Danny Yee >> Internet Censorship in Australia

Australian Net Censorship in Operation

For background information on the legislation, check the EFA site and some commentary of my own.

Those of you interested in political theory might want to look up Peter Chen's PhD thesis, which uses Net censorship in Australia as a case study for evaluating models for political decision-making. The Senate Committee on IT reports make mostly depressing reading.

IIA's Code of Practice is as clear as mud, but while the blocking of overseas content appears to be on hold, it seems that users will now have censorship pushed on them by ISPs, with the government taking a back seat. (See, for example, one ISP's letter to users.) The apparently random approval of particular censorware systems is also disturbing.

Submit your own complaint to ACMA.

The Broadcasting Services Act (Online Services) Amendment came into force on January 1st 2000. But the Net censorship system it sets up is operating with no public reporting, so details are only available where either those issued with take-down notices or those complaining have gone public. I have collected what information I can find below; I hope these precedents will be useful to those planning to run web sites within Australia. EFA has an analysis of the published statistics and has lodged an FOI request for the details.

Content that is "ok" (not prohibited)

The ABA "is satisfied" that the first chapter of Linda Jaivin's novel Eat Me is not "prohibited or potential prohibited content". (It turns out to have been MA-rated by the OFLC - apparently it doesn't contain depictions which require "an adult perspective"!)

Banned Web sites

All the sites issued with takedown notices appear to have relocated overseas, where they are just as accessible as they were before (one has the same URL). This is an excellent demonstration of the utter futility of the legislation in "eliminating pornography". Unfortunately it will not be as easy for ordinary users and community groups to move off-shore as it is for commercial porn sites.

received takedown notices directed at newsgroup postings. They included a "special takedown notice" requiring the recipient not to host "similar" content - as a result the recipients were forced to take their entire news service offline!

relocated overseas. The page http://www.teenager.com.au/hub.html was classified Refused Classification, even though it was from the cover of a magazine that is only Restricted. This illustrates the effects of applying film censorship guidelines to static web pages.

Trev's DIRECTORY of AUSTRALIAN ESCORT SERVICES. [DEAD www.ozemail.com.au/~trevdir/]
Apparently the ISP removed Trev's entire site, not just the material that was the subject of the takedown notice, and didn't even tell him about it. He relocated to a United States server [DEAD http://www.bcity.com/trevdir/].

This site relocated, but I can't find it any more.

Textual content

To see how the ABA and OFLC would handle newsgroup content, I complained about a Jake Baker style snuff story posted to Usenet. Here's the letter I was sent. Interesting things:

The chilling effect

Much censorship may now be done by ISPs under their terms and conditions, without ever involving the ABA or OFLC. See, for example, [DEAD LINK http://fox.uq.net.au/~zzjparke/nastygram.txt this letter ] from an ISP to its users.

Some sites have moved off-shore in anticipation:

Others have been forced to introduce restricted access systems:

Internet Censorship in Australia << Danny Yee