Category Archives: Legislation
The current government for over seven years has stated that Internet Service Provider (“ISP”) filtering is a key component of the Australian Government’s cybersafety plan. Filtering of online material at the ISP level reflects the view that ISPs should take some responsibility for enabling the blocking of such content on the internet.
This is consistent with the recent child online protection guidelines issued by the International Telecommunications Union. The guidelines state that the strategic objective for the internet industry for child internet safety should be to reduce the availability of, and restrict access to, harmful or illegal content and conduct.
ISP-level content filtering is already occurring in other countries, including Canada, Denmark, Finland, Norway, Sweden and the United Kingdom and the government wanted to ensure a similar level of protection for internet users in Australia.
So, what internet content falls within ISP-level content filtering?
ISP-level filtering of Refused Classification Material
Several years ago the government announced that it will introduce legislative amendments to require all ISPs in Australia to use ISP-level filtering to block overseas hosted Refused Classification (RC) material on the Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA) RC Content list.
As reported on the Department of Broadband Communications and the Digital Economy web site, content is defined under the National Classification Scheme as Refused Classification (“RC”) and includes child sexual abuse imagery, bestiality, sexual violence, detailed instruction in crime, violence or drug use and/or material that advocates the doing of a terrorist act.
The RC Content list was to be based on public complaints to the Australian Communication Management Authority (“ACMA”) and assessed using existing criteria set out in the National Classification Scheme.
ACMAin one of its roles, liaise with highly reputable overseas organisations to identify lists of child abuse material suitable for incorporation into the RC Content list, following a detailed assessment by the ACMA of the processes used to compile those lists.
The Australian newspaper on November 10 2012, reported in an article titled ‘Mandatory web filter ‘would never have worked’, where the Coalition and the Greens said that: “LABOR was forced to abandon its promised mandatory internet filter because it would never have worked and would not have passed through parliament.”
It was further reported in The Australian that the Communications Minister Stephen Conroy dumped the proposed filter five years after it was promised by Labor, following an outcry from civil libertarians and technology businesses.
He said the government instead would force internet service providers to block sites on Interpol’s “worst of” child-abuse list.
“Given this successful outcome, the government has no need to proceed with mandatory filtering legislation,” Senator Conroy said.
The minister said the decision was in line with a 2010 Australian Law Reform Commission recommendation that the government’s previous internet “black list” was too wide and did not reflect community expectations.
So where does that leave us now? Cyber Guardians Online will be reviewing the outcomes of this monumental ‘backflip’ and will be featuring some legislative analysis of where ISP’s are now positioned.
Furthermore, Cyber Guardians Online will assess if Australia’s adoption of the 2009 INTERPOL General Assembly Resolution (AG-2009 Res-05), a Resolution that limits the online distribution of child sexual abuse images whilst encouraging member countries to promote the use of all the technical tools available, including access blocking of websites containing child sexual abuse images is sufficient in preventing such images being accessed in Australia.
As INTERPOL is tasked with leading this work by providing a list of domains containing the websites that disseminate the most severe child abuse material worldwide where they work in tandem with international police forces in the construction of the “Worst of”-list of domains, Australia needs to ensure that all internet users are protected from explicit images and content.
As Hurricane Sandy the recent national disaster in the northern hemisphere struck, it seems the activities of Twitter Trolls remained active as ever with one person ‘tweeting’ false information during the national disaster. The timing of such ‘tweets’ undoubtedly contributed to the anxiety and panic that was gripping New York. The Twitter Trolls ‘tweets’ began with “Breaking” where one said that “…the floor of the New York Stock Exchange had been flooded…”. Another said that power company Con Ed would, “…cut off service to all of Manhattan…”.
With power and phone lines going down across New York City and with the false ‘tweets’ of the Twitter Troll being disseminated in the twittersphere and social media, emergency services may have been unnecessarily deployed believing that assistance was required. As such, it could be argued that such ‘tweets’ could be deemed in breach of local and federal legislation with regards to ‘false reports to emergency services’ and to ‘using telecommunications services’ where it has been criminalised to use a carriage service (telecommunications or Internet service) to access or make available “offensive”, menacing or harassing material.
The time has come for persons who pass such information to be identified and prosecuted by the relevant agencies.