A Queensland man plans to sue police who arrested and charged him for child abuse offences after he uploaded a video of a man apparently recklessly swinging a baby to a video website.
Australian prosecutors have dropped all charges against Chris Illingworth opening the door to a compensation claim.
The Sydney Morning Herald reports the Commonwealth Director of Public Prosecutions has decided not to proceed with the case. The decision follows soon after censors responded to a separate complaint about the clip by giving it the equivalent of a
This prosecution was discontinued yesterday after the matter was reviewed... taking into account all of the circumstances involved including the classification given to the material by the Classification Board, prosecutors said.
Scientology has called upon the Australian Government to censor the internet and media locally in direct response to protests from Anonymous.
In a long, rambling submission made to the Australian Human Rights Commission made earlier this year, the 'Church' attacks Anonymous calling them, among other things, a hate group of cyberterrorists that is engaged in a malicious
campaign of hate that is an anathema to democracy.
The submission states:
In Australia Anonymous have mounted a sustained campaign of misinformation against the Church. As we are a minority religion with the vast majority of the population unaware of our true beliefs and humanitarian programs,
their campaign has no justifiable purpose and violates the Church of Scientology's and parishioners rights to human dignity and religious freedom under the Constitution.
Scientology wants the Internet and media in Australia censored to prevent any negative stories being told about the church, and more, including:
Banning the use of domain name registration anonymity tools such as WhoisGuard by sites who talk about the church
The introduction of criminal sanctions for vilification of religion, including jail time for serious religious vilification.
The prohibition of concealing ones identity with a mask by people engaged in campaigns of harassment and vilification against religions (which they specifically mean Guy Fawkes masks.)
The statement gets worse:
It is recommended that a law be enacted to prevent the dissemination of antireligious propaganda in the media, which is based on unfounded hearsay and either known or reasonably known to be untruthful. Such dissemination
shall be the subject of a civil penalty provision in favour of the defamed Church, and/or its individual parishioners if they are individually named or otherwise identified.
Queensland Police want to send a man to jail for up to 20 years on child-abuse charges over a video the Federal Government's own censors have classified as MA15+.
Chris Illingworth was charged late last year with accessing and uploading child-abuse material after he published, on a video-sharing site, a video of a man swinging a baby around like a rag doll.
Despite having no involvement in the creation of the three-minute clip, he was committed to a trial by jury in the District Court on July 8. He faces a maximum penalty of 10 years' imprisonment for each of the two charges.
Illingworth's solicitor, Chelsea Emery has said that, if the case goes ahead, every Australian who surfs the net could be vulnerable to police prosecution.
But the Australian Communications and Media Authority, responding to a complaint about the video on July 9, sent the clip to the Classification Board, which classified the content MA15+.
Under the Classification Board's guidelines, the impact of MA15+ material should be no higher than strong and violence and strong themes should be justified by context. MA15+ material is considered unsuitable for persons under 15
years of age.
As a result of the Classification Board's decision, the content is not prohibited under the Broadcasting Services Act 1992, read a letter from ACMA, seen by this website.
Queensland Police has said any Australians who simply view the clip could face a maximum of 10 years in jail but today it refused to comment on the apparent disparity between its and the Classification Board's definition of child-abuse material.
The information on the Classification Board's classification decision has been passed on to the Commonwealth Director of Public Prosecutions. A spokesman said Illingworth's case would be reviewed.
It is not suggested that the Classification Board's decision to give the content a relatively minor MA15+ rating will have any bearing on Illingworth's trial, but the case has caused much controversy because the clip has already been shown on
numerous Australian and US TV news shows and can still be found online today.
The video was just one of hundreds that Illingworth has uploaded to the Liveleak video sharing website as an administrator of the site.
This decision by the Classification Board shows either that the criminal definitions [of child abuse material] are too broad, or that the police and the public prosecutors are overly enthusiastic in bringing criminal charges under those
provisions, Nic Suzor, spokesman for the online users' lobby group Electronic Frontiers Australia, said.
In the Queensland Police brief of evidence, Susan Cadzow, specialist pediatrician at Royal Brisbane Children's Hospital, said she thought the clip represented child abuse: The child's demeanour at the end of the video would seemingly suggest
that no significant injury has occurred. However, it does not exclude the presence of a [hidden] injury, Cadzow said in her statement.
GameSpot AU interviewed Paul Hunt who ended his stint at Australia's censor as a deputy director.
GameSpot AU: How many video games did you look at during your time there?
Paul Hunt: During my time there I probably looked at 600 to 700 video games per year as a Senior Classifier, and about 15 to 20 per year as a Deputy Director. As a Senior Classifier I examined all the reports
that came in on video games and then made a decision on how to proceed. Roughly 75% of video games were classified as per the reports that came with them. With the rest, they were either controversial or the report was not clear enough, and so
they had to be looked at more in-depth. If anything was borderline, I'd put the Classification Board on it. We'd all read the report, maybe take a look at some video excerpts of the video game, and maybe we'd play it.
If a game was controversial then it would definitely be played by the members of the board — either physically by some of the board members, or someone would come in and play it for the board. Otherwise, the actual playing of video games was
rather random. Sometimes I'd make the board play some games as not to lose their touch, but you can't have ten or so people spending forty hours playing a video game — it's just not economically feasible. We'd want to spend our time and money on
the tricky ones, the controversial game, not the ones that were not at all hard to classify.
If a tricky game like something in the Grand Theft Auto titles came through, extra care was taken. All information would be reviewed by the board (as Senior Classifier, I'd put the entire board on it, not just a few members). Everyone would read
the report and then watch a video of the controversial bits. By law, the applicant must point out to the board all the controversial content in the game. Afterwards, the board will want to see some of the game being played and that's when the
applicant will bring in a skilled player to take the board through the game.
Ministry of Broadband,
the Digital Economy
Stephen Conroy has responded to an article published on the front page of The Sydney Morning Herald which revealed that the Government has sat on a report that labelled mandatory ISP filtering as being fundamentally flawed since February.
Senator Conroy also has announced the live trial has been delayed until mid-January.
From his press release:
The Howard Government, at the instigation of the Internet Industry Association (IIA), commissioned a report to be conducted by Mr Peter Coroneos, IIA's CEO. The previous government provided funding for the research and it
was based on terms of reference agreed to by the IIA and the previous government. The report was to inform the previous government of the IIA's and other stakeholders' views, and international experience.
The report methodology was a literature review of existing studies as well as interviews and surveys. It involved no empirical testing of filtering technology.
The report highlighted a number of concerns the industry had previously raised with the current and previous governments, such as the potential for dynamic filtering to result in network performance impact and over-blocking and under-blocking
content. It was not an analysis of the ALP's policy.
The Government is aware of technical concerns raised in the report, and that is why we are conducting a pilot to put these claims to the test, Senator Conroy, Minister for Broadband, Communications and the Digital Economy, said.
Ministry of Broadband,
the Digital Economy
Trials of mandatory internet censorship are due soon despite a secret high-level report to the Federal Government that found the technology does not work, will significantly slow internet speeds and will block access to legitimate sites.
Commissioned by the Howard government and prepared by the Internet Industry Association, the report said schemes for blocking inappropriate content were fundamentally flawed.
The report says the filters would slow the internet (as much as 87% by some measures), be easily bypassed, and would not come close to capturing all of the government unwanted content available online. They would also struggle to distinguish
between wanted and unwanted content, leading to legitimate sites being blocked. Entire user-generated content sites, such as YouTube and Wikipedia, could be censored over a single suspect posting.
It raises serious freedom-of-speech questions, such as who will be held accountable for blocked sites and whether the Government will be pressured to expand the blacklist to cover lawful content, including pornography, gambling sites and
The report, based on comprehensive interviews with many parties with a stake in the internet, was written by several independent technical experts, including the University of Sydney's Associate Professor Bjorn Landfeldt. It was handed to the
Government in February but has been kept secret.
I definitely think that what the Government is showing publicly … is such a small part of what they need to do in order to get this right, Professor Landfeldt said. He said he believed the Government had not released his report because its
conclusions were too damaging: It's definitely not going to be workable to get a very significant reduction in access to this (unwanted) content that is available out there, it's fundamentally just not viable.
Senator Conroy refused to comment directly on why the report has not been released or why the trials are going ahead given its findings. The proposed censorship is more restrictive than in any liberal democracy, says the online users lobby group,
Electronic Frontiers Australia.
Professor Landfeldt, one of Australia's leading telecommunications experts, says some of the fundamental flaws include:
All filtering systems will be easily circumvented.
Censors maintaining the blacklist will never be able to keep up with the amount of new content published on the web every second.
Filters using real-time analysis of sites to determine whether content is inappropriate are not effective, capture wanted content, are easy to bypass and slow network speeds exponentially as accuracy increases.
Entire user-generated content sites such as YouTube and Wikipedia could be blocked over a single video or article.
Filters would be costly and difficult to implement for ISPs and put many smaller ISPs out of business.
While the communications authority's blacklist will be withheld from internet users, all 700 ISPs will have access to it so it could easily be leaked.
The filters will not censor content on peer-to-peer file sharing networks such as Limewire, online chat rooms, email and instant messaging.
Filtering Trial Extended to Peer to Peer
THE Federal Government's controversial internet censorship plan may extend to filter more web activity than first thought, Broadband Minister Stephen Conroy said technology that could filter data sent directly between computers would be tested as
part of the upcoming live filtering trial.
Technology that filters peer-to-peer and BitTorrent traffic does exist and it is anticipated that the effectiveness of this will be tested in the live pilot trial, Conroy said.
Last week, two legal actions broadly redefined the landscape concerning the kind of media Australians are allowed to possess and view. Although both actions were taken in isolation, their combined impact has made a mockery of laws intended to
protect us. Beyond ridiculous, our laws are so out of sync with the world at large, they have now become unenforceable.
In the first of these legal actions, Sydney judge Michael Adams ruled that a pornographic cartoon featuring the likenesses of cartoon family The Simpsons constituted child pornography, even though these representations were not in any way
resembling of real people. Apparently the pornographic cartoon could fuel the demand for material that does involve the abuse of children.
Which begs the question: has Judge Adams ever watched The Simpsons? The casual, almost reckless child abuse that occurs every time Homer strangles Bart is precisely the sort of "abuse" that judge Adams seeks quash. As near as I
can tell, television broadcasters and everyone who watches any episode of The Simpsons where Homer throttles Bart (there are many, many such episodes, plus last year's feature film) have violated Australia's laws concerning the
distribution and viewing of materials which depict child abuse.
And let's be blunt: Homer does abuse Bart. There's no other rationale for Homer's behavior. It is child abuse. And any materials which depict child abuse in any way are wholly illegal under Australian law.
The Australian Catholic Bishops Conference delegate for media issues, Bishop Peter Ingham, said other countries were miles ahead of Australia when it came to keeping the internet as safe as possible for children.
Comparable western countries, such as the UK, Canada, Sweden, Norway, Denmark and Finland already have ISP filtering in operation, Bishop Ingham claimed.
In many of these countries, the ISPs themselves have initiated the filtering in order to live up to the community's expectations that illegal material or material that is harmful to children should not be available on the Internet.
It is disappointing to read reports that Australia's largest Internet provider, Telstra has said it will not participate in trials of the federal government's national internet filter.
Bishop Ingham said the ACBC held the position that whatever could reasonably be done to filter out illegal sites at ISP level, should be done: Arguments that civil liberties will be infringed by internet filtering are absolutely spurious, as
the government's proposal simply aims to ensure that the material accessible on the internet is in line with the restrictions already in place in regard to DVDs or publications .
Pornography of any kind is harmful to human dignity and often degrading to women. Research shows that internet pornography is also becoming more and more harmful to marriages and relationships. In particular, every parent knows that much of
the pornographic material that can be found on the internet ought not to be accessible to children.
We call on the community to get behind the federal government on this important issue and support its attempts to keep pace with the rest of the world when it comes to cleaning up the Net in a fair and reasonable way.
A rather lame connection but it may be interesting to consider how the anti sex entertainment push will effect society. You only have to look at the example of catholic priests who are denied sex to see the dangers of not allowing people a sexual
Fiona Patten, chief executive officer of adult industry group Eros Association, said people who could not access adult material online would buy it from sex shops.
Queensland already had at least 116 sex shops - more per capita than any other Australian state. If the filtering goes ahead, Queensland will see an explosion of adult shops because, if people can't access adult material online, they'll go to
retail outlets instead, she said: Increased demand will lead to more shops.
Keith Boswell, who runs three BeDaring Adult Shops in south-east Queensland, said some traders had complained of a downturn in business since the economic slump, while others reported business as usual.
There is enormous demand for non-violent erotica in Queensland, so I think adult stores are probably more resilient when it comes to discretionary spending. If the filtering goes ahead, I think some people who prefer to look online will be
embarrassed to go into stores.
Protestors across Australia rallied against the Federal Government's plan to censor the internet yesterday.
About 300 protestors gathered in Perth to voice their concerns for the Government's planned internet filter aimed at increasing child safety in cyberspace.
Greens Senator Scott Ludlam likened the Government's plan to post office workers checking every letter to see if anything was dodgy and getting rid of that mail. He said the internet reflected human culture and the Government's proposed
censorship would not fix violence issues facing the nation.
The Federal Government suggested this mistargeted, misdirected and flawed proposal to censor the internet ... it will potentially make things worse.
He questioned who would monitor the blacklist of banned websites and who would be the decision makers determining what Australians were allowed to access.
Ludlam urged protestors to continue voicing their concerns to Government through rallies, emails and online: These kinds of rallies will bring these things down and get us back to issues of violence in the community. I believe this is
winnable, what we're doing is working.
Hundreds of people attended rallies in Australian capital cities yesterday to voice their opposition to the Rudd Government's planned internet filtering scheme.
The rallies, held in seven cities including Brisbane, Melbourne and Sydney, were the first in a series of demonstrations organised by anti-censorship group Digital Liberty Coalition (DLC).
In Sydney a crowd of up to 300 mostly young and tech-savvy protestors gathered at Town Hall to hear guest speakers including bloggers and musicians criticise the web filtering scheme.
DLC Sydney rally coordinator Jerry Hutchinson said the low take-up of existing free web filtering software, introduced by the previous government, showed that parents were not interested in the concept: Why? Because people can monitor their
own children – they don't need censorship in their home.
DLC plans to hold anti-filter demonstrations in capital cities once a month until March, when it will promote a national protest in Canberra called March in March
The Northern Territory Attorney-General's office says stricter pornography laws will be introduced to Parliament sometime next year.
Australia's national adult retail association, Eros, says the Territory has some of the most lenient pornography laws in the nation and it has been pushing for local laws to conform with the rest of the country.
Attorney-General Chris Burns had said that stricter legislation would be introduced to Parliament this year.
But his office now says the legislation is not finished, but it should be ready to put to Parliament in the first half of next year.
Even the ultra-conservative politician known for his attempts to censor television has strongly opposed the Government's plans to introduce mandatory internet censorship, highlighting the policy's lack of support across the political
The proposed filters would not have blocked any of the 15,000 child porn videos and half a million child abuse images uncovered by police in a major sting this week as they cannot filter traffic on peer-to-peer networks - only websites.
In a post on his blog, South Australian Liberal Senator Cory Bernardi expressed concern that the filters would inadvertently block legitimate content and be expanded to cover other controversial material opposed by the Government of the day, such
as regular pornography.
Already we have a filter on the internet for all parliament house computers. It blocks some political sites, alternative lifestyle sites and other sites that, while not to my personal taste, are hardly grounds for censorship, he wrote: Imagine if such censorship was extended to every computer in the country through mandatory ISP filtering. Who would be the ultimate arbiter of what is permissible content?
In his blog post, Bernardi acknowledged that his position on the web censorship issue would surprise many and said a big part of me wants to support it . However, Communications Minister Stephen Conroy's plan was so devoid of
detail that it was impossible to form a considered opinion.
24 hours since its launch, hundreds of people have used Senator Conroy's new blog as a place to protest against his proposed net filtering scheme.
The Digital Economy Future Directions blog was launched by Senator Conroy yesterday as a place for people to comment on various areas of digital policy.
Conroy noted that an upcoming blog post, How do we maintain the same civil society we enjoy offline in an online world?, would touch on the issue of filtering. We welcome your feedback about the [filtering] issue in response to this
But readers didn't wait for that post to go live, instead flooding Minister Tanner's welcome post with over 400 posts in less than 24 hours.
Commenters attacked the filters as technically unfeasible. Many comments spoke passionately about freedom and censorship. Commenters even got political, with threats to campaign against the Rudd Government if the filters are implemented.
There was one lone voice that supported the filters.
Government's plan to censor the internet is in tatters
The Government's plan to censor the internet is in tatters, with Australia's largest ISP saying it will not take part in live trials of the system and the second largest committing only to a scaled-back trial.
The live trials, scheduled to kick off before Christmas, were supposed to provide a definitive picture of whether the filters could work in the real world, after lab tests released by the Australian Communications and Media Authority in June
found available ISP filters frequently let through content that should be blocked, incorrectly blocked harmless content and slowed down network speeds by up to 87 per cent.
But now Telstra and Internode have said they would not take part in the trials. iiNet has said it would take part only to prove to the Government that its plan would not work, while Optus will test a heavily cut-down filtering model.
An appeal judge in Australia has ruled that an animation depicting well-known cartoon characters engaging in sexual acts is child pornography. The internet cartoon featured characters from the Simpsons TV series.
The central issue in the case was whether a cartoon character could depict a real person. Judge Michael Adams decided that it could, and found a man from Sydney guilty of possessing child pornography on his computer.
The defence had argued that the fictional, animated characters were not real people, and clearly departed from the human form. They therefore contested that the conviction for the possession of child pornography should be overturned.
Justice Michael Adams said the purpose of anti-child pornography legislation was to stop sexual exploitation and child abuse where images of real children were depicted. But in a landmark ruling he decided that the mere fact that they were
not realistic representations of human beings did not mean that they could not be considered people.
He ruled that the animated cartoon could fuel demand for material that does involve the abuse of children, and therefore upheld the conviction.
Rather than jail the man, however, he fined him Aus$3,000
A video sharing website user who re-posted somebody else's video of a man apparently swinging a baby around has had his house raided by an armed Australian police anti-paedophile squad.
The user Biggles9 has been charged with accessing child abuse material, downloading child abuse material and uploading child abuse material with the intent to distribute . He is out on bail and is due to appear in court 18 December. He
posted the clip, which he found on MetaCafe, to LiveLeak, a UK-based citizen journalism site.
The Queensland-based Task Force Argos allegedly acted on information supplied by British police. They arrested him and seized computer equipment. They questioned Biggles9 for about seven hours.
According to LiveLeak founder Hayden Hewitt, who has been in regular contact with the long-time member since he was charged, Biggles9 did not ask for a lawyer to be present because he did not believe there was any case to answer. Hewitt said he
had been told that the clip Biggles9 uploaded to LiveLeak was the only data of interest that the police's digital forensic search found.
According to Hewitt, Biggles9 found the clip on YouTube, via MetaCafe, which aggregates video sites. It was also available on several other video sharing sites. LiveLeak and YouTube have removed the footage, but it is still accessible elsewhere
on the web.
It shows a man described as being of eastern European appearance in what appears to be a living room with a sofa and TV, and a baby in a nappy. The man picks up the baby and begins swinging it around very fast, at first by its two arms and then
by one. Later, he turns the baby through somersaults. At the end of the performance he holds the baby normally and approaches the camera. The baby smiles.
It's currently unclear what prompted the raid on Biggles9's home by armed police. A few days after the clip was posted, Hewitt was contacted by a child protection group based in the US, which asked if he had any information about the source of
the video. Hewitt didn't, but added an appeal on the page hosting it for anyone with information to get in touch. Soon after, Gloucestershire police asked him to remove it on grounds that people might copy what they saw. LiveLeak declined to
remove the clip.
About a month later, Task Force Argos raided Biggles9. He contacted Hewitt and requested the clip be taken down on the advice of his lawyers, which LiveLeak did.
In his post-arrest blog, Biggles9 wrote: I'm just trying to warn all the uploaders and moderators to be very careful of what is posted and approved when it comes to children; no one needs to go through this crap over something that is so
petty. H e added he is confident sanity will prevail.
It has been revealed that one of the most important elements of the live ISP filtering pilot, testing the impact filtering a blacklist of 10,000 URLs has on network performance, will be a closed network test and will not involve actual customers.
Here's an extract from a letter sent by Senator Conroy to an Australian Whirlpool member:
In consultations with ISPs, concerns have been raised that filtering a blacklist beyond 10 000 URLs may raise network performance issues, depending on the configuration of the filter. The pilot will therefore seek to also
test network performance against a test list of 10 000 URLs.
This will be a closed network test and will not involve actual customers. The list of 10 000 sites will be developed by the technical organisation assisting the Department on the pilot, which has access to lists of this size. As this test is
only being performed to test the impact on network performance against a list of this size, and actual customers are not involved, the make-up of the list is not an issue.
It's certainly worth the cynical note that simulated users also do not publicly complain that their Internet performance is degraded under the system.
Members of Senator Conroy's own political party have called on him to change his policy, Ban This URL has learned. We want an opt-in system, Janai Tabbernor, president of New South Wales Young Labor, told Ban This URL.
The junior political party unanimously passed a motion at last weekend's conference, calling on Senator Conroy to switch to an opt-in system instead of a clean feed, and to redirect the funds to the national broadband network.
Motion 42 read:
The Internet is a free medium for the open communication of ideas and opinions without hindrance, and thus, should not be censored.
NSW Young Labor supports individual discretion and choice with respect to the internet, rather than censoring the world wide web and its content.
The point is that we don't condemn the Minister or the government, said Tabbernor: We generally support what the government and the Minister are trying to achieve, and we agree with his objective: we want the internet to be a safe
The original proposal put to the electorate at the 2007 Federal Election was an opt-in system, pointed out Tabbernor.
It's tough being a government these days; who has the energy to clean up the Internet after a hard day's work bailing out the financial sector? Not the Australian government, it seems. Rather than actually doing something about illegal content,
they just make a list of it and tell ISPs to filter everything that's on the list. Sidestepping the murky political details and—for the moment—the civil liberties problems inherent in this approach, let's take a closer look at the technical
aspects of such a plan.
My conclusion: this isn't going to work. There's no way to build a filter box that can filter all the URLs where porn is hosted throughout the Internet. A DNS-based filter that helps naive users avoid being confronted with explicit content would
probably work to a certain degree. An IP-based filter for a small amount of very illegal content—that would be the stuff that even the spam hosters in China don't want on their servers—may also work. But anything more ambitious than that is
certain to fail; either it won't work very well, or it will bankrupt the ISPs.
SBS has dropped an episode of its Swift and Shift Couriers comedy after the family of Jake Kovco expressed concerns over a storyline which sees its characters delivering the ashes of a deceased Australian soldier.
The military bungled the transportation of a soldier's remains, and sent them to Cairo. After the ‘family' of the soldier bans the military from further involvement, the hapless courier company comes to the rescue in order to lift its company
SBS was approached by members of Jake Kovco's family who expressed concern at some of the content in this week's episode of Swift and Shift Couriers, an SBS spokesperson told TV Tonight.
After reviewing next week's episode and in light of the impending memorial service for an Australian soldier recently killed in Afghanistan, SBS exercised sensitivity and made a decision not to broadcast the second episode of Swift and Shift
Couriers scheduled for next week.
This week will see the Australian launch of Grand Theft Auto IV for PC, and in a statement, Rockstar confirmed to GameSpot AU that unlike the console versions currently on sale, the Australian PC retail release of GTA IV will be
sold completely uncensored.
Grand Theft Auto IV PC has been rated MA15+ strong violence, sex scenes, coarse language, and drug references by the Australian Classification Office. The PC game is unedited in any way and identical in content to the international
version, a local Rockstar rep said.
Rockstar obviously came to the conclusion that they had over reacted because when it came time to get the PC version rated they submitted the uncut game. This was rated MA15+ (Strong violence, sex scenes, coarse language and drug references) on
Australia's Classification Board has explained why it banned the upcoming horror-shooter F.E.A.R. 2: Project Origin.
Games On Net says the censor deemed the violent content high in impact and unsuitable for a minor to play, citing as examples a nail gun that can be used to pin bad guys to walls, after which they will fall to the ground in a
bloody mass, and a sniper rifle that will tear bodies apart at close range.
[The protagonist] uses his sub machine gun to explicitly bisect an enemy, the two parts of the body lying separately on the ground, with copious blood spray, the board noted in one specific example of in-game action it used to back up its
decision. There are also a number of explicit close range decapitations involving both human and mutant creatures. The decapitations are the result of close-up throat slashing from behind and close-up gunshots to the throat. The copious
blood spray covers walls, objects and even the game's camera lens, while partially-dismembered corpses and severed heads also feature prominently.
The ratings board also blamed the game's enhanced graphics and realistic behavior of human and mutant foes for the decision, which it said heightened the impact of the violence to the point where it cannot be accommodated at the
Support for the Government's plan to censor the Australian internet has hit rock bottom, with even some children's welfare groups now saying that that the mandatory filters are ineffective and a waste of money.
Live trials of the filters, which will block illegal content for all Australian internet users and inappropriate adult content on an opt-in basis, are slated to begin by Christmas, despite harsh opposition from the Greens,
Opposition, the internet industry, consumers and online rights groups.
Holly Doel-Mackaway, adviser with Save the Children, the largest independent children's rights agency in the world, said educating kids and parents was the way to empower young people to be safe internet users.
She said the filter scheme was fundamentally flawed because it failed to tackle the problem at the source and would inadvertently block legitimate resources.
Furthermore there was no evidence to suggest that children were stumbling across child pornography when browsing the web. Doel-Mackaway believes the millions of dollars earmarked to implement the filters would be far better spent on teaching
children how to use the internet safely and on law enforcement.
The constant change of cyberspace means that a filter is going to be able to be circumvented and it's going to throw up false positives - many innocent websites, maybe even our own, will be blacklisted because we reference a lot of our work
that we do with children in fighting commercial sexual exploitation, she said.
James McDougall, director of the National Children's and Youth Law Centre, expressed similar views to Save the Children.
He said the mandatory filters simply would not work and children should be able to make decisions for themselves. Concerned parents could easily install PC-based filters on their computers if they desired, or ask their internet providers to
switch on voluntary filtering: I take issue with the minister's perspective that children are themselves the danger in a sense that we have to make this decision for them because they are not capable of making it for themselves - I think
there's very little evidence to support that and plenty of evidence to show that children are responsible decision makers given the skills and information.
Other childrens' welfare organisations, such as Child Wise and Bravehearts, continue to support the filters, saying the flaws are acceptable as long as they help block some child pornography.
The TV censors of the Australian Communications and Media Authority will require the Nine Network and affiliate licensees to ensure films are correctly classified after finding that the film Spider-man , broadcast by NWS Adelaide, was
incorrectly classified PG (Parental Guidance Recommended), rather than M (Mature).
After investigating an unresolved complaint, ACMA found that Channel Nine South Australia, breached its programme code, due to violence contained in the film.
Films broadcast on commercial television are classified according to the Guidelines for Classification of Films and Computer Games (the guidelines). For PG-classified films these guidelines state that, violence should be mild and infrequent,
and be justified by context.
While the code allows licensees to modify films for broadcast, licensees must ensure that films are modified in accordance with the guidelines to guarantee that they are suitable for broadcast at particular times, said Lyn Maddock, Acting
ACMA found that the Spider-man film contained frequent scenes of violence. It also found that the film contained a depiction of violence that was stronger than mild.
Originally classified M by the Classification Board for theatrical release, the film was modified by the licensee for broadcast as PG. However ACMA concluded that the film was not correctly modified from its original M classification and should
have been broadcast in the later M time zone with the corresponding M classification.
Note that Spider-man was rated as 12 uncut in the UK.
In one of the most nauseating bipartisan coups against free-mindedness in Australia's history, Queensland Labor Premier Wayne Goss agreed with Opposition leader Rob Borbidge with regards to the outrage that was an R18+ rated Salò
, and he urge[d] Queenslanders to stay away [from the re-released film] in droves. A reclassification eventually came in 1998, after Judy Spence released a statement erroneously titled Borbidge Must Act on Sex Film that Glorifies
Pedophilia. The OFLC caved; the film was banned.
The '98 ban was confirmed five years later. In July 2008, the applicant “Shock” re-submitted it for classification. For a fourth time, Australian authorities banned Salò . Soon after, the film enjoyed a highly publicised and
best-selling re-release by arthouse distributors Criterion in the United States.
It was a sobering sequence of events to see unfold - a picture that was widely available to most of the free world was prohibited by Australian authorities and damned to the recesses of cinephiliac memory. Since 1998, distributing, purchasing or
even possessing a copy of Salò is an offence punishable by a jail term. The Australian Classification Board cites dozens of non-pornographic works, some legal a few hundred kilometres across the Tasman in New Zealand, with similar status.
Australia is supposed to be a secular society, but the Atheist Foundation of Australia says the nation's biggest outdoor advertising company has refused to run its advertisements.
One of the humorous messages the foundation hoped to put on the back of buses was, Sleep in on Sunday mornings.
But the foundation says Australia's biggest outdoor advertising company, APN Outdoor, had a problem with it.
Atheist Foundation president David Nicholls told the Religion Report on ABC Radio National that the contentious slogan was one of a number which had been proposed for the $16,000 advertising campaign: We started off with 'Atheism - because
there is no credible evidence', we put that to the bus companies, they didn't like that and they said the wording wasn't to their acceptance.
And then we changed that to 'Celebrate reason' and thought we'd make it a bit comical - 'Sleep in on Sunday mornings. But they refused that also.
The Australian Greens won't be supporting plans to introduce compulsory internet filters.
The Federal Government wants to stop Australians accessing x-rated material, child pornography and inappropriate material.
The plan is being opposed by the internet industry which says it opens the door to censorship of other material, including political views.
We're very, very concerned that there's going to be a unnecessary clamp down on the internet and it has to be watched, Greens leader Bob Brown told ABC Television on Tuesday. Brown's colleague Scott Ludlam has been lobbying against the
The Government needs the support of all seven crossbench senators - including the five Greens - to have draft laws pass parliament against coalition opposition.
Somebody Think of the Children blog raised concerns last week about whether the Australian Sex Party (ASP) would fight for an R18+ game classification, given that adult trade association Eros had been opposed to adult games.
Party convenor Fiona Patten promptly responded said that ASP does support the introduction of an R18+ classification for games, as well as an X18+ rating for games. It's part of their national and consistent approach to classification policy.
When it comes to the availability of BDSM material and other content that could be perceived as violent, ASP would like to see the X18+ classification replaced with a NVE (Non Violent Erotica) classification and clearly consenting role playing
and fantasies allowed. If that's the case, the NVE guidelines would need to be a lot more lenient than those proposed nearly 10 years ago.
The party is also opposed to the removal of the AMI's Want Longer Lasting Sex billboard. Patten explains that the removal was because of an organised campaign and there was even a website that Catholic Bishop Pell promoted. The word sex
in it self should not be seen as inappropriate and that is what happened.'
The new Australian Sex Party has had more than 1,000 membership applications since its launch this week, it says.
Convenor Fiona Patten said although she knew there would be a significant amount of interest in the political party, the numbers so far had taken her by surprise: People are sick of not being treated like adults when it comes to issues
involving censorship and personal choices, and they're certainly sick of living in a nanny state, where religious minorities are influencing the agenda .
Australian politicians could get in a spot of bother here. It is proving simply unacceptable to filter the web to the current legal standards of banned hardcore and softcore only allowed with age verification. They will either have to impose
unpopular censorship or else accept that the legal limits are unrealistic/unenforceable and hence wind up the nutters.
Shell/Coles Express follow suit removing Category 1 magazines nationwide. Julie Gale says ‘The Federal classification system and its State and Territory enforcement arms need an overhaul. They are not working.'
A last minute pull-out by Grand Central shopping centre management has caused a public meeting organised by euthanasia proponent Dr Philip Nitschke to relocate and given Toowoomba the distinction of being the only town in Australia to
withdraw a booking made by his Exit International organisation.
An angry and disappointed Dr Nitschke said he was astonished by the decision.
Dr Nitschke said the only reason given was that he was a controversial figure and therefore inappropriate to be speaking at the community room at the shopping centre.
Hitting out at the decision, Dr Nitschke said censorship of what could and couldn't be discussed in a public forum shamed Australia.
It is a coincidence indeed that the venue should pull out on the day after we ran an advertisement in the Toowoomba Chronicle advertising the public meeting, Dr Nitschke said: Centre management knew what it was about and the booking was
made weeks ago.
The Australian political party, with the slogan we're serious about sex, launches at Melbourne Sexpo on November 20th and party convenor Fiona Patten is confident it will gain the 500 members required to register and contest state
Upper House and Senate seats.
Ms Patten, who is also the chief executive of the Eros Association - representing the adult retail and entertainment industry, said she and others were concerned about the Government's proposed internet filter, which is being tested over summer
on about 10,000 sites to block unwanted content.
This really came out of 20 years of lobbying on sex and censorship and then... the latest being the compulsory internet filter, which will ... prohibit and blacklist adult material that is currently legal in magazines, books and film, she
Ms Patten said there had already been a lot of interest from potential members: We'll probably have our 500 members by the time we launch on Thursday. But there's four million customers of adult shops in Australia."
She also hoped the 1000 or so adult shops around the country would become Sex Party branches: Hopefully we'll get their attention with the word but then we may be able to help influence some reasonably sensible policies.
An introductory statement on the Australian Sex Party reads:
We're serious about sex.
Sex is a wonderful thing. It's the reason we were born and (mostly) its NOT the reason we die. Sex, as gender, defines who we are and often what roles we undertake in society. It's responsible for a heck of a lot of pleasure
and fulfillment in life. Also, the basis of much art, fashion and music. It entertains us, enthralls us and mystifies us. Because its such a fundamental need of human beings, it conditions much of our behaviour. And then politicians go and
legislate that behaviour.
The Australian Sex Party is a political response to the sexual needs of Australia in the 21st century. It is an attempt to restore the balance between sexual privacy and sexual publicity that has been severely distorted by morals campaigners and
A political party based on sex is certainly a single-issue party but to choose a bad metaphor, its a very broad church. Economic, social welfare, environmental and even defense policies have got lots to do with sex and sexuality. All those big
guns and huge surpluses...
If you're sick of religious and anti-sex politicians like Steve Fielding, Brian Harradine and Fred Nile threatening to block legislation in the Senate and State Upper Houses unless they get their way on sex and gender issues, vote for someone who
understands this rort.
The Advertising Standards Bureau says it has received numerous complaints about new billboards advertising a medication for sexual dysfunction.
It is the second time this year advertising for the medication sold by the Advanced Medical Institute has attracted complaints.
In August, the company was asked by the Advertising Standards Bureau to remove more than 100 billboards nationally with the slogan Want longer lasting sex? because some people found it offensive.
The company says it thought the new slogan Bonk for longer was less offensive.
But the bureau's chief executive, Fiona Jolly, says it has already received numerous complaints about the signs on Sydney's Parramatta Road. Jolly says the board will make a decision on the new signs within the next two weeks.
The advertising standards board members will look at clause 2.3 of the Code of Ethics, which says that the treatment of sex, sexuality and nudity must be sensitive to the relative audience, she said.
The company says it will remove the signs if the bureau asks it to.
Driving through Vauxhall the other day my eye was taken by a huge billboard posing the question in lurid day-glo colours several feet high Want Longer Lasting Sex?
At a busy traffic intersection? In broad daylight? The product being advertised seemed to be some sort of nasal spray.
Vauxhall, for those unfamiliar with the area, is a scruffy neighbourhood, just across the bridge from the Houses of Parliament which, for reasons that are not exactly clear, has recently transmogrified into London's largest gay erogenous zone.
In this context, the promise of Longer Lasting Sex seemed to be simply another, albeit rather more in-your-face, addition, to the colourful pageant of local life. But driving on to Waterloo, there was the billboard again. A colleague reports a
sighting outside a Tesco on a busy road in West London - there was almost a pile-up.
Anyone who photographs children will need the permission of the parents before the pictures can be exhibited.
The ruling is included in sweeping guidelines released by the Australia Council designed to protect children in the aftermath of the Bill Henson controversy.
The six-page document also requires artists who work with naked children to ensure that their parents understand the nature of the artwork. Artists must also have a commitment from parents that they will supervise the naked child.
But missing from the draft guidelines is any mechanism for policing them.
A key visual arts organisation has described elements of the draft protocols as unworkable. The executive director of the National Association for the Visual Arts, Tamara Winikoff, said requiring artists who work with children to obtain
parental permission was restrictive: That's problematic particularly for people like documentary photographers who work in the street. At the moment there are no restrictions on taking crowd photographs or photographs of people in the street
without their permission … This would impose a very, very unreasonable restriction.
The guidelines say images of nude or partly nude children taken over the past 25 years may need to be reviewed by the Classification Board before they can go on view.
Where there is no law to enforce them, the protocols will work as a minimum standard and a reminder to everyone that they must obey the law.
They will affect all projects funded by the Australia Council. From January 1, artists must adhere to the protocols if they want a grant from the Government's peak arts funding body.
The council is seeking comments on the draft protocols by November 27 and will publish the final guidelines on December 31
The federal Government has been urged to come clean over grey areas in its internet filtering plan after Broadband and Communications Minister Stephen Conroy pointed to unwanted content being censored.
During question time yesterday, Senator Conroy was unclear on the exact type of content that would be blocked during the trials.
The pilot will test filtering specifically against the ACMA blacklist of internet prohibited content, which is mostly child pornography, as well as filtering of other unwanted content, he said in response to a question by Greens Senator
There were 1000 pages on the current ACMA blacklist at the beginning of the year and has since increased by 300 URLs. The list is compiled based on complaints from the public.
Senator Ludlum urged Senator Conroy to specify what he meant by unwanted conten: Will the minister provide a definition of unwanted content and where we might find a definition of unwanted?
Will the minister acknowledge the legitimate concerns that have been raised by commentators and members of the public that such a system will degrade internet performance, prove costly and inefficient and do very little to achieve the
Government's policy objectives?
Furthermore, the Government's proposal for dynamic filtering is equivalent to the Post Office being required to open every single piece of mail.
Senator Conroy said he couldn't answer all the questions in under a minute. I will happily get you some further information on that very long list of questions, he told Senator Ludlum, who is the Greens Communications spokesperson.
Senator Conroy's lack of clarity during question time adds more confusion to the discussion -- as ACMA blacklist's comprises illegal websites containing child pornography, X-rated and violent material, among others, it is unclear if he was
referring to these sites specifically.
While the ACMA blacklist contains around 1300 URLs, the pilot will test filtering for a range of URLs up to around 10,000, Senator Conroy said. This is so that the impact on network performance of a larger blacklist can be examined.
Senator Conroy acknowledged expert technical advice that such a filter was not feasible, and would slow down internet access speeds, but said that was the reason for conducting a pilot
The worst Comms
Minister in 15 years
As opposition grows against the Government's controversial plan to censor the internet, the head of one of Australia's largest ISPs has labelled the Communications Minister the worst we've had in the past 15 years.
Separately, in Senate question time today, Greens senator Scott Ludlam accused the Communications Minister, Stephen Conroy, of misleading the public by falsely claiming his mandatory censorship plan was similar to that already in place in Sweden,
Britain, Canada and New Zealand.
Despite significant opposition from internet providers, consumers, engineers, network administrators and online rights activists, the Government is pressing ahead, this week calling for expressions of interests from ISPs keen to participate in
live trials of the proposed internet filtering system.
Michael Malone, managing director iiNet, said he would sign up to be involved in the ridiculous trials, which are scheduled to commence by December 24 this year.
Optus and Telstra both said they were reviewing the Government's documentation and would then decide whether to take part.
But Malone's main purpose was to provide the Government with hard numbers demonstrating how stupid it is - specifically that the filtering system would not work, would be patently simple to bypass, would not filter peer-to-peer
traffic and would significantly degrade network speeds.
They're not listening to the experts, they're not listening to the industry, they're not listening to consumers, so perhaps some hard numbers will actually help, he said.
Every time a kid manages to get through this filter, we'll be publicising it and every time it blocks legitimate content, we'll be publicising it.
Malone concluded: This is the worst Communications Minister we've had in the 15 years since the [internet] industry has existed.
Northen Territory Aborigines have been made to feel repugnant by the Federal Government's intervention, with restrictions like income quarantining a boot in the guts, says the man who headed the government review into the policy.
Peter Yu, chairman of the Northern Territory Emergency Response Review Board, said many indigenous people found the intervention punitive, coercive and racist.
Earlier this month, his board reported to the Government that controversial restricted welfare payments to Aborigines in the Territory, which require the suspension of the Racial Discrimination Act, should be abolished. It also recommended the
reinstatement of permit systems for entry onto Aboriginal lands.
But the Government has opted to keep the intervention operating unchanged for at least the next year.
These bans on pornography damaged Aboriginal culture in a very devious way. They told white Australians that black Australians were so primitive and so base that even depictions of non-violent adult sex had the potential to turn them into
pedophiles and rapists.
Much of what the Howard government banned from these communities was category 1 restricted magazines, which are legally available from every newsagency, service station and convenience store in the country. If Aborigines cannot manage to control
their lust while viewing magazines that sit alongside The Australian Women's Weekly in a newsagent, what sort of people are they?
Nowhere in the original Little Children are Sacred report did the authors call for bans on porn. This approach was white conservative Christian policy. The report's authors wanted more education and enforcement of the Classification Act in the
NT. They knew that bans on porn in Aboriginal communities would simply say to the general public that they had a genetic predisposition to sexual assault when confronted with nudity and sexual activity. The report even stated that bans on
pornography would not be effective.
In case Howard and Kevin Rudd have missed it, Aborigines had been walking around the continent without clothes on and watching others have sex out of the corner of their eye for more than 50,000 years without a problem. Yet as a result of the
intervention, Aborigines in the NT are being unfairly discriminated against, both as a matter of social equity and of racial equality.
The original report that lead to the intervention stated that young children were being shown sexually explicit material in an inappropriate fashion. This was largely because many Aboriginal adults had no idea that it was an offence to do so, but
mainly because of serious overcrowding. How do you watch a sexually explicit film in private when there are 30 people living in a dwelling?
A lobby group set up by internet auction house eBay and other online merchants in the US and Europe plans to open a chapter in Australia as the Federal Government is poised to reveal details of its contentious cyber safety plan.
Labor promised before last year's election to censor 'objectionable' content on the internet and set aside $128.5 million in the May budget to deal with cyber censorship and law enforcement.
The Australian Communications and Media Authority and the Government has hired Melbourne company Enex TestLab to design a live pilot test on a real network.
This filtering plan has been widely criticised and now international lobby group Netchoice wants to weigh into the debate. Netchoice is backed by members including eBay, publisher AOL Time Warner, some heavyweight trade associations in the US and
software house Oracle. Netchoice said it would recruit Australian online retailers and internet players to its cause. The group's executive director, Steve DelBianco, is currently visiting Sydney.
Last week the System Administrators Guild of Australia criticised plans to introduce a filter system. The guild, while acknowledging efforts to protect children from objectionable content, said the proposals could slow down the internet for
everybody. Guild president Donna Ashelford said those who created objectionable material already used encryption methods that would not be stopped by filtering.
Before this year's Beijing Olympic Games, Prime Minister Kevin Rudd chastised the Chinese authorities for blocking full access to the internet for the assembled world media: My attitude to our friends in China is very simple. They should have
nothing to fear by open digital links with the rest of the world during this important international celebration of sport.
Although Rudd expressed no concern for the average Chinese web user being unable to view tens of thousands of banned websites, his intervention was nevertheless a welcome call for transparency and greater democracy.
But now the Rudd government is working towards implementing an unworkable filtering process in Australia that suggests a misguided understanding of the internet and worrying tendency to censor an inherently anarchic system.
More from the recent Australian Senate Estimates hearings. This time the full line up of pro-censorship loons, Joyce, McGauran, Barnett, and Fierravnti-Wells, waited in line to quiz the Classification Board.
Topics covered include the adult magazine ratings, community liaison officers, the classification of Art Monthly, the lack of an R18+ rating for games, and legal challenges to decisions of the Classification Board.
Particularly interesting is that Australian nutters are taking up a moral stance against the likes of Barely Legal, ie porn mags featuring young looking adults.
Australian censorship ministers have finally agreed to release a discussion paper on the proposed introduction of an R18+ rating for video games.
There were fears last week that the introduction of an adults-only games rating had been delayed indefinitely after South Australian Attorney-General Michael Atkinson withdrew his support for the discussion paper and public consultation process.
However, at yesterday's Standing Committee of Attorneys-General meeting in Brisbane, Victorian Attorney-General Rob Hulls, who has long supported the push for an R18+ games rating and took the lead in drafting the discussion paper, achieved
consensus with fellow censorship ministers.
Spokesperson for Hulls, Meaghan Shaw, said censorship ministers at SCAG agreed that the discussion paper will be finalised by the end of the year, with the view to Australia-wide distribution.
Ministers originally agreed back in March to canvas public opinion on the proposed introduction of a R18+ classification for games following the release of a discussion paper on the issue.
A draft of the paper, simply titled R18+ for computer games was sent to ministers in September and details the pros and cons of introducing an adults-only rating for games.
When finalised, the paper will be available to the public on the internet and provided to interested parties such as games industry groups and family associations to seek their views.
The South Australian Attorney-General Michael Atkinson would not specify last week why he was unable to support the release of the discussion paper, and it has not been revealed why he changed his stance yesterday at SCAG.
The battle is now on for the soul of the Australian internet. The outcome could have enormous repercussions for the future of the internet in the UK.
Regular readers will be aware of the Australian Government's plans to clamp down on the internet down under. These, the brainchild of Communications Minister Stephen Conroy, have been bubbling away since last year, and began, as so many
half-baked government schemes do, with the plea that someone think of the children.
The scheme would put in place a server-level content filtering system, to block material unsuitable for children. The cat was put well and truly amongst the pigeons with the recent claim by Internode network engineer Mark Newton that there will
be no opt-out from filtering for parents. Rather, there will be a blacklist that parents can opt into to protect their children.
But failing to opt into that list would merely switch users to an alternative filtering system, trapping content deemed unsuitable for adults.
According to Newton: That is the way the testing was formulated, the way the upcoming live trials will run, and the way the policy is framed; to believe otherwise is to believe that a government department would go to the lengths of declaring
that some kind of internet content is illegal, then allow an opt-out.
Wowser Stephen Conroy: I am not a wowser
I will ban hardcore porn
Online pornography will be caught in the Rudd Government's compulsory blacklist internet filter, the Australian Media and Communications Authority (ACMA) has confirmed.
Any website that is subject to a complaint and classified RC or X18+ will be added to the blacklist, an ACMA spokesman said: This includes real depictions of actual sexual activity
Legal X18+ pornography in the territories will not be immune, the ACMA spokesman added.
Communications Minister Stephen Conroy: This is not an argument about free speech. As I have already said, [...BUT...] we have laws about the sort of material that is acceptable across all mediums and the internet is no different.
Currently, some material is banned and we are simply seeking to use technology to ensure those bans are working. The National Classification Code determines content against the standards of morality, decency and propriety generally accepted by
ACMA received 1122 complaints about online content in 2007/08 resulting in 15 take-down orders and 781 recommendations to makers of online filters.
A third of those 796 blocked websites were classified X18+ for actual sexual activity between consenting adults, with the remainder refused classification for depiction of a sexual fetish or fantasy, violence, or a child.
A separate filter, dubbed the Clean Feed, will further block a range of material unsuitable for children. Adults will be able to opt out of the Clean Feed, but not the illegal content filter.
Wowser Stephen Conroy: I am not a wowser
some material online,
[such as hardcore porn]
The government election promise to censor the internet looks to be in trouble as Senate opposition grows.
The Rudd Government promised families far-reaching measures to block prohibited content at the internet server level. However Communication Minister Wowser Stephen Conroy extended the idea to censoring adults.
The idea now faces a concerted backlash against the proposal by the internet industry.
If the Liberals oppose legislation imposing server-level filtering, the Government will need the support of the Greens, Family First senator Steve Fielding and South Australian senator Nick Xenophon.
But the Greens have added their voice to Coalition concerns about the plan, with the Greens' communications spokesman calling the proposal daft.
Greens communications spokesman Scott Ludlam told The Age yesterday that he was concerned the Government was trying to implement a policy that was technically difficult and very expensive for taxpayers. Senator Ludlam said server-level filtering
imposed a kind of censorship that runs counter to what the internet is all about. The Government would be better investing the filtering money in law enforcement and education: I think it's really quite misguided .
The industry says mandatory filtering by internet service providers - as distinct from a net nanny that families can put on their own computers - will slow internet speeds significantly.
Nutter Senator Fielding has signalled he wants a range of material blocked, including hard-core pornography and fetish material. Senator Xenophon has indicated he wants access to offshore gaming sites restricted.
The Government is still a way from producing legislation to effect its policy, but indications are that it will be difficult to achieve consensus in the Senate.
Communications Minister Wowser Stephen Conroy has launched a defence of the policy, hitting back at claims by the internet industry that the Government wants a sweeping ban on controversial content: I will accept some debate around what should
and should not be on the internet - I am not a wowser [...BUT...] I am not looking to blanket-ban some of the material that it is being claimed I want to blanket-ban, but some material online, such as child pornography, is illegal.
[Hardcore porn is also illegal on the internet in Australian but somehow Conroy doesn't say anything to counter the idea that it should therefore be blocked]
In response to arguments that the proposal would affect basic civil liberties and the principle that households should be able to be their own internet policeman, he said: We are not trying to build the Great Wall of China. We are not trying
to be Saudi Arabia, and to say that is to simply misrepresent the Government's position.
If you're concerned about the government's plans for filtering the internet, it's time to speak up before it's too late. Visit NoCleenFeed.com , run by Electronic Frontiers Australia, for information on how to voice your concern. Do it quickly,
before some holier-than-thou git decides you're not allowed to see it.
The introduction of an R18+ rating for computer games has been delayed indefinitely after South Australian Attorney-General Michael Atkinson withdrew his support for a discussion paper and public consultation process.
Censorship ministers in March agreed in principle to canvas public opinion on the proposed introduction of a R18+ classification for games and release a discussion paper on the issue, but Atkinson has refused to agree to make the report
public, effectively shelving it.
The draft discussion paper, simply titled R18+ for computer games was sent to ministers last month and details the pros and cons of introducing an adults-only rating for games.
The paper would have been available to the public on the internet and provided to interested parties such as games industry groups and family associations to seek their views.
Victorian Attorney-General Rob Hulls, who has long supported the push for an R18+ games rating and took the lead in drafting the discussion paper, appears resigned that no changes to the classification system for games will be made anytime soon.
Spokesperson for Hulls, Meaghan Shaw, said whilst the issue is still formally on the SCAG (Standing Committee of Attorneys-General) agenda, it now appears unlikely that there will be unanimity from all jurisdictions to proceed further at this
stage with introducing an R18+ category for computer games.
At the Senate Standing Committee on Legal and Constitutional Affairs last week, deputy chair Senator Guy Barnett said some of us are dumbfounded as to why we do not have an R rating for video games.
We have a real problem, and this is something the Senate and the parliament is going to have to address. If we have one state opposing this, South Australia, then clearly we are not going to have any R rating of video games. That simply cannot
occur as a matter of course legally.
The issue is again on the agenda for discussion at the Standing Committee of Attorneys-General meeting next month.
The System Administrators Guild of Australia has called on the federal government to embrace open discussion of its proposed Internet filtering regime, after allegations of attempted censorship of critics surfaced last week.
The call was made after a SAGE-AU member and Internode engineer, Mark Newton, criticised the government and its Internet filtering policy on the Whirlpool broadband forum.
Subsequently, a policy advisor for Senator Conroy is reported to have expressed serious concern about Newton's comments to a board member of the Internet Industry Association (IIA) and requested that this concern be passed to his employer,
an IIA member.
SAGE-AU president Donna Ashelford defended Newton's right to criticise the government's plans, saying that SAGE-AU's code of ethics required its members to communicate with users about computing matters that may affect them:
It's reasonable to state that the issue of Internet filtering is one of substantial impact on all Internet users
The Government's own figures indicate that all of the filtering systems trialled would impact Internet performance, as well as availability of legitimate services to varying degrees. To this end, Newton has undertaken his duties under the code to
the fullest, and receives the full support for his position from the organisation.
We remain concerned that the filters tested are unable to provide an effective, reliable filtering solution with the performance required for modern broadband connections.
The filters tested have demonstrated an excessively high exclusion rate of legitimate Internet content. To this end, we remain opposed to the implementation of Internet filtering in its current form and concerned about any attempts to silence
legitimate discussion of Internet filtering plans.
Family First Nutter Senator Steve Fielding wants X18+ hardcore pornography and fetish material blocked under the Government's plans to filter the internet, sparking renewed fears the censorship could be expanded well beyond illegal material.
The Opposition said it would take a lot of convincing for it to support the controversial mandatory ISP filtering policy, so the Government would need the support of Senator Fielding as well as the Greens and Senator Nick Xenophon to pass
Industry sources said Senator Fielding's sentiments validated ISPs' concerns that the categories of blocked content could be broadened significantly at the whim of the Government, which is under pressure to appease vocal minorities.
A spokesman for Senator Xenophon said, should the filtering plan go ahead, he would look to use it to block Australians from accessing overseas online casino sites, which are illegal to run in Australia.
The online users' lobby group Electronic Frontiers Australia expressed fears that the internet filters could be used as a bargaining chip every time the Government needed to pass a piece of important legislation. Any group with an axe to grind
and political clout will be lobbying the Government to blacklist websites which they object to, EFA spokesman Dale Clapperton said: Having all Australians' internet access subject to a secret and unaccountable government blacklist is
completely unacceptable in a liberal democracy such as Australia.
Clapperton said most adult pornography on the internet was already prohibited content under the Act, and pro-euthanasia, pro-anorexia and pro-piracy websites could easily be caught by the system.
John Lindsay, carrier relations manager at Internode, said: I don't see that what Fielding has just described to you is necessarily any different to what the public should expect from the Government's as yet unstated filtering regime, because
we haven't got a clear explanation as to what the Government's actual mandatory blacklist looks like.
The New South Wales Government says it will introduce tough new sex-crime laws, and may strip artists of a defence against child-porn allegations, in line with recommendations of a NSW Sentencing Council report.
NSW Attorney General John Hatzistergos today said the Government would introduce a raft of changes recommended by the council.
Commissioned in September last year and chaired by retired Supreme Court judge James Wood, the council's report into the state's sex crime laws will now be used as a gold standard for new legislation to be introduced this year,
In the wake of the Bill Henson scandal, an artistic purpose defence to charges of child pornography should be removed, the Sentencing Council said.
Stressing the reform had nothing to do with the Henson case, Hatzistergos said removing the defence would only apply to work that depicts children as the victim of torture, or physical and sexual abuse.
The child nudity so controversial in Henson's work would not be affected by such a reform, he said.
The council has recommended the introduction of a number of new offences, including voyeurism and inciting a person to commit a sexual offence.
NSW opposition leader Barry O'Farrell supported abolishing the artistic purpose defence.
Australia's Government is attempting to silence critics of its plan to censor the internet, which experts say will break the internet while doing little to stop people from accessing illegal material such as child pornography.
Internet providers and the government's own tests have found that presently available filters are not capable of adequately distinguishing between legal and illegal content and can degrade internet speeds by up to 86%.
Documents obtained by Fairfax Media show the office of the Communications Minister, Stephen Conroy, tried to bully ISP staff into suppressing their criticisms of the plan.
Conroy said that the Government was looking at forcing ISPs to implement a two-tiered filtering system. The first tier, which internet users would not be able to opt out of, would block all illegal material [which includes adult hardcore
porn] . The second tier, which is optional, would filter out content deemed inappropriate for children.
But neither filter tier will be capable of censoring content obtained over peer-to-peer file sharing networks, which account for an estimated 60% of internet traffic.
Colin Jacobs, chair of the online users' lobby group Electronic Frontiers Australia said: I'm not exaggerating when I say that this model involves more technical interference in the internet infrastructure than what is attempted in Iran, one
of the most repressive and regressive censorship regimes in the world.
Mark Newton, an engineer at Australia ISP Internode, has heavily criticized the Government and its filtering policy on popular Australian broadband forum Whirlpool.
The Ministers office wrote to the Internet Industry Association (IIA) board member Carolyn Dalton based on Newton working for Internode, despite his criticism being offered in a personal capacity.
“In your capacity as a board member of the IIA I would like to express my serious concern that a IIA member would be sending out this sort of message. I have also advised [IIA chief executive] Peter Coroneos of my
disappointment in this sort of irresponsible behaviour”
The email was accompanied by a phone call demanding that the message be passed on to senior Internode management.
Although this shouldn't come as a great surprise, it is none the less unacceptable in a democratic country that a Minister would seek to censor critics who are doing nothing more than exercising their rights to publicly disagree.
Enough is enough. I call on the Minister to resign, or should he not do so, I call on the Prime Minister, Kevin Rudd, to sack the Minister at the first available opportunity. This abuse of power has no place in a modern, free and democratic
society in the 21st century.