Electronic Frontiers Australia Inc.        

                        Media Release                    July 7th 1996


Electronic Frontiers Australia Inc. has welcomed the Australian
Broadcasting Authority report on Internet regulation. "In strongly
endorsing PICS, the Platform for Internet Content Selection, and
recommending a community education campaign, the ABA has demonstrated its
grasp of the complex technical and moral issues involved", said EFA
spokesperson Irene Graham today.

EFA commended the ABA for its consultation with industry representatives 
and Internet users and for making the report publicly available on the
Internet.  "The ABA's approach is in stark contrast to that of most State
Attorneys General", said Graham.

"EFA is delighted that the ABA has endorsed the PICS initiative.  We
strongly support PICS and similar international rating systems", Graham 
said.  "These technologies provide the most effective means for 
controlling children's access to material on the world-wide Internet 
and assign responsibility for content selection where it belongs - under 
the control of the end user, or in the case of children, with parents 
and teachers."

The report also places welcome emphasis on an educational strategy to
inform users about the technological resources available to protect
themselves and their children from controversial material.  "A community
education campaign has been proposed in every government on-line regulation
report since the 1994 BBS Task Force Report.  However we have yet to see it
eventuate", said Graham.  "We hope that the ABA's recommendation in this
regard will be acted upon immediately. An equally important part of an
education campaign is the need to allay community concerns resulting from
sensationalist portrayal of the Internet - an image rejected by the ABA's
finding that the likelihood of users being involuntarily exposed to
objectionable material is negligible."

"There are a number of other positive initiatives in the report, however
there are also a number of inconsistencies and failures.  The report is
clearly intended to appease a diversity of interests", Graham said. 

"EFA's primary concern continues to be the so-called 'model criminal
offence provisions'.  The biggest problem is that some ABA recommendations
support State censorship legislation rather than being an alternative to
it", said Graham. "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. While the ABA generally
acknowledges adults' rights to freedom of expression, Attorneys General
seem to want the Net to be a children's playground. The grave
inconsistencies between the ABA approach and those of the Attorneys General
make it imperative that the Attorneys General, at their meeting this week,
scrap existing proposals and re-focus on developing a consistent national
policy based on the findings of the ABA inquiry."

"Although the ABA has diplomatically fallen short of criticising the
proposals of the Attorneys General, we are heartened that the Minister
for Communications and the Arts, Senator Alston, in announcing the 
release of the report on Friday, made several comments implying 
that the current actions by the States are inappropriate", said Graham.

"The report also fails to address what is, for EFA, a central concern.
On the Internet any individual can publish material.  Codes of practice
and complaints mechanisms may be reasonable for commercial service
providers and content creators, but ordinary users 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."

"Whilst the ABA report is a major step forward, it leaves many questions
unanswered and many problems unresolved."

      Electronic Frontiers Australia Inc  --  http://www.efa.org.au/
      representing Internet users concerned with on-line freedoms

Background: the full text of the ABA report is available at: