The Federal Government’s promised clean feed internet content filter has caused a panic among queer activists who fear overzealous blocking of same-sex support and lobby websites.

I am very fearful that the Federal Government’s clean feed proposal will result in Australians being too apathetic to opt out, and therefore existing by default under a Great Firewall of Australia which places our visibility back into a nice, convenient closet, WA queer activist Rod Swift told Sydney Star Observer.

The Australian Communication and Media Authority conducted field testing of the opt-out filter earlier this year and reported a 92 percent success rate in blocking material inappropriate for children.

The tests also revealed the filters blocked material they shouldn’t have as much as six percent of the time.

A similar filter used in NSW public schools blocks searches containing the words gay or lesbian, including searches for youth support services focusing on sexuality issues.

If the topic of sexuality and safe sex is legal in our classrooms, then it should be legal for students to seek out information that may help them dealing with their sexual orientation or sexual health, Swift said.

They should also have the right to access information about their human rights and the equal opportunity protections that are law if they are of a minority sexual orientation or gender identity.

Australians will not be able to opt out of a second filter of illegal material under the proposal.

Filtering specifically against a blacklist of illegal content as well as the ability to filter additional material will be one part of the upcoming pilot trial, federal Communications minister Stephen Conroy said in a statement.

The blacklist of illegal material will not include generic key-word blocking commonly used in filters, but will be limited to a specific list of websites determined by ACMA. Further details have not been made available.

Family First senator Steve Fielding was reported calling for pornography and fetish material be included in the compulsory filter this week. The push raised further fears of censorship among GLBT activists, including former Democrats IT spokesman Brian Greig.

It’s very scary that Labor is considering this and it smacks of a backroom deal with the Religious Right rather than any considered policy position, Greig said.

It’s bound to fail, slow internet speeds and push up ISP prices. Quite apart from the nightmare of trying to define -˜inappropriate content’.

The clean feed filter for inappropriate content received $150 million in this year’s federal budget.

ACMA’s report also claimed filtering was ineffective over non-web protocols such as instant messaging and peer-to-peer file transfers like BitTorrent. The field testing conducted by ACMA instead blocked all non-web internet traffic.

Meanwhile, a survey by the Interactive Entertainment Association of Australia released this week revealed 91 percent of Australians support the addition of an R18+ rating for video games.

Presently any video game including material unsuitable for children is refused classification in Australia, effectively banning it. Gay characters have been included in games rated M15+ by the Office of Film and Literature Classification.

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