Australia to give away porn-filtering software

Country's IT minister says $86 million allocated for free online downloads of a Web application, yet to be chosen.

The Australian government plans to spend about $86 million to provide all the country's families with free Internet pornography-blocking software.

Helen Coonan, the minister for Communications, Information Technology and the Arts, announced the initiative Wednesday. A representative of Coonan told ZDNet Australia that the first free filters should be available for download from a government portal within six months.

Helen Coonan Helen Coonan

"It puts a safer Internet experience within the grasp of every Australian family, and it is a solution to the problem posed by Internet pornography that is simple, safe, effective and free," Coonan said in a statement.

"Every parent will be able to receive a free filter for their home computer, (and) there will be child-safe terminals in libraries across Australia."

It's likely that the Australian government will covet political mileage from the initiative, with the minister's release tipping a "comprehensive national community education campaign" designed to "ensure that all Australian families are aware of the benefits of regulating their children's Internet experience by using a safe and effective computer filter."

At this stage, no specific filtering software has been selected for the initiative. The minister's representative said an accreditation process will be put in place. Internet service provider-level filtering will also be an option for customers of providers that offer it.

"Under this scheme, families will be offered a filtered service or a free filter for their home computer, either for download from a dedicated Web site or delivered to them on CD-ROM," Coonan stated. "All ISPs will also be required to offer filters to new and existing customers at no additional cost."

ISPs will be rebated if they choose to offer filtering at a service provider level.

The government's Internet safety agency, NetAlert Limited, will receive a $3.68 million funding boost and become co-located with the Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA).

Of the total spending, $68.69 million will be spent on filtering software over three year. Coonan's representative says the program will be reviewed in its third year.

According to the representative, almost no ISPs currently offer any kind of content filtering, so the government will study the feasibility of ISP-level filtering for a fourth time.

Patrick Gray of ZDNet Australia reported from Sydney.

 

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