Australian Minister for Broadband, Communications and the Digital Economy Senator Stephen Conroy today announced the release of a report demonstrating advances in Internet content filtering technologies: Closed Environment Testing of ISP-Level Content Filtering.

"The Internet is a wonderful tool that is delivering benefits to increasing numbers of Australian families but the government wants to find ways to make it safer, particularly for children. This report will assist the government to deliver on its election commitment to create a safer online environment," Conroy said. "The next step is to test filter technologies in a real-world environment with a number of ISPs and Internet users.".

The Australian government says it is committed to ensuring all Australian families can utilise ISP filters that block prohibited content as identified by the Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA). Families should also be able to access filters that can be customized to block more material if they choose.

Tests undertaken during the laboratory investigation found that the quality of ISP-level filtering technology has significantly improved compared with the technology used in a previous trial conducted in 2005. However, while all filter products tested were able to block traffic entirely across a wide range of non-Web protocols such as instant messaging and peer-to-peer protocols, most filters are not presently able to identify illegal content and content that may be regarded as inappropriate that is carried via the majority of non-Web protocols.

The results in the ACMA trial were based on what the government termed "illegal and inappropriate content." The tests included filtering over and above simple black-list filtering, and the trial did not specifically test the impact of black-list filtering on its own.

"Filtering specifically against a black-list of illegal content as well as the ability to filter additional material will be one part of the upcoming pilot trial," Conroy said.

"We are interested to see the results of filtering in real-world conditions and I encourage ISPs to participate. This will enable the implementation of ISP filtering in Australia to be undertaken in an informed and effective way."

An Expression of Interest request will be released shortly seeking participation in the live pilot from ISPs.