Opposition Liberal National did a turnaround Thursday, when it replaced its policy on enhancing online safety for children which provided for mandatory implementation of "opt-out" internet filters, by default for all Australians. The turnaround came in less than 5 hours after the earlier policy document was released. The redraft followed a major uproar, particularly on social media.
Twitter users were particularly merciless - decrying and ridiculing the Coalition for the policy suggestion.
The timing of the policy document and, the flip-back which followed, turned out to be a major embarrassment for the Liberal National, which is widely expected to win the bitterly contested elections.
With a day to go before the country votes, Malcolm Turnbull MP, Shadow Minister for Communication and Broadband, was left clarifying Coalition position on Internet filtering and the climb down was evident.
However, with a string of reports suggesting that Turnbull had actually supported the "opt out" internet filter policy, social media users refused to buy his clarifications.
The contentious policy document had said, Coalition will work with phone companies and ISPs to install default "adult content" filters on their phone services and fixed internet services unless users opt out.
Following the uproar, Coalition replaced the policy document and issued a statement saying, it has never supported mandatory internet filtering.
"Indeed, we have a long record of opposing it" Turnbull said.
The statement said, the policy which was issued earlier, on Thursday, was poorly worded. It incorrectly indicated that the Coalition supported an "opt out" system of internet filtering for both mobile and fixed line services.
"That is not our policy and never has been" Turnbull clarified.
Correcting its earlier stand, the Coalition said, it will encourage mobile phone and internet service providers to make available software which parents can choose to install on their own devices to protect their children from inappropriate material.
The objective of the document was to filter the internet through and opt out clause as has recently been achieved in the UK. The party has said the filtering proposal was about empowering parents.
In July, UK Prime Minister David Cameron has announced an agreement signed with the country's four largest internet service providers to have home network-based internet filters switched on by default for subscribers by the end of next year
"The Coalition's approach aims to empower parents - by giving them the choice of whether or not to operate a filter at home, [and] by establishing the default setting as one which provides maximum protection," the policy document outlined.
The document also indicated the Coalition will introduce a Children's E-Safety Commissioner to seek to remove harmful material from social media platforms. It also announced that cyberbullying could potentially become a criminal offence.
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