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Tuesday, 3 February 2009
Page: 193


Senator Ludlam asked the Minister for Broadband, Communications and the Digital Economy, upon notice, on 20 November 2008:

(1)   With reference to the statement on the department’s website ‘Online Content Regulation’ (last modified: 12 May 2008) http://www.dbcde.gov.au/communications for consumers/internet/online_content_regulation which says that ‘For overseas-hosted content the prohibited categories are RC and X’: is this correct; if not, what are the prohibited categories for overseas-hosted content and on what date did the change to the categories commence operation.

(2)   How many items of Internet content were classified by the Classification Board for the year ended 30 June 2007 in response to an application for classification by the Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA).

(3)   Of the total number in (2) above: (a) how many were items hosted in Australia; and (b) how many of those items were classified in each of the following categories G, PG, M, MA 15+, R18+, X18+ and RC.

(4)   Of the items in (3)(b) above that were classified G, PG, M, or MA 15+: (a) how many have been the subject of an interim take-down notice; and (b) what was the average period of time from the date of issue by ACMA of the notice to the date of issue by ACMA of a notice revoking it.

(5)   Of the total number of items in (2) above: (a) how many were hosted outside Australia; and (b) how many of these were classified in each of the following categories, G, PG, M, MA 15+, R18+, X18+ and RC.

(6)   If any of the items referred to in (5) above were classified G, PG, M, MAI5+ or Rl8+: (a) how many of those items had been placed on the ACMA blacklist as potentially-prohibited content; and (b) what was the average period of time during which such content was incorrectly blacklisted.

(7)   What is the total amount paid by the ACMA to the Classification Board for the classification of the items referred to in (2) above.

(8)   Will access to services such as Google Translate, Google Cache and similar tools provided by various other search engine providers be blocked to prevent circumvention of the filter.

(9)   Given that the Australian Labor Party’s policy document ‘Labor’s Plan for Cyber-Safety’ discusses dangers such as online identity theft, cyber-bullying, publication of photographs without permission and online activities of cyber predators (such as using chat rooms): how will the proposed filtering regime address these issues.


Senator Conroy (Minister for Broadband, Communications and the Digital Economy) —The answer to the honourable senator’s question is as follows:

(1)   The information on the Department’s website was out of date and has been updated. The definition of prohibited content for overseas hosted content changed from being RC and X only, to including R18+ where not behind an age verification scheme, and MA15+ where commercially available and not behind an age verification scheme, on the 20 January 2008 after legislation that was passed on 20 July 2007 by the Howard Government came into effect.

(2)   In the year ended 30 June 2008, 14 items of online content were classified by the Classification Board in response to applications from ACMA. In addition, 778 items of overseas-hosted content were assessed by trained ACMA content assessors and found to be potential prohibited content (that is, prohibited content if formally classified by the Classification Board). Of the 1,122 complaints about online content received by ACMA during the period, 293 related to online content which ACMA assessed as not prohibited. ACMA content assessors have been members of the Classification Board and/or undergo formal training provided by the Classification Board. ACMA employs a number of former National Classification Board members within the Codes, Content and Education Branch who have a combined experience of close to 20 years at the Classification Board. This experience in conjunction with the formal training and regular referrals of content to the Classification Board help ensure consistency of classification decisions.

(3)   Of 14 Classification Board applications made by ACMA, (a) four of the applications related to content hosted in Australia; and (b) the four items hosted in Australia were classified by the Classification Board as follows:

 

Classification

Number of items

G

1

PG

0

M

0

MA15+

0

R18+

0

X18+

2

RC

1

ACMA assessed and took action in relation to a further 778 items of overseas-hosted content, which were assessed as follows:

Classification and description of online content

Number of items

MA 15+ - Violence

0

MA 15+ - Sex

0

MA 15+ - Themes

0

MA 15+ - Drug Use

0

MA 15+ - Nudity

0

MA 15+ - Language

0

R 18+ - Violence

0

R 18+ - Sex

6

R 18+ - Themes

0

R 18+ - Drug Use

0

R 18+ - Nudity

3

R 18+ - Language

0

X 18+ - Actual sexual activity

249

RC - Crime - promotion/instruction

2

RC - Violence - depiction

1

RC - Paedophilia - promotion/instruction

3

RC - Child - depiction

409

RC - Bestiality - depiction

10

RC - Sexual violence - depiction

13

RC - Sexual fetish - depiction

42

RC - Sexual fantasy - depiction

40

RC - Drug use - promotion/instruction

0

RC - Terrorist related material

0

RC - Publication

0

Cat 1 - Publication

0

Cat 2 - Publication

0

Totals

778

 

(4) (a)   and b) None.

(5)  

(a)   While ACMA must apply to the Classification Board when content is hosted in Australia and subject to an take-down notice, ACMA may also apply for classification of material in other cases, including where the content is hosted outside Australia and/or ACMA staff have not previously dealt with subject matter depicted or described in the content. Ten of the 14 Classification Board applications made by ACMA in the year ended 30 June 2008 were for content hosted outside Australia.

(b)   The ten items hosted outside Australia noted at (a) were classified by the Classification Board as follows:

 

Classification

Number of items

G

4

PG

1

M

1

MA15+

0

R18+

0

X18+

3

RC

1

 

(6) (a)   and b) None.

(7)   The total amount paid by ACMA to the Classification Board for the classification of the items referred to in (2) above is $7140.00.

(8)   No.

(9)   ISP filtering is not intended to address these issues. The Government’s ISP filtering policy is one component of the Government’s comprehensive $125.8 million Cyber-Safety Plan. This plan contains a comprehensive set of measures to combat online threats, and help parents and educators protect children from inappropriate material. Measures include:

  • Expansion of the Australian Federal Police (AFP) Child Protection Operations Team - funding to detect and investigate online child sex exploitation;
  • Commonwealth Director of Public Prosecutions - funding to help deal with the increased activity resulting from the work of the AFP to ensure that prosecutions are handled quickly;
  • Filtering - including funding to develop and implement ISP filtering, including undertaking a real world ‘live’ Pilot;
  • Education activities - funding to the Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA) to implement a comprehensive range of education activities;
  • Websites / Online helpline - funding to ACMA to improve current government cyber-safety website resources and to make them easier for parents to use, and to provide up-to-date information. ACMA will also develop a children’s cyber-safety website to provide information specifically for children, and improve the online helpline to provide a quick and easy way for children to report online incidents that cause them concern;
  • Consultative Working Group - funding for an expanded Consultative Working Group. This group is considering the broad range of cyber-safety issues and advising the Government, to ensure properly developed and targeted policy initiatives;
  • Youth Advisory Group - funding for a Youth Advisory Group which will provide advice to the Consultative Working Group on cyber-safety issues from a young person’s perspective; and
  • Research - funding for ongoing research into the changing digital environment to identify issues and target future policy and funding.

 

   Complementing the Cyber-Safety Plan are E-Security initiatives for home and small business users. The Government is committed to enhancing protection of home and small business users by raising their awareness of the risks associated with online viruses and other security threats including theft and fraud through:

 

  • An annual National E-Security Awareness Week in partnership with industry and community organisations;
  • Enhancement of and continually updating the Government’s e-security information website - www.staysmartonline.gov.au;
  • A free plain English Alert Service, available from the Stay Smart Online website; and
  • An e-security education module for Australian schools, which will be released in the first half of 2009.

 

   Further initiatives will be developed following the Government’s consideration of the recently completed E-Security review.