Australian ISPs were likely to filter the internet against an internationally recognised list of child abuse sites by the end of the year, according to the Internet Industry Association (IIA).
Australia's largest telco Telstra last week revealed it was considering use of an Interpol blocklist as part of an internet filter it was preparing to implement across its user base.
The move could be mirrored by other ISPs as the Interpol list was integrated into a new voluntary industry code aimed at blocking child abuse material.
The move sidelined an initiative by the Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA) to maintain its own local blocklist.
IIA chief executive Peter Coroneos told iTnews that the Interpol list was chosen collectively by industry after consultation and negotiation with multiple blocklist sources, including ACMA.
"We never committed to where we would source the list," Coroneos told iTnews.
"What we did commit to was introducing a voluntary scheme that would block child pornography online."
The code, to be finished and distributed to member ISPs within weeks, would align Australian filtering standards with those established by Interpol.
Coroneos said the code would likely be applied by ISPs representing up to 90 percent of the Australian internet user base by the end of year.
ACMA would retain a role in forwarding complaints received by Australians to the Australian Federal Police, an Interpol member organisation.
"If an Australian internet user happened to find child pornography on the web and reported that to ACMA then ACMA would be bound to pass that on to Interpol and the credible agencies," Coroneos said.
"We thought that was a more appropriate approach and Interpol is comfortable with ACMA having that role. We're not trying to cut them out."
ACMA's blacklist had contained 450 web addresses deemed to contain child sexual abuse material.
The Interpol 'worst-of child abuse' blocklist was first formulated in 2009 as part of an international crackdown.
The international agency shopped the list to ISPs in October last year, including Australian providers.
The IIA-proposed program would filter whole domains where real children under or perceived to be aged under 13 were visualised as abused or in sexual contact.
The criteria of Interpol's list may conflict with local law in at least one area, as Australian law holds children as those under 18, rather than 13. Interpol had previously defended the age classification as a compromise between differences in global law and cultures.
Individual domains would have had to be active within three months of being considered and vetted by at least two policing agencies or countries for addition to the blocklist.
A generic Interpol-created block page would allow visitors to complain to the European division of Interpol about wrongly blocked domains.
Authorities would be able to summon material from ISPs relating to viewing and use of child abuse material on their networks under section 313 of the Telecommunications Act.
The Interpol blocklist has been implemented by some providers in Britain and northern Europe but was yet to be mandated by any one country for use.
The European Union had long considered mandating blocking child abuse sites for all member countries but, as of last week, had removed such provisions from proposed directives.
No Australian ISP has firmly committed to participate in a voluntary filter program announced by Communications Minister Stephen Conroy last year.
At the time, Conroy confirmed negotiations with Australia's two largest telcos Telstra and Optus, as well as Primus to filter out a list of child abuse sites.
Although Telstra and Optus had widely been reported to be implementing the filter from next month, it remained uncertain whether they would progress, amid fear of retribution from internet freedom hacktivists.
ISP Primus was reportedly uneasy about the scheme with now-deleted comments made by a representative of the ISP on the Whirlpool user forum indicating the company had "no current plans to impose the voluntary filter on July 1".
When contacted by iTnews about the issue, Primus chief executive Ravi Bhatia could not clarify the company's current position.
The Government's voluntary scheme also counted ISPs Webshield and ItXtreme among planned participants.
Support for the Government's wider, mandatory internet filtering proposal which would, under Conroy's purview, be implemented by all service providers by 2013 has flagged in recent months.
An interim report from a joint Parliamentary committee on cyber-safety reserved support for the filter proposal, while staff moves within Conroy's own broadband department had seen the branch once responsible for the program scrapped and the initiative moved to become a cyber-security, rather than cyber-safety, matter.
The Government had used the most recent budget to scrap a separate, $9.8 million incentive for ISPs to voluntarily implement their own filter programs.
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Issue: 347 | March 2016