Are web filters just a waste of everyone’s time and money?

As our regular columnist Seth Finkelstein would tell you, the only people who truly benefit from web filters are the people who make them – such as those who laboured on those provided under the Australian government’s NetAlert filter scheme ( at a total cost of A$84m (£34.7m). One of them was cracked in 30 minutes by Tom Wood, a 16-year-old who is a former victim of cyber bullying. When he pointed out the filter’s failings to the Australian government (via the Australian Broadcasting Corporation), the Australian government added a home-grown filter – Intergard – to the mix. That impressed Wood so much that it took him an extra 10 minutes to crack it. In both cases the software appeared to be running – meaning any parent or teacher drifting by would be reassured that the filtering was still operative.Almost unnoticed by the rest of the world, which has mostly shrugged its shoulders and decided that people have to grow up some time, Australia has decided to see if it can get the porn off the net by filtering on PCs (any Australian can download a free filter; we’re sure porn companies wanting to check their output isn’t blocked will be among the customers) or at the ISP level.

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