[ Electronic Frontiers Australia ]

Media Release

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Electronic Frontiers Australia Inc.

Media Release                                 7 September 2000

Government Net Censorship Reports - Facts or Fallacies?

Information released by the Australian Broadcasting Authority (ABA) under
Freedom of Information laws does not match Government reports on the
operation of the Internet censorship regime, according to a report released
by Electronic Frontiers Australia (EFA) on Thursday.

EFA lodged a Freedom of Information Application (FOI) on the ABA last
February seeking details of sites that had been complained about since
Internet censorship legislation came into force on 1 January 2000.

EFA's Executive Director, Irene Graham, said the ABA released some
documents in late August, but a vast amount of information has been blacked
out.

"Blacked out information relates not only to banned pages, but also pages
that have not been banned," said Graham. "In relation to non-banned pages,
the ABA has denied details of pages classified MA15+ that complainants said
involved 'explicit nudity/poor taste'. However, the ABA has released
information about pages that complainants said advocated hate or violence
against the gay and lesbian community."

The EFA report says that discrepancies exist between information released
to EFA and Government reports on the operation of the censorship regime.
"The figures reported in the ABA's first quarter report and the six-month
report recently issued by Senator Alston do not accord with information
released to EFA," said Graham. "The number of complaints received in
January and February do not match, nor does the number of complaints
received that resulted in findings of prohibited content hosted in
Australia."

The censorship regime is highly costly in view of its ineffectiveness in
protecting children using the global Internet. The explanatory memorandum
to the Broadcasting Services Amendment (Online Services) Bill 1999 states
the total ongoing cost to the Commonwealth of the regime was estimated at
AUD$1.9 million per annum. 

Graham remarked "If the ABA has only received 201 complaints in six months
as the government report states, and the government's cost estimate of $1.9
million was correct, it's costing taxpayers around $4,700 per complaint.
Only 93 of those complaints resulted in a finding of prohibited content, a
small fraction of the billions of pages on the Internet, and less than 20
concerned pages hosted in Australia."

EFA remains concerned that the censorship legislation gives parents who are
not familiar with the Internet a false sense of security. "Education, not
censorship, is the most practical and effective response to concerns about
content on the world-wide Internet."

More detail about information released and denied is available at:
http://www.efa.org.au/FOI/efa_foiabarep1.html

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      Electronic Frontiers Australia Inc  --  http://www.efa.org.au/
      representing Internet users concerned with on-line freedoms
      URL of this release: http://www.efa.org.au/Publish/PR000907.html
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      Media Contacts:

      Ms Irene Graham                  Mr Kimberley Heitman
      EFA Executive Director           EFA Chair
      Phone: 0412 997 163              Phone: 0408 881 421
      Email: [email protected]           Email: [email protected]

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Background:

EFA FOI Request - 22 Feb 2000
http://www.efa.org.au/FOI/foi_aba_2000.htm

EFA Report on documents released/denied by ABA - 7 Sep 2000
http://www.efa.org.au/FOI/efa_foiabarep1.html

Government Report: Six Month Report on Co-Regulatory Scheme for Internet
Content Regulation, issued by Senator Alston, 5 Sep 2000
http://www.dcita.gov.au/nsapi-text/?MIval=dca_dispdoc&pathid=%2ffilm%2fsix%5fmonth%5freport%2ehtml

ABA Report: Internet content complaints scheme - the first 3 months, 19 Apr
2000
http://www.aba.gov.au/about/public_relations/newrel_2000/27nr2000.htm

Extract from: Explanatory Memorandum to the Broadcasting Services Amendment
(Online Services) Bill 1999
	"The total ongoing cost to the Commonwealth of the framework is
estimated at $1.9 million per annum. The costs include staffing and
administrative expenses of the ABA relating to its new responsibilities,
ABA payments to the Classification Board (on a cost-recovery basis), and
the costs of establishing the community advisory body.
	Commonwealth funding will be required to establish the community
advisory body and to assist with ongoing administrative costs, at least in
the short to medium term. Establishment costs for that body are estimated
to be $0.2 million, with ongoing annual funding of $0.5 million required."
	An indicative estimate for the ABA to investigate complaints
including obtaining classifications from the Classification Board is $1.2
million. This figure includes ABA staffing and administrative expenses to
resource the complaints function. Funding will be kept under review in
Budget processes if the level of complaint and subsequent referral to the
Classification Board is higher than anticipated."

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