Förderverein Informationstechnik und Gesellschaft

Australien: mandatory client-side filtering.

Users pay for censorship in ISP code By SIMON HAYES


A NEW code of conduct for Internet service providers was unveiled yesterday, forcing customers to pay for their own censorship.

The code, written by the Internet Industry Association (IIA), does not require ISPs to block inappropriate content at the server end.

Instead, it supports client-side filters and the use of Net-nanny style software for users.

IIA executive director Peter Coroneos predicted the software would cost only $5 per customer when bulk discounts were applied.

"While that's a lot for a small ISP, it is insignificant for the user," he said.

The code, launched in the aftermath of Federal Government legislation to control the Internet, requires ISPs to obtain from users a guarantee they are using client-side filtering.

Those without a filter must be provided with appropriate software, with the cost passed on to the customer by the ISP.

The IIA will add a list of approved filters to the code after an independent study.

"It's only the shonks and cowboys who will have a problem," IIA executive director Peter Coroneos said.

"The code gives our membership a lot of confidence."

The draft code is open for comment until September 30, after which it must be registered by the Australian Broadcasting Authority (ABA) before it can come into effect, along with federal legislation, on January 1.

IT Minister Richard Alston had not seen the code and would not comment, his office said.

The federal legislation requires that the Internet industry adopt a code of conduct.

Censorship provisions in the code will have the force of law, once ratified by the ABA.

ISPs that sign the code will be bound by other provisions, including rules on privacy, dispute resolution and spamming.

The code relieves ISPs of any role in censorship apart from providing access to the client-side software and reacting to ABA notices to pull down a site.

Mr Coroneos said rules governing content-hosting required the host to remove content under their control when told to do so by the ABA.

The ISP must then warn the publisher they have breached the code and, possibly, the law.

The Internet access of repeat offenders must be terminated.

Mr Coroneos said the burden on ISPs would be lightened as pornographic content moved overseas.

"Because the Government has made it illegal to host prohibited content in Australia, most will move offshore," he said. "There will be few calls to remove content."

Mr Coroneos said ISPs would ignore the code at their peril.

But many people in the Internet industry opposed regulation, he said.

Civil liberties group Electronic Frontiers Australia welcomed client-side filtering, as outlined in the code.

"We still have concerns that some people will be intimidated into this," EFA executive director Darce Cassidy said.

The code was "a whole lot less draconian" than expected, but still objectionable, he said.

ISOC-AU (Internet Society of Australia) director Leni Mayo expressed concern that costs would hurt smaller ISPs, but added the the code had attempted to address real issues.

"We accept that there are concerns in the community, but we are basically anti-censorship," he said.

OzEmail spokesman Michael Ward said the code gave both ISPs and customers greater certainty.

He welcomed the censorship provisions. "We'll never support mandatory filtering, but it's a good compromise," he said. It's a sensible path between rhetoric and reality."