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Australian Scheme to Censor Online Casinos Falters

Colin Jacobs, vice-chairman of Electronic Frontiers Australia, said that the unintended results would be the same as the failed UIGEA ban in the US.

Play Now at English Harbour! With global and local criticism rising against governments' moves to censor the Internet, Australia is facing refusal by service providers to participate in tests of filtering that may be used against online casinos.

The ruling Labor Party in Australia has proposed installing a two-tiered Internet filtering system. One tier would be mandatory for the entire country, and block online gambling and child pornography. The second level would be optional, for online customers wishing to block additional "unwanted material."

But testing by the Australian Communications and Media Authority found that the filters blocked legitimate sites while allowing the passage of sites that fit the blocked patterns, and slowed Internet speeds by almost ninety percent.

In response, Telstra, the country's largest Internet provider, said it would not participate in the trial of the system, while smaller companies agreed only to a scaled-down testing.

Further debate has raged over what is "inappropriate' and what is "unwanted." Clearly, if a site is unwanted by everyone, then there is no need to block the site. Critics fear that the sites found inappropriate by the government will become an ever-expanding list; already, the number of sites on Labor's list has grown from 1300 suggested by the ACMA to over 10,000.

Disastrous results in the United Kingdom regarding the attempted censorship over a Wikipedia page have fueled opposition to the Australian plan, with the Greens, Opposition, the Internet industry, some child welfare advocates, consumers and online rights groups all aligning themselves against the censorship. The Green Party called for the abandonment of the filtering plan, saying it was hopelessly flawed and a certain failure.

Colin Jacobs, vice-chairman of Electronic Frontiers Australia, said that the unintended results would be the same as the failed UIGEA ban in the US. "Given that the traffickers of genuine abuse material will not let themselves be slowed down by a filter and are already covering their tracks, the net result that will be achieved here is exactly this: inconvenience, chaos and expense with absolutely no dividend for the children."

Published on December 9, 2008 by TomWeston

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