Media Release

5 March 2003

Australia Institute's Parent Survey Results Misleading

The accuracy of claims by The Australia Institute that "93% of parents back tough Net porn laws" has been questioned by Electronic Frontiers Australia (EFA).

The Australia Institute recently commissioned a Newspoll survey of parents who were asked: "Would you support a system which automatically filtered out Internet pornography going into homes unless adult users asked otherwise?". The Institute reports 93% of the mere 377 parents surveyed said they would and issued a media release titled "93% of parents back tough Net porn laws".

EFA said the "tough Net porn laws" being promoted by the Institute are different from the survey question asked.

The Institute has proposed that "All Australian ISPs [be] required to filter all material for prohibited content".

"That is quite different from the survey question," said Irene Graham, EFA's Executive Director. "Adults would be permitted to have the filter "turned off" only for the purpose of accessing the miniscule amount of content on the world-wide Net that has been classified X by the Australian censorship office."

Graham said the Institute's scheme could not be even remotely effective unless adults' access to the Net was restricted to content that commercial filtering software guesses is not pornography and/or has been told by a human has been classified X in Australia. "And it's a well known fact that all these products often guess wrongly," she said.

Notably, the Institute's report states "All filtering technologies make errors of omission and commission - they 'overblock' legitimate materials, and they 'underblock' inappropriate materials."

"A report titled 'Internet Filters: A Public Policy Report' issued in late 2001 summarises more than 70 tests and studies of filtering products and documents massive over- and under-blocking by major filtering products," said Graham. "Just a few of the subjects found blocked include artistic sites, public health information and sexuality education. The technology has not improved in the last 18 months."

"It's very unlikely that most parents would support The Australian Institute's proposed laws if they were surveyed after receiving accurate information about the proposal and the associated filtering software", said Graham. "This proposal is almost identical to the one widely publicly canvassed, and rejected, in 1999. The Australia Institute must have been asleep in 1999".

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Below is:
- Background information
- Contact details for media


Parents' Attitudes to Regulation of Internet Pornography, The Australia Institute, 5 March 2003 parents'attitudes.pdf

Internet Filters: A Public Policy Report, Free Expression Policy Project, Fall (USA) 2001.

The Censorware Project: Exposing the secrets of censorware since 1997

Seth Finkelstein's Censorware exposed

Peacefire: Open Internet access for the Net generation

EFA submission to Senate IT Committee re proposed Online Services legislation involving mandatory blocking, April 1999

EFA response to the ABA Consultation Paper - Restricted Access Systems - November 1999

Media Contact:

Ms Irene Graham
EFA Executive Director
Phone: 07 3424 0201 or 0412 997 163
Email: ed at

Electronic Frontiers Australia Inc --
representing Internet users concerned with on-line freedoms
URL of this release: