The Australian government plans to test a nationwide web filter that would require internet service providers to block access to thousands of sites containing illegal content, reports the New York Times. The proposed filter is part of an $82 million cyber safety plan begun in May with the goals of protecting children and stopping adults from downloading content that is illegal to possess in Australia, like child pornography or terrorist materials. But the plan has prompted opposition from online advocacy groups and industry experts who say it would slow browsing speeds and do little to block undesirable content. In November, the minister of communications, Stephen Conroy, invited internet service providers and cell-phone operators to participate in a live trial of the program, which is set to begin this month. His department will use the results to decide how to proceed with the plan. Under the proposed system, all Australian providers would be required to block access to about 10,000 web sites on a list maintained by the Australian Communications and Media Authority, the federal monitor that oversees film classifications. Service providers also would be required to offer an optional filter that could be used to block material deemed unsuitable for children. The government says the list, which is not available to the public, includes only illegal content, mostly child pornography. But technology, left-wing, and other advocacy groups, as well as some businesses, worry that the filter could be used to block sites focused on what some consider controversial topics. The proposal has set off a flurry of anxious chatter on social-networking sites such as Facebook…

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