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In Australia, ISPs Opt In to Block Websites With 'Child Abuse Material'

BY Becky Kazansky | Wednesday, June 22 2011

Starting next month, major Australian Internet service providers Telstra and Optus will block access to more than 500 websites on a government-supplied list of pages that allegedly provide content like child pornography, according to reports that the voluntary move was originally part of a $9.8 million plan by the federal government to encourage ISPs to block certain material from their users, but dropped funding for the idea due to limited interest from the industry. Telstra and Optus, both publicly traded multi-million dollar telecoms, went forward with the voluntary ban.

The providers, which describe as small ISPs, have apparently agreed to deny access to "child abuse websites." In Australia, child abuse material refers to material in which a child appears to be exploited or engaged in sexual activity.

Where people draw the line between censorship and regulation varies from country to country, as do norms about how to police issues like child pornography — but this move raises questions about how Western governments approach their control, or lack thereof, over the Internet, and the role of private industry in shaping what people are and are not allowed to see.

(With Nick Judd)