As reported by this publication’s most elegant fifth columnist, the secret “blacklist” compiled by the Australian Communications and Media Authority was printed by a prominent whistleblower site last week.

Stephen Conroy, the Minister for Broadband, Myopia and Little Children, branded the release a fake. He did, however, allow that some of the fake document content may have matched the ACMA naughty list.

Conroy called the fake move to publish the fake catalogue of p-rn, p-rn and dentists “grossly irresponsible”. This is despite the caution that the leak was grossly inevitable.

The emergence of the blacklist should have been as shocking to Conroy as, say, another tabloid sashay from Lindsay Lohan.

Up until now, a time in which Australians risk a critical loss of freedoms, no one has given a tinker’s cuss about the blacklist. Since 2000, ACMA has compiled its list of 1061 URLs for use by providers of opt-in net filtering software.

Now, the blacklist has come to represent everything that stinks about Labor. Naturally, all critics of the Government wish to inhale.

Conroy always knew we’d breathe it in.

In February 2008, a feasibility study into ISP Level Content Filtering landed on Conroy’s desk. It warned that, “the list is likely to leak.”

As it seemed that Conroy had not read the report, the IT community did their best to remind him that the blacklist would find its way to a public forum. ISP engineer Mark Newton reasoned that all things become more powerful when shrouded. In January, Newton warned that these “yellow pages of evil” would become a must-have.

And so they did.

There was counsel that moves toward a Clean Feed could prove legally, fiscally, technically and morally disastrous. Nonetheless, Conroy persisted with a plan that (a) denotes his silliness or (b) honours a preference deal with Family First.

A phone call to Minister Conroy’s office confirmed that the live trial of the Clean Feed has begun. To anyone, like Senor Rundle and I, in a lather about the Cyber Safety plan, these businesses are worth a look.

Although the Senator’s representative “would argue strenuously” that the inclusion of Primus Telecommunications shows a commitment to working with the nation’s largest ISP’s, others might argue that he’s Full Of It.

Cheeky ISP iiNet was left out of the first round of testing. Surely, it would have been prudent for Conroy to embrace iiNET managing director Michael Malone who wanted to be involved in the “ridiculous” trials to show that the concept of ISP level net filtering was “stupid“.

Sadly, applicants Optus and iiNet are still waiting. For the first round, Conroy has selected some odd companies. My favourite is Tech2U. Their website looks like the sort of thing I might have created circa 1996.

The most peculiar inclusion, however, has to be that of Webshield. A South Australian ISP with circa 3500 subscribers, this company, favoured by many of the nation’s most resolute Christians, already provides an effective filtered service to subscribers. The ACMA blacklist is the least of what’s on offer. According to company representative Anthony Pillon, Webshield has a “massive” library of URLs beyond the blacklist, boasts a search key word filter and can provide an ISP level shield from peer-to-peer and Chat/IM protocols contingent on the request of the customer.

I have nothing bad to say about Webshield. This not-for-profit ISP serves a range of squeaky clean access options which, I imagine, suits the many church groups and businesses that link back to their provider.

Pillon says of his small business, “Webshield provides the information to clients and allows them to make the choices.”

Conroy might do well to replicate this sentiment.

Sure, there are those who would prefer an internet experience unfettered by the smut in my browser history. These people could choose a provider like Webshield. Or, once they might have subscribed to the Howard government’s now discontinued initiative NetAltert.

With the live trial just commenced and the opt-in NetAlert option discontinued on 31 December last year, Australians who seek a sanitised net experience are currently without federal support.

I asked Senator Conroy’s representative to explain. He said that uptake of the filtering software had been low enough to merit the program’s discontinuation.

“Well, do you think that could be an indication of the electorate’s fondness for net filtering?”

Apparently that’s just one person’s interpretation.