In Senate Estimates last night, Communications Minister Stephen Conroy warned the Government would consider blocking up to 50,000 websites based on new filtering technology that may become available in the future.

The Government’s net filter trials early last year had found there were substantial technical limitations with blocking any more than 10,000 sites using a blacklist-based approach.  In response to a question from Greens Senator Scott Ludlam about how the Government would implement a filter based on more than 10,000 blacklisted websites, Conroy boasted he has been told of filtering technology that could block “up to 50,000 sites”.

“Technology evolves,” Conroy declared, noting that the question was hypothetical.

Conroy had earlier used Estimates to launch a savage ten-minute attack on Google over its collection of wi-fi data as part of Street View photo collection.  Google has pointedly refused to cooperate with Conroy’s net filter plans.  Google’s assistance is necessary because the net filter trial found that a blacklist-based filtering approach breaks down on “high-traffic sites” like Youtube. Asked to define “high traffic sites”, Conroy said they were “popular sites”.  He later suggested one definition might be sites that have more than 10% of internet traffic.

However, when asked by Liberal Senator Mary Jo Fisher what he was actually doing about possible breaches of the Telecommunications Act by Google, Conroy said he thought the Privacy Commissioner was handling the issue.

Conroy later launched an attack on euthanasia websites, which he linked to the deaths of teenagers involved Nembutal, and on Facebook’s problems with privacy settings.

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