don’t have to worry any further.”

Also commenting on the mandatory ISP-level filter, Facebook chief privacy adviser, Mozelle Thompson, said education was the solution to the issue of cyber safety.

“I’d hate to publicly give the impression that there is one quick solution for inappropriate content, because there isn’t; and that is one of the challenges,” he said.

“The idea of making a collective group of people, including parents and business and government working together to try to make the internet a safer place is important.

“I also think being able to educate kids [and parents] about the power they have to see and what they participate in is going to be more and more important as we get into distributed internet.”

In January, Prime Minister Julia Gillard said the Federal Government’s mandatory ISP-level filter was still on the agenda, despite industry and public backlash against the proposal through much of 2010.

At the time, Gillard said the government had “worked through” with ISPs on a system that would meet its stated policy objectives while not slowing internet speeds.

Follow Tim Lohman on Twitter: @tlohman

Follow Computerworld Australia on Twitter: @ComputerworldAU

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