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Google, Yahoo slam Australia web filtering plan

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CIOL Bureau
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SYDNEY, AUSTRALIA: Fresh from halting censorship of search results in China and redirecting users to its Hong Kong-based search page, Internet giant Google says Australia's mandatory ISP filter is both unworkable and unwanted by parents.

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Agreeing with Google, Yahoo also said that the government's plans to introduce a mandatory Internet filter threaten to restrict legitimate access to information.

The federal government plan will force ISPs to filter web pages that contain refused classification-rated content based on a government blacklist, according to an Australian IT report.

Labor senator Kate Lundy, Greens communications spokesman Scott Ludlam and a host of privacy advocates and child groups say they prefer an opt-in version of the filter.

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Google's was one of 174 submissions received by the Department of Broadband, Communications and the Digital Economy, which had called for public feedback on transparency and accountability measures for the refused-classification list.

Google said parents would rather see more effort into cyber safety education than censorship.

"In considering the government's plans for mandatory ISP level filtering we have listened to many views, but most importantly those of our users," the report quoted Google's 24-page submission as saying.

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"We have talked directly with parents around Australia about their views on ISP level filtering. The strong view from parents was that the government's proposal goes too far and would take away their freedom of choice around what information they and their children can access.”

In its submission Yahoo said the filter would block many sites that contain controversial information - such as euthanasia discussion forums, safe injection information, or gay and lesbian forums that discuss sexual experiences, said an AAP report.

The filtering scheme, championed by Communications Minister Stephen Conroy, is mainly aimed at blocking child pornography web pages but Google argues that the RC category is too wide. Announced in December, it plans to block access to sites featuring material such as rape, drug use, bestiality and child sex abuse with an Internet-wide content filter administered by service providers.

Google said such a "massive undertaking" would limit network speeds, and that filtering material from popular sites such as YouTube, Facebook and Twitter appeared to "not be technologically possible".

Filtering could also give a false sense of security to parents and was easily circumvented, the company said.

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