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Librarians: Close the books on Internet filtering

Librarians: Close the books on Internet filtering

Groups say some refused classification (RC) material could have strong social or educational value

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The Australian Library and Information Association (ALIA), has joined with Google, Inspire Foundation and Yahoo to express opposition to the mandatory ISP filter.

In a joint statement released to the public, the groups said a mandatory filter would cover too many topics, potentially block content with a strong or educational value, and give people a false sense of security.

The groups went on to call for more funding to oversee policing against peer-to-peer child sexual abuses networks, as well as education for parents and children on how to stay safe online. They also used the Enex testlab report and ISP filter trials to criticise a potential speed bottleneck.

According to ALIA executive director, Sue Hutley, the body has held a position against Internet filtering since the World Wide Web was born.

“We’ve been discussing this issue for decades now,” she said. “It really does go back to the core values of libraries and library staff, which is against censorship and freedom of access to information.

“It is not for library staff and it is certainly not for anyone in a democracy to determine what is appropriate – it is not up to us to judge.”

But despite the long held view, Hutley acknowledged there were boundaries of morality even ALIA agreed should never be crossed.

“We definitely want to see a more transparent system of classification of material other than child protection/child pornography,” she said. “We are definitely against illegal materials relating to children.”

Hutley called for more freedom in accessing a wide range of topics and said restricting them from general access would hurt both Australian users and researchers.

“We’re really looking at social and cultural topics such as euthanasia, drug use and other topics that are perhaps unusual for the general populace to be discussing, but at some stage, whether you’re a parent or not, perhaps you are going to have to encounter,” she said. “Certainly some of the sexual related topics are also aspects of concern to us.

“If I’m a researcher for particular sexual-related topics, even trying to do a basic Australian Internet literature review will be difficult to do with RC-classification filters.”

Despite its opposition to the Government’s position, Hutley said ALIA advised the Minister responsible, Senator Stephen Conroy, on its position and would work with the Government on the issue.

“Libraries actually represent 12 million users…they are very well aware of the public’s view against censorship,” she said. “What we’re hoping to do is work with them on a suitable adjustment to the proposed legislation that can mean that we aren’t going to be listed as a country that is undergoing a censorship regime.”

ARN contacted the office of Minister Conroy but did not receive a response by time of publication.


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Tags YahooInspire FoundationGoogleThe Australian Library and Information Association (ALIA)Senator Stephen Conroy

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