The Morrison Government has announced a review of Australian classification regulation to develop a framework that reflects changing technologies and meets community needs.
Minister for Communications, Cyber Safety and the Arts,
the Hon Paul Fletcher MP, said the current National Classification Scheme was established in 1995 and it is timely for review. He said:
Australians and their families rely on classification ratings to inform their
entertainment choices and they expect the advice to accurately reflect community standards.
The current framework was established in the age of dial-up internet -- well before the rise of the online streaming or gaming services we
now use daily -- so we will be looking at how to modernise it for different content and delivery platforms.
I encourage all interested parties to make a submission when the consultation period commences early next year to help us
develop a contemporary framework that meets the needs of industry while providing appropriate information and protections for consumers.
The Government has appointed Mr Neville Stevens AO as the independent expert to
lead the review. Mr Stevens, former Secretary of the Department of Communications and the Arts and current Chair of the Press Council, will provide a report on the review of Australian classification regulation to Government in April 2020.
The review forms part of the Government's response to the ACCC Digital Platforms Inquiry to develop a platform-neutral media regulatory framework, including harmonising classification across delivery formats.
discussion paper will be released in early 2020 on the Department of Communications and the Arts' website.
A radical overhaul of Australia's censorship and classification laws alongside reforms to the Privacy Act have been revealed.
On Wednesday and Thursday, Communications Minister Paul Fletcher confirmed that Australia's eSafety
Commissioner will be handed significant censorship powers.
The new government regime includes the development of a uniform classification framework across all media platforms that would replace the current system of Refused Classification, X, R, MA15
The legal basis was introduced via the hasty introduction of the Criminal Code Amendment (Sharing of Abhorrent Violent Material) Act 2019 in the wake of the Christchurch Mosque attacks. The law compelled ISPs, content service providers and
hosting service providers to block such content if called upon to do so by the Australian Federal Police.
And now it seems that this will provide the basis for the eSafety Commissioner to coordinate internet censorship in Australia.A key problem
to date has been people haven't been sure who they can complain to and who enforces action. Censorable content has been divided into 2 categories.
Class 1 seriously harmful content will be able to be reported directly the eSafety Commissioner. The
Commissioner will investigate the content and will be able to issue a takedown notice for seriously harmful content, regardless of where it is hosted, and refer it to law enforcement and international networks if it is sufficiently serious, the
government's fact sheet says. Where takedown notices are not effective, the ancillary service provider notice scheme will be able to be used request the delisting or de-ranking of material or services.
Class 2 content will be defined as content that
would otherwise be classified as RC, X18+, R18+ and MA15+ under the National Classification Code. This includes high impact material like sexually explicit, high impact, realistically stimulated violent content, through to content that is unlikely to
disturb most adults but is still not suitable for children, like coarse language, or less explicit violence. The most appropriate response to this kind of content will depend on its nature. eSafety would have graduated sanctions available to address
breaches of industry codes under the online content scheme, including warnings, notices, undertakings, remedial directions and civil penalties, the government fact sheet says.
The former head of the Australian Cyber Security Centre (ACSC), former 'eSafety Commissioner', Alastair MacGibbon, has told the House of Representatives Standing Committee On Social Policy And Legal Affairs looking to age verification for online wagering
and online pornography , that any form of online age verification would require a biometric component. He said:
I think biometrics -- with all of the problems associated with biometrics, and they are not a silver bullet --
is the only way you could really have an online system.
A scenario relying solely on Home Affairs' Face and Document Verification Services to provide proof of age would not work on its own, due to the ability for children to be
able to take, for instance, a driver's licence and verify it with the system.
What will be harder for the child is to get my face in front of the camera and use it for the purposes of proof of age, he said on Friday.
I'm not advocating for it to be used as such ...BUT... it could be used as a way of saying, 'This face that's now in front of this camera is attached to a driver's licence and a passport in Australia, and that person is
over the age of 18'.
He was not very sympathetic to porn viewers who may end up being victims of hackers, fraud, identity crime, or blackmail. He added
Australians need to accept that there is no
such thing as a completely secure connected device, that there will be failures, and everything in life is about balancing value and risk.
You do run the risk that Australians who have a privacy concern will be forced into darker
parts of the web to avoid online verification and that will be an unintended consequences any such scheme.
Well with an 'eSafety Commissioner' like that, I think Australian internet users should be getting a little bit nervous.
Australia's internet censor will block gambling websites hosted offshore under new powers now in effect. Gamblers have been warned by The Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA) to withdraw their funds now from any unlicensed overseas
gambling sites before they are blocked.
Internet gambling sites such as Emu Casino and FairGo Casino which are run from Curacao in the Caribbean will be among the first to be blocked, the Sydney Morning Herald reported.
ACMA said on Monday it
will ask ISPs to block websites in breach of the Interactive Gambling Act 2001 using new internet censorship powers now in effect. ACMA chair Nerida O'Loughlin said
In many cases these sites refuse to pay significant
winnings, or only a small portion. Customers had also experienced illegal operators continuing to withdraw funds from their bank account without authorisation. There is little to no recourse for consumers engaging with these unscrupulous operators. If
you have funds deposited with an illegal gambling site, you should withdraw those funds now.
ACMA publishes a list of licensed gambling services where people can check if online gambling websites are licensed in Australia on their
The Australian Classification Board has published its Annual Report covering the period. 1 July 2018 to 30 June 2019.
The report starts with a long report about schmoozing with the bigwigs of the film censorship world at an international
conference of film censors.
The Australian film censors have had a pretty good year on the film front. No banned films and only a couple of films with enough classification issues for a press release. These were for Bumblebee and Rocketman
On the video games front the censors recalled their bans of Song of Memories and most notably Dayz . The Censorship Board is saddled with some stupid rules laid down in statute as a bit of compromise to get an adults only games
rating, The lawmakers decided that the rules would be tough on the depiction of drugs leading to the modern day censors getting continually embarrassed by having to ban games where drugs are depicted as beneficial.
The censors didn't have much to
say about the 120 online games banned under the International Age Rating Coalition (IARC) classification tool. This automated tools seems to assign ratings by random. Minor variants, eg for different consoles, can get widely differing ratings including
bans. When a game has sufficient gravitas to make the news, the human censors quietly edit the database with a more sensible rating. It is hard to believe that 120 online games justify being banned.
The censors also noted that they banned the
murderous live stream of Brenton Tarrant and his manifesto. Carefully but awkwardly reported without mentioning his name, which serves only to highlight the contrived omission.
Film censors always like to report on the complaints mailbag, probably
because, commendably, there generally few complainst about their decision. The Board announced:
124 complaints about decisions for films
39 complaints about decisions for computer games
3 complaints about decisions made by the IARC classification tool
6 complaints about decisions made by the Netflix classification
Of the 124 complaints about the classifications of films, 28 were for the theatrical release film, Show Dogs , which had attracted 118 complaints in the period of the previous report. The next most complained about film was the theatrical
release film, A Star is Born , which received 13 complaints about an offscreen suicide, followed by Instant Family , which received 11 complaints about strong lanugage, and A House With A Clock In Its Walls , which received nine
complaints for being a bit too scary for kids.
Of the games complaints, 26 were about the ban of We Happy Few (actually initially banned during the period of the previous Annual Report). This was another example of a victim of the silly
rules about the depiction of drugs.
Australia's Department of Home Affairs is hoping to use its Face Verification Service and Document Verification Service across the economy, and is backing its use for age verification for Australians to look at pornography.
Writing in a submission to
the House of Representatives Standing Committee on Social Policy and Legal Affairs' inquiry, launched in September, Home Affairs said it could provide a suite of identity-matching services.
Whilst the services are primarily designed to prevent
identity crime, Home Affairs would support the increased use of the Document and Face Verification Services across the Australian economy to strengthen age verification processes, the department wrote.
Home Affairs conceded the Face Verification
Service was not yet operational, as it relied on the passage of biometric legislation through Parliament.
Australian men's magazine the Picture and the 69-year-old People magazine will close at the end of the year, ending decades of printed weeklies featuring topless models and readers' sex stories.
Their publisher, Bauer Media, was forced
to axe the magazines after retailers lined up to ban them from sale at service stations; and readership fell to 0.02% of the population over 14 for People magazine and 0.01% for the Picture. They are already banned from sale in supermarkets.
Discussions to close the Picture and People magazines have been taking place, as the magazines have lost ranging [visibility], which has affected their commercial viability, a spokeswoman for Bauer Media told Guardian Australia.
The magazines will be closing at the end of the year and we're working closely with staff to find suitable redeployment.
The latest retailer to ban the publication is BP who own 350 stores at petrol stations. BP's statement followed a
decision by the 7-Eleven chief executive, Angus McKay, last month to order all 700 franchisees and store managers to urgently pull the magazines from sale.