Danny Yee >> Internet Censorship in Australia >> Labelling


Recently there has been some discussion regarding the Australian 
Broadcasting Authority and what we have proposed in regards to on-line 
regulation. The ABA is of the view that there has been some misinformation 
distributed, and we would like to clarify this.

Firstly, the ABA has *not* proposed a mandatory or compulsory labelling 
scheme. As we stated in our postings to the Link mailing list on 16 December 
1996, and 15 and 17 January this year, we have proposed a *voluntary* 
labelling scheme in a _substantially self-regulatory regime for on-line 
services in Australia_.

Further, in postings to the Link mailing list on 16 December and 15 January 
we stated that the _ABA has proposed:
       the development of voluntary Internet content labelling schemes
       which will provide parents and supervisors with options to protect
       minors from content which may be harmful to them_.

Secondly, the ABA has also been criticised for supporting the labelling 
scheme developed by the Recreational Software Advisory Council (RSAC). The 
labelling scheme they have developed is known as RSACi, or RSAC for the 
Internet. The ABA sees many benefits in the development of these schemes, 
especially ones that are international in focus.

A voluntary system, as proposed by the ABA, whereby content is labelled by 
content providers or third parties will be of great benefit to parents and 
supervisors. By using labelling schemes such as RSACi, parents and 
supervisors will be able to filter out content they consider unsuitable for 
either their children or themselves.

If parents are happy for their children to surf the Internet with no 
restrictions, then that is their choice. However if they are concerned with 
some forms of Internet content, such as sex, nudity, language and violence, 
then they are able to restrict their children_s access to this content.

The ABA is aware that there may well be other labelling schemes developed in 
the future. However at this stage RSACi has developed to a stage where it 
has the highest profile internationally with approximately 16 000 sites 
rated using RSACi.

RSACi is, in general, is descriptive rather than evaluative in the way it 
defines each category. The ABA agrees, as does RSAC itself, that there is 
room for further improvement in the labelling scheme.

Currently RSACi is being reviewed with the aim of improving the labelling 
scheme, making it more relevant to the Internet, and making it more relevant 
to those outside the United States. To our knowledge this revised version of 
RSACi will be available in a few weeks.

There have been proposals put forward for RSACi to be mirrored in Australia 
and the UK, among others, and these mirror sites would be rewritten to 
reflect the language of each country.

Currently the ABA_s manager of On-line Services, Ms Kaaren Koomen, is in 
Europe meeting with officials from the EC, UNESCO, OECD, United Kingdom, 
Germany and Brussels among others. While overseas Kaaren has been discussing 
the role of labelling schemes which could meet international standards, 
including the role of RSACi.

If you would like any further details or would like to discuss these matters 
further, please contact the On-line Services section at the ABA as follows:
          e-mail:  online@aba.gov.au
          phone:  02 9334 7700
          fax:         02 9334 7799

Yours faithfully

Peter Webb
Australian Broadcasting Authority

Labelling << Internet Censorship in Australia << Danny Yee