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News from the field

Australian Government has branded NetAlert as a failure

Published on: 17.02.08
Source: heise online

The Australian Government has branded NetAlert - a $85 million software filter scheme to protect young Australians from online pornography - as a failure and will review its future.

Federal Communications Minister Stephen Conroy is assessing the NetAlert program, which will come under testing at the Senate. The filter scheme was a central feature of the Howard Government's. NetAlert was launched last August to address the perceived threat of online sexual predators and nasty content to young internet users. A multimillion dollar advertising action followed, including a booklet delivered to every household across Australia.

It was expected 2.5 million households would take up the free porn-blocking filters within 12 months but only 144,088 filter products have been downloaded or ordered on CD-ROM since August last year.
"The program has clearly failed, despite over $15 million being spent in advertising to support it," Mr Conroy said. The labor government has always said that PC filtering is not a stand-alone solution to protecting children from online dangers. It has a comprehensive cyber-safety plan that includes the implementation of mandatory ISP-based filtering to deliver a filtered feed to all homes, schools and public internet points. "Education for parents and teachers as well as children is a priority," Mr Conroy added.

Tom Wood, a sixteen-year-old, known as "The Porn Cracker", showed that the new NetAlert filters could be bypassed in a matter of minutes. He said the scheme had been a waste of time and money. "Although these are amongst the best PC-based filters available, it didn't take long for teens to work out how to bypass them," said the schoolboy with a passion for cyber-safety.


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