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Australian government plans Internet censorship

The government in Australia is proposing to introduce compulsory blocks on certain websites for everyone accessing the Internet from inside the country, and to trial these filters before the end of the year.

Stephen Conroy, the communications minister, said in a Senate hearing in late October that the government proposes a two-tier system of restrictions as part of its Aus$44.2 million (US$29.8 million) cyber-safety plan. The first tier of filters would be compulsory, and would force all Internet service providers to block Australians' access to illegal websites, including overseas online gambling sites, according to a report in the Sydney Morning Herald. A second tier is planned as an optional set of additional filters that would make it impossible to access material deemed unsuitable for children.

Religious organizations such as the Australian Christian Lobby support the proposals. But critics worry about the ease with which the government might exand the list of blocked sites. They claim that access will not be effectively cut off to illegal content such as child pornography because peer-to-peer file-sharing networks will remain unimpeded. The System Administrators Guild of Australia says the planned filters will increase the price and reduce the speed of Internet access.

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Australian government plans Internet censorship. Nature 456, 14 (2008).

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