Ambassador questions Australian Web censorship plan

Australian officials debuted their proposed filter last year, noting it was necessary to ensure that objectionable content that is mostly banned in print is also unavailable online.

But some local politicians and international Web freedom groups, as well as U.S. companies like Google and Yahoo, have since sharply criticized the plan. These players have stressed the new Internet filter could too easily evolve into a backdoor to more costly forms of Web censorship.

Even the State Department has raised concerns: Bleich's remark Tuesday is only the latest in a series of indications that top diplomats are quietly pressuring Australia to back off its Web filtering plans.

While a spokesman for the agency told a local reporter last month he could not comment on "the details of specific diplomatic exchanges" with Australian officials, he did note that the State Department has "raised our concerns" with the state's new Web restrictions.

The State Department later confirmed as much to The Hill, but it repeated it could not comment on those discussions.