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[FYI] AU: Die ersten drei Monate Interent-Zensur (offiziellee PE)
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19 April 2000
Internet content complaints scheme - the first 3 months
In the first three months of Internet content complaint
investigation, the Australian Broadcasting Authority issued final
take-down notices for 31 items of Australian-hosted content, referred
45 items of content to the makers of filtering software products and
referred 7 items of content to law enforcement agencies.
"The establishment of the ABA’s online-hotline for Internet content
complaints means that Internet users in Australia can now have their
complaints about offensive material investigated. The ABA is working
with the Internet industry and the community advisory body NetAlert
to help ensure that people’s use of the Internet is a positive
experience and that children, in particular, are protected from
material that is unsuitable for them," said Professor David Flint,
"Nevertheless, parents and others responsible for the care and
supervision of children should maintain vigilance in relation to the
use of the Internet by children. The ABA’s role complements and
supplements that of parents, teachers and service providers."
The ABA's online-hotline for Internet content complaints commenced
operation on 1 January 2000. As at 31 March 2000, investigations into
99 of the 124 complaints received by the ABA had been finalised and
investigations into 23 complaints were underway. Two complaints were
not investigated as the ABA was of the view that they were not made
in good faith.
Thirty-five investigations located items of prohibited or potentially
prohibited content and the ABA took action accordingly. For
prohibited or potentially prohibited content hosted in Australia, the
ABA issues take-down notices to the content host, while for such
content hosted outside Australia, the ABA refers the material to the
makers of approved filtering software products and, where
appropriate, refers the content to law enforcement agencies.
The referral of content to the makers of approved filtering software
products is provided for in industry codes of practice developed by
the Internet Industry Association (IIA). The codes are a central
component of the co-regulatory scheme and provide certainty for
industry participants as to their obligations under the scheme, as
well as informing users of what they can expect from their providers.
"The ABA’s functions under the scheme include monitoring the
operation of industry codes of practice and conducting community
education and research, as well as undertaking international liaison.
These functions are critical to the overall success of the co-
regulatory scheme and the ABA is pursuing initiatives in each of
these areas," said Professor Flint.
Members of the public may complain to the ABA about Internet content
that is, or may be, prohibited by law. The online content legislation
defines Internet content as stored information that is accessed over
an Internet carriage service, including material on the World Wide
Web, postings on newsgroups and bulletin boards, and other files that
can be downloaded from an archive or library. Under the legislation,
the definition of Internet content does not include ordinary email or
information that is accessed in real time without being previously
stored, such as chat services and voice over the Internet.
The legislation sets out different procedures for dealing with
prohibited or potentially prohibited content hosted in Australia and
such content hosted outside Australia. If the content is likely to be
classified RC or X and the content is hosted in Australia, the ABA
issues an interim take-down notice to the content host, pending
classification of the content by the Classification Board. Where the
Classification Board confirms that the content is prohibited, a final
take-down notice is issued.
In relation to content likely to be classified R (hosted in Australia
and not subject to an adult verification mechanism), the process is
slightly different in that an interim take-down notice is not issued.
Rather the content host is advised of the decision to ask the
Classification Board for a classification. This gives the host the
opportunity, in conjunction with the content provider, to put in
place an adult verification mechanism that meets minimum requirements
set by the ABA. Where this occurs, a take-down notice would not be
In response to complaints about content hosted outside of Australia,
where the ABA is satisfied that the content is likely to be
classified RC or X, the ABA refers the content to the makers of
‘approved’ filtering software in accordance with provisions in the
Internet Industry Association (IIA) codes of practice. The makers of
the filtering software products update their products as appropriate
so that those users with one of the products installed and activated,
will have that content filtered from their future Internet access.
Internet service providers (ISPs) play their part by providing
filtering software to their users in accordance with the IIA codes.
Approved filtering software products include client-side filter
products and filtered Internet services. The IIA codes list 16
approved filters that were included following qualitative assessment
by the CSIRO. While it is the responsibility of ISPs to provide a
filter to their users, it is the responsibility of users to install,
activate and regularly update the product. Parents and carers of
children who wish to manage their children’s access to Internet
content have an important role to play in this regard.
Other provisions in the codes deal with a range of customer advice
and content management issues. These include procedures for ensuring
online accounts are not provided to children without the consent of a
parent or responsible adult, for creating awareness about the way to
make a complaint about Internet content, and for informing producers
of Internet content of their legal responsibilities in relation to
In addition to the above procedures for dealing with prohibited or
potentially prohibited content, it is important to note that in
particularly serious cases, eg. investigations that locate child
pornography, the appropriate law enforcement agency is notified at
the earliest possible opportunity.
The complaint investigation component of the Government’s co-
regulatory scheme for Internet content commenced operation on 1
January 2000. As at the end of the third month of operation (c.o.b.
31 March 2000), the ABA had received 124 formal complaints.
Investigations into 71 of the 124 complaints had been completed. A
summary of the outcome of these investigations is provided below. A
further 28 had been terminated, as the ABA did not have sufficient
information to conclude the investigation. Two complaints were not
investigated as the ABA concluded that they were not made in good
faith. Investigations into the remaining 23 complaints were underway
as at 31 March 2000.
Outcome of investigations
Table 1 provides a summary of the outcome of completed
investigations. Half the investigations resulted in the location of
prohibited or potential prohibited content, while the other half did
not. Most of the investigations that resulted in the ‘not prohibited’
finding were in relation to content hosted in Australia.
In total, 36 of the investigations were in relation to Australian-
hosted content, while 35 were in relation to content hosted outside
Australia. All but two of the investigations involved WWW content.
The two that did not were complaints about newsgroup articles.
Table 1: Outcome of Completed Investigations
Australia Outside Aus Total Not Prohibited or Potentially Prohibited
Content 27 9 36 Prohibited or Potentially Prohibited Content 9 26 35
Total 36 35 71
Action arising from completed investigations
As indicated in Table 2, action arising from the 71 completed
23 items of Australian-hosted content subject to final take-down
notices as a result of RC (refused classification) classification by
the Classification Board (predominantly content of a sexual nature
with ‘underage connotations’); 3 items subject to final take-down
notices as a result of X classification by the Classification Board;
5 items subject to final take-down notices as a result of R
classification in combination with the lack of a restricted access
system; 45 items of content hosted outside Australia referred to the
makers of approved filters; and 7 items of content referred to
appropriate law enforcement agencies.
Table 2: Action Arising from Completed Investigations
Australian Hosted Items* R Classified (restricted access system not
implemented – final take-down notice issued) 5 X Classified (final
take-down notice issued) 3 RC Classified (final take-down notice
Hosted Outside Australia Items* Prohibited or Potential Prohibited
(X) – referred to makers of approved filters 10 Prohibited or
Potential Prohibited (RC) – referred to makers of approved filters #
35 Referral to Police 7
* Some items were the subject of more than one complaint while some
complaints resulted in the investigation of a number of items.
# 17 of these items were originally Australian-hosted content subject
to final take-down notices that subsequently moved to a content host
In terms of country of origin of prohibited/potential prohibited
content hosted outside Australia, the majority was hosted in the USA
(33 items). The other countries were Canada, Denmark, Finland, Japan,
Mexico and Russia.
How to make a complaint
In addition to the 124 complaints described above, the ABA received a
number of other ‘complaints’ of an informal nature. These included
‘complaints’ that did not contain complainant details or provided
complainant details that were obviously false in nature, and
‘complaints’ that did not provide the details required under the
To help ensure that the ABA can investigate a complaint, complainants
must set out:
their name and contact details; the Internet address of the Internet
content and any other details required to access it; a description of
the Internet content; and the reason for thinking that the Internet
content is, or may be, prohibited content.
Complaints about Internet content must be in writing and the ABA has
made an online complaints form available at its web site to assist
members of the community to lodge their complaint:
Complaints can also be made by post, fax or email. Internet users
wishing to complain can phone the ABA for information on how to lodge
a complaint using the ABA’s toll free number 1800 22 6667.
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