More web legislation? Crikey!

Posted by jerry on March 3rd, 2007 — Posted in New media

Alerted by Duncan Riley’s 901 news blog, there appears to be some new legislation proposed by Australian Communications Minister Helen Coonan to try to impose a classification system on all web content – presumably including all blogs and web sites, as well as e-books and perhaps online spaces like SecondLife.

It seems on the face of it impractical, but in fact is more likely to follow a similar trajectory to the BROADCASTING SERVICES AMENDMENT (ONLINE SERVICES) ACT 1999. – A good political showpiece in an election year – with little real effect.

901 news blog

The Bill (not yet drafted) to be introduced for passage in the (Australian) Autumn session is known as the

Communications Legislation Amendment (Content Services) Bill

Its purpose being to “- reform the regulatory structures for non-broadcasting communications content to ensure that existing policy principles for the regulation of content are consistently applied to these new audio-visual services “

Crikey dot com

Well Crikey reckons it’s unworkable because the Department of Communications, Information Technology and the Arts would have to employ a heap of new staff to cope with the flood of online books, video content (YouTube) and of course the plethora of blog posts. All of which would need to go through the Office of Film and Television Classification. Interesting proposal, given that Australia is still fifth in the world for internet penetration with 70.2 percent online and around 14million netizens in Australia.

As a piece of political theatre the proposed legislation is likely to work like the Australian Broadcasting (online services) Act 1999. That Act made 72 pages of amendments to the Australian Broadcasting Services Act (1992) in order to allow people to submit an objection to the Broadcasting Authority over a web site, which would then be looked into by probably 0.5 of a designated officer, who could then request politely that the site be taken down or at least moved out of Australian jurisdiction – an action which would take the average computer geek about 15 minutes.

This way, it would serve the political ends of not seeming to give web users a free rein at the expense of Big Media, while actually having an almost immeasurable effect on web content providers. Yes we may have to display our self classification of content on our pages, but that is little different from the requirements of most ISPs these days anyhow – with suitable clauses about reporting unsuitable or offensive content.

Jokingly, one could perhaps wonder if the Department of Communications, Information Technology and the Arts would run a trial system in which everyone submits all blog posts, emails, web content, videos etc to the Office of Film and Television Classification in order to scope the staffing levels needed in order to cope with the traffic. 🙂

If the devil’s in the details, we’ll just have to see what the legislative drafters come up with as the Bill nears its introduction. Here’s what The Australian Newspaper had to say on the topic on 26 Feb

1 Comment

Comment by Linn

Well, I suppose they could develop an automated censor which would categorize all publication of information on diagnosis, treatment and fund raising for breast cancer to the “porn category.” And other such logical nonsense.

Posted on March 3, 2007 at 3:55 pm

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