Förderverein Informationstechnik und Gesellschaft

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 <> Subject: Australian States to criminalise mis-"rating" of Net speech To: Send reply to:

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 Australia.

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 publications..

For info about numerous flaws in the proposed legislation, see EFA's submission in response (being sent to all 8 State/Territory Govs). 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.

Regards Irene

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ Irene Graham, Brisbane, Queensland, Australia. PGP key on h/page. Burning Issues: <> Secretary, Electronic Frontiers Australia: <> ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

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