STOP! CAMPAIGN - TO STOP AUSTRALIAN NET CENSORSHIP LEGISLATION

ONLINE FREE SPEECH REMAINS UNDER THREAT

AUSTRALIAN BROADCASING AUTHORITY REPORT ON NET REGULATION RELEASED

CONTACT ATTORNEYS-GENERAL IMMEDIATELY AND URGE THAT THEY SCRAP EXISTING PROPOSALS IN LIGHT OF THE ABA'S FINDINGS

8 JULY 1996

PLEASE REDISTRIBUTE THIS DOCUMENT WIDELY WITH THIS BANNER INTACT REDISTRIBUTE ONLY IN APPROPRIATE PLACES & ONLY UNTIL 12 JULY 1996


IN THIS ISSUE:


SUMMARY

This Thursday and Friday the State and Federal Attorneys-General will consider the draft NSW censorship legislation as the basis for national legislation. It is urgent that you contact your State and Federal Attorney-General and urge them to listen to the business community and the Internet-using public.


BACKGROUND

The NSW Attorney-General has announced draft NSW Internet censorship legislation which will be considered as the basis for national legislation at the meeting of the Standing Committee of Attorneys-General (SCAG) on 11 July. However each State is likely to implement differing versions of a national model, adding or removing parts as they see fit. It seems likely that the Net community would need to comply with the laws of the most repressive State.

Since the launch of the STOP! Campaign to stop Australian Net censorship legislation on June 9, there has been increasing opposition to the NSW proposals as the issues become more widely known. The issues have been reported in the press across the nation. Editorials in The Australian and The West Australian have expressed concern regarding restriction on freedom of speech and the conceptual and practical problems of the proposed laws.

It is apparent that it is not only the global nature of the Internet which is being largely ignored. So too are the difficulties for Internet Services Providers and users in being aware of and complying with laws which vary from State to State.

Despite repeated requests, an official copy of the draft legislation has still not been provided. The proposed legislation is based on the 1995 DCA Consultation Paper which in its turn was based on the 1994 BBS Task Force Report. It appears that very little, if any, of the widespread criticism of both the Paper and the Report has been taken into account in deciding whether any legislation is required, or of its content.

Whilst there are indications that contact with State Attorneys-General and their advisers is beginning to have some effect, much more is needed.


ANALYSIS

The Draft Bill is technically incompetent.

The Draft Bill errs in creating offences of transmission.

The Draft Bill criminalises innocent conduct.

The Draft Bill is unnecessary.

The Draft Bill will fail in its objectives.

The Draft Bill is unenforceable.

The Draft Bill must be rejected outright.

The NSW proposals will:


LATEST NEWS

The Australian Broadcasting Authority report on Internet regulation was released on Friday 5 July. The ABA has strongly endorsed PICS, the Platform for Internet Content Selection, and proposed a partly self-regulatory framework and community education campaign.

However the primary issue of concern remains, that of the so-called 'model criminal offence provisions'. Some ABA recommendations support State censorship legislation rather than being an alternative to it. The report advocates self-regulation, yet at the same time suggests that the most important role of ABA approved Codes of Conduct would be to provide defences to criminal offences.

The report also fails to address another central concern. ABA proposed codes of practice and complaints mechanisms may be reasonable for commercial service providers and content creators, but individual users and content providers are likely to find them unduly burdensome. The ABA report appears to leave these people at the mercy of draconian laws such as the NSW proposed national model. Further development of a new approach is needed to ensure that ordinary individuals, provided with unprecedented opportunities to express an opinion and obtain information, do not become criminals simply because they misunderstand complex classification regimes and inadequately defined laws, or receive unsolicited material."

The ABA report is a major step forward, however, it leaves many questions unanswered and many problems unresolved.

Meetings have now been held with the Tasmanian A-G, advisers to the NSW, Qld, SA and Federal A-Gs and with the NSW and Tasmanian Shadow A-Gs. The majority of these have acknowledged that they have minimal understanding or knowledge of the Internet.

Other organisations have supported the STOP! Campaign directly or have otherwise publicly opposed the NSW proposals (see Other Organisations below).


WHAT YOU CAN DO NOW

You can:

  1. Contact State and Federal Attorneys-General, Shadow Attorneys-General and your local Member of Parliament. Use your own words preferably or you may use or modify the suggested letter on the STOP! Campaing web page.
  2. If you want to do more (particularly if you are an Internet Access Provider) visit the STOP! Campaign web site for ideas and supporting documents.
  3. Let us know what you've done.
  4. Watch this space for further alerts.
  5. Feel good for having taken action.

Details are provided below:

  1. Contact Attorneys-General and Members of Parliament
  2. If you want to do more visit the Campaign web site at <http://www.efa.org.au/Campaigns/stop.html> for more ideas on what else you can do.
  3. Let us know what you've done.

    After you've made contact with an Attorney-General or Member of Parliament mail a note to [email protected] to let us know you did your part. Although you will not receive a reply due to the number of anticipated responses, we'll be counting up the number of people who participated.

    Mail to: [email protected] using a descriptive subject line such as:

    Subject: "Letter/Fax sent to Attorney-General <insert State>"

    It is not essential to include any text in the body of the message, unless you've attended a meeting or spoken with some on the phone. In that case, please provide the date of the meeting or phone call and a summary of what you were told.
  4. You can monitor the progress of the STOP! campaign by:
  5. Relax! You have really done a lot to help the cause.

WHERE CAN I LEARN MORE?

The following documents are available on the STOP! Campaign web site at <http://www.efa.org.au/Campaigns/stop.html>: Several WWW sites have information about the STOP! Campaign and proposed Net censorship legislation. Visit the STOP! Campaign web site <http://www.efa.org.au/Campaigns/stop.html> for links to:

Electronic Frontiers Australia information, the leaked draft NSW legislation, Danny Yee's NSW March pages, Australian Computer Society (Roger Clark's) site, Robin Whittle's site, links to information about State legislation, and two links to information about government inquiries <1>, <2>.

If you need further information concerning your local situation you may contact your State STOP! Campaign Representative. Contact details are available on the campaign web site <http://www.efa.org.au/Campaigns/stop.html>.

Media representatives may contact the following:

Kim Heitman [email protected] Ph: +619 458 2790

Danny Yee [email protected] Ph: +612 351 5159 (W) +612 9955 9898 (H)


OTHER ORGANISATIONS

To our knowledge the following organisations or members from the following organisations have all announced their concerns about the proposed NSW Censorship Legislation. Links to these organisations web pages are provided on the web version of this alert on the STOP! Campaign web site <http://www.efa.org.au/Campaigns/stop.html>.

AAA World Announce Archive * Australian Council of Libraries and Information Services * Australian Computer Society * Australian Library and Information Association * AUUG (Australian group for UNIX & Open Systems) * Electronic Frontiers Australia * Electronic Frontier Foundation * Internet Industry Association of Australia * Internet Support Services * Internode * PC User Group Canberra * Public Policy Assessment Society * Queensland Council for Civil Liberties * South Australian Internet Association * System Administrators Guild of Australia * Voters Telecom Watch * Western Australian Internet Association

If you would like your organisation mentioned in future STOP! Campaign Action Alerts, or would like to have your organisation join the campaign and take part in formulating future releases, please send email to [email protected]


End Alert