Australia backs down on Internet porn filter plan, while Egypt pushes ahead

Filtering the Internet to stop potentially harmful or illegal material from reaching the general population is a controversial subject, and one that has received considerable attention this year after the UK appeared to be edging ever closer to implementing such a scheme.

Other countries have been considering filtering Internet content too, and it so happens that today, Australia has decided not to go ahead with a mandatory filter, while Egypt has done the complete opposite.

We’ll start in Australia, where an all-encompassing Internet filter was put forward in 2007, but the plan stagnated for several years. Today, Australia’s Communications Minister has announced the government will no longer pursue its “mandatory filtering legislation,” but will instead use a list created by Interpol to block the worst offenders.

According to The Sydney Morning Herald, the major Internet providers have agreed to this, and it will see 90-percent of Internet subscribers without access to those sites featured by Interpol. Initially, the mandatory filter would have blocked sites with illegal sexual practices, sexual violence, drug use and those which “advocated terrorist activity.” The communications regulator would have also populated the list with sites about which it had received complaints.

Of course, not everyone is happy about the decision. A spokesperson for the Australian Christian Lobby said an Internet filter was needed to “protect our children from forming unhealthy attitudes towards women and sex.”

Egypt backs Web filter scheme

On that note, we’ll turn our attention to Egypt, where it’s a very different story. Following a series of demonstrations from a group by the name of Pure Net, the government has ordered a filter be introduced to ban pornographic websites. Like Australia, such a scheme had been proposed several years ago, but never enacted until now.

It’s estimated that introducing such a wide-ranging filter will cost $16.5 million, which according to one member of the Egyptian parliament is “worth the price,” as “no matter how much it costs, the moral value of this will be much more significant.” A strong supporter of the filter, he also says pornographic sites “deteriorate moral values and youth, promote a criminal culture and lead to unproductivity (sic), drugs and theft.”

The question of who will define what’s pornographic or obscene has yet to be answered, and many fear it will result in non-harmful sites also being blocked.

Other countries will no doubt be observing the response, and success, of both Australia and Egypt’s Web filtering plans. In the UK, nothing has been heard about the scheme since the end of a 10-week consultation in September.