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Australia abandons mandatory Internet filter plan

Associated Press Modified: November 8, 2012 at 9:16 pm •  Published: November 8, 2012
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CANBERRA, Australia (AP) — The Australian government has abandoned its 5-year-old pledge to mandate a filter blocking child pornography and other objectionable Internet content.

Communications Minister Stephen Conroy said Friday that instead of a compulsory filter being imposed, Internet service providers have agreed to block 1,400 child abuse websites on INTERPOL's "worst of" list.

Three of Australia's largest telecommunications companies — Telstra, Optus and Primus — have been blocking the listed sites since 2010.

"We've actually reached agreement with the industry to block child pornography and we think that is a significant step forward," Conroy told Australian Broadcasting Corp. radio.

Critics had said the proposed legislated filter would have put Australia in the same censorship league as China. Even the U.S. State Department expressed concerns about the proposed regulations, which would have been some of the most restrictive among the world's democracies.

The new plan has a narrower focus on child abuse. The government's proposed compulsory nationwide filter would have also banned a regularly updated list of sites that also carried extreme violence as well as detailed instructions in crime, drug use or terrorist acts.

Opponents argued that the filter would slow Internet speeds, erroneously block harmless sites and restrict free speech.

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