Aussie websites go dark in protest at web filter plan

Hundreds of Australian websites faded to black today in protest at the government’s proposed internet filter.

The protest is based on a similar, successful campaign in New Zealand last year, and has drawn support from more than 150 website owners.

The Great Australian Internet Blackout is timed to coincide with Australia Day. The organisers are protesting against a proposed filter that would force internet service providers to ban access to a number of blacklisted sites chosen by the Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA).

The Federal government says the aim is to protect children by eliminating child sex abuse content, bestiality, sexual violence and the ‘detailed instruction’ of crime and drug use.

But the blackout organisers say it will do nothing of the sort, and sets a dangerous precedent. While many European countries operate voluntary filters, a compulsory one sets a dangerous precedent, they say.

“We stand to join a small club of countries which impose centralised Internet censorship such as China, Iran and Saudi Arabia, says the group. The secret blacklist may be limited to ‘Refused Classification’ content for now, but what might a future Australian government choose to block?”

The proposal has also drawn fire from several major technology firms including Google, which says the scope of the filter is too broad.