Google, Yahoo Object to Australia’s Plan for Internet Filtering – WSJ

Google, Yahoo Object to Australia’s Plan for Internet Filtering – WSJ

By Jennifer Valentino-DeVries, 23.03.2010

Google and other tech giants are making waves today over Internet censorship in a place people might not expect — Australia.

The Sydney Morning Herald reports that Google, Yahoo and others ‘delivered a withering critique’ of government plans to force Internet service providers to block certain content.

The Australian government has been putting its censorship plans in place for more than a year now. And it plans to introduce legislation this year that will require that ISPs use filters to block content such as child sex abuse, bestiality, detailed instruction in crime or anything advocating terrorism, according to Australia’s Department of Broadband, Communications and the Digital Economy.

In its response to the plan, Google said its ‘primary concern is that the scope of content to be filtered is too wide.’ Although the company said it already has a global ban on all child pornography, it said that it also has a ‘bias in favor of people’s right to free expression.’

The company’s objections don’t end with its free-speech concerns; it says that such large-scale filtering ‘appears to not be technologically possible’ and would ‘negatively impact user-access speeds’ in a serious way.

Yahoo expressed similar misgivings about ISP-level filtering, pointing out that the proposed rules could block content such as anti-abortion Web sites, sites that advocate safe drug injection and Gay forums that discuss sexual experiences. ‘Clearly some of this content is controversial and, depending on one’s political beliefs, rather offensive,’ the company wrote, but it added that there was ‘enormous value in this content being available to encourage debate.’

In some other democracies, such as Canada and the U.K., content is filtered at an ISP level, Australia has pointed out. But Google argues that in these countries, the filtering applies only to child pornography.

The Australian government, which had solicited input on the plan, posted comments from the Internet giants and others online and told the Herald that there would be more consultations with ISPs.

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