A peak Australian HIV organisation has raised concerns the federal Government’s proposed mandatory internet filter may hamper HIV prevention efforts.

The Australian Federation of AIDS Organisations (AFAO) put forward a submission to the Department of Broadband, Communications and the Digital Economy’s internet filter consultation paper, saying obstructing sites which state HIV organisations target for safe-sex messages could be a mistake.

AFAO policy manager Abigail Groves told Sydney Star Observer there is concern some sites, such as those depicting gay sex or BDSM, may be targeted unfairly.

“We’re concerned things like that might get caught up, particularly as the process being proposed seems to rely largely on complaints,” she said.

“The homophobic people are probably more likely to complain.”

While it’s unknown which sites will make the final cut, state-based AIDS Councils have also expressed concerns.

“I think if our concerns aren’t respected, then ultimately that could have negative effects for some of the health promotion work we do and those issues will be raised in our submission.”

Groves said AFAO is pushing for the Refused Classification category — used to determine the filter ‘blacklist’ — to only apply to material which is illegal to possess, such as child pornography.

“We support a chance to block child pornography. Our concern though is, in attempting to address overtly criminal stuff like child pornography, is it going to be workable and what will its effect be on other things, like representations of gay sex or any other sort of explicit sexual representation?”

AFAO claim in their submission that research shows information, chat and pornographic sites play an important role in providing men-who-have-sex-with-men information about sexuality and sexual health.

info: Visit www.hivtoptips.org.au

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