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Net porn controls useless: study

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CANBERRA, Australia (CNN) -- Australian efforts to regulate young people's access to Internet pornography so far have been a "manifest failure", a think tank study has found.

The study finds that Australian children have had extensive exposure to pornography on the Internet, either deliberately or accidentally.

This is despite government regulations administered by the Australian Broadcasting Authority (ABA) designed to restrict access to offensive material and to protect children from exposure to unsuitable material.

"Not only is the regulation of pornography on the Internet manifestly failing, but the regulatory authorities themselves appear to have lost sight of their functions," the report by the Australia Institute think-tank says.

The study cites a recent Newspoll survey of Australian 16 and 17 year-olds which shows 84 percent of boys and 60 percent of girls have had exposure to Internet pornography.

Australia Institute executive director Clive Hamilton said the survey results showed the present system of Internet regulation was next to useless.

The report says only 17 percent of parents with Internet connections had installed filters.

False belief

"The current system of voluntary end-user filtering is clearly not working," the report says.

"We believe a much more effective method of restricting access of children to Internet sex sites would be to require all Australian ISPs (Internet service providers) to apply filters to all content."

Australian Prime Minister John Howard said Tuesday that in the light of the latest information the government was looking for other options to tighten controls on the Internet.

"The Internet industry has convinced the government that there is little that can be done to prevent pornography coming in from overseas," Australian Associated Press reports Dr Hamilton saying.

"But this is false. Mandatory filtering by Internet service providers would severely restrict the availability of pornography."

He said mandatory filtering would receive strong backing from the public, especially parents.

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