RealTime IT News

Australian Govt Introduces Content Legislation

The Australian government Wednesday introduced its long awaited and much debated Internet content legislation.

According to the Minister for Communications, Information Technology and the Arts, Senator Richard Alston, the Broadcasting Services Amendment (Online Services) Bill 1999 meets the Australian community's legitimate concern to control the publication of illegal and offensive materials online.

He said however, the bill will not place onerous or unjustifiable burden on the Internet industry or inhibit the development of the online community.

The main elements of the proposed framework include a complaints mechanism at the Australian Broadcasting Authority (ABA) for offensive online material. The ABA will defined this category on the basis of current National Classification Board guidelines, as material Refused Classification and rated X, and material rated R that is not protected by adult verification procedures.

The ABA will issue notices to ISPs aimed at preventing access to prohibited material if it is hosted in Australia or, if the material is sourced overseas, to take reasonable steps to prevent access if technically feasible and commercially viable.

Indemnities will be provided for ISPs to protect them from litigation by customers affected by ABA notices. A graduated scale of sanctions against ISPs breaching the ABA notices or the legislation will apply.

A community advisory body will be established to monitor material and to pass information to the ABA and police authorities.

Lastly, the bill states that the Commonwealth will be responsible for regulating the activities of ISPs and Internet content hosts, and will encourage the development of uniform, complementary state and territory offence provisions.

"The Bill does not remove the responsibility of parents, guardians or individuals to manage their and their children's use of the Internet. The Government encourages parents to make full use of filtering software or filtered search engines and to take the time to inform themselves about the different types of filters available," added Alston.

A code of practice is to be developed in consultation with the ABA by the end of this year. The framework will not apply to private or restricted distribution communications, such as intranets.