Saturday, 16 June 2007

Filtering the Internet

We at ALIA have recently issued a media release drawing attention to the recently-completed report of a survey of filtering in public libraries. The survey is the third we have conducted since 2002, and these surveys track the way in public library approaches to managing use of the internet have evolved over the past five years. For me, nostalgia is one of the responses to the issues raised.

I was involved in the introduction of the internet into public libraries in Victoria from the very beginning (1995), when Vicnet rolled out public library access to Victorians, actively supported by the Victorian (Kennett) Government. I was also a member of the Australian Broadcasting Authority's Children and Content Online Task Force which in 1998 reported on online content and its issues for children. From 1999 until its recent (mid-2007) incorporation into ACMA (Australian Communications and Media Authority), I was a member of the Board of NetAlert Ltd, Australia's internet safety organisation.

Looking back recently at the 1998 report that we put together, I was gratified that the recommendations of the Task Force still seem reasonable, and a good guide on how to handle children's access to the Internet. All the things I still want to say are there - the Internet is for children too, free access to online content must be safeguarded for adults, parental supervision and guidance are the key strategies, and filtering is a supplementary approach. The practical, commonsense - and principled - approach we took then is still valid. The values are clearly stated and shared by Australians generally. There has been a consistent and balanced approach taken, with broad support, for the past decade. It would be a pity if the issues now became politicised.

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