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[FYI] (Fwd) Australian States to criminalise mis-"rating" of Net spe

------- Forwarded message follows -------
Date sent:      	Thu, 30 Sep 1999 22:29:54 +1000
From:           	Irene Graham <rene@pobox.com>
Subject:        	Australian States to criminalise mis-"rating" of Net speech
To:             	gilc-plan@gilc.org
Send reply to:  	gilc-plan@gilc.org

For those interested in what governments keen on rating speech can
come up with in the way of criminal law, here's the latest from

Australian State & Territory Govs. are currently considering draft
model legislation involving criminal penalties for users/content
providers who speak in a manner deemed "unsuitable for minors" or 
"objectionable" (rated R, X or Refused Classification). This is one
tier of the Broadcasting Services Act regime - Commonwealth regulates
ISPs and Internet Content Hosts under BSA/blocking regime,
States/Territories enact "complementary" legislation to regulate
users/content providers.

The proposed legislation criminalises material online that is not
illegal offline in Australia and requires users/content providers to,
in effect, rate their speech by guessing/foreseeing how a majority of
the members of the government Classification Board would rate it. The
Board would/will effectively become a jury but without the need for
unanimity. Criminal penalties will apply to those who made available
material "unsuitable for minors" or "objectionable" either knowing it
was so, or if they were "reckless", i.e. were "aware of a substantial
risk" that the material "would be" rated R, X or RC. To make matters
worse, text on web pages is to be rated using exisiting guidelines
developed for movies, rather than those developed for offline

For info about numerous flaws in the proposed legislation, see EFA's
submission in response (being sent to all 8 State/Territory Govs).
http://www.efa.org.au/Publish/agresp9909.html That contains a 2 page
Exec Summary, followed by detailed info.

Those interested in the finer detail of how "rating" speech operates
in Australia may find the case study in Appendix 1 of  EFA's
submission either amusing or horrifying, or both. It contains  my
attempt to classify the first chapter of a best selling Australian
novel, "Eat Me" by Linda Jaivin, using guidelines for films.  (The
first chapter became "Internet content" recently).

Incidentally, some of you may have heard about Cyberpatrol banning the
entire web site of San Francisco's independent Booksmith in
Height-Ashbury because they put the -cover- of "Eat Me" on their web
site (the cover of the US edition had bananas and plums on it). 
Linda's story about this is at

One hopes the State/Territory Govs. will gain more sense and not enact
this tyrannical proposal, but I wouldn't count on it.


Irene Graham, Brisbane, Queensland, Australia. PGP key on h/page.
Burning Issues: <http://www.pobox.com/~rene/> Secretary, Electronic
Frontiers Australia: <http://www.efa.org.au>

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