[ Electronic Frontiers Australia ]

Media Release

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Electronic Frontiers Australia Inc.

                                                     December 19th 1999

NET CENSORSHIP - SECRET AND UNACCOUNTABLE

The Federal Government has demonstrated its contempt for the intelligence
and values of Australians, Electronic Frontiers Australia said today,
following the approval of a Code of Practice for Internet Service
Providers.

The new rules require Internet users to purchase an 'Approved Filter' at
a charge determined by their ISP, unless they have already installed one.
There was no public consultation in the choice of 'approved' filtering
products.

"In no other media does censorship operate with so little accountability",
said EFA Board member Danny Yee.  "The Government had promised that
the scheme would be complaints-based and that only material found by
the Australian Broadcasting Authority (ABA) to be 'prohibited' would be
blocked, but commercial filtering products block millions of pages not
reviewed by the ABA.  Why has the government handed over its censorship
powers to private companies who are not accountable to the Australian
public?"

"It is particularly worrying that the block lists are secret and that the
sites blocked are not informed that they are being blocked," said Yee.
"This is not consistent with censorship of other media in Australia.
Information about what is banned or restricted by the Office of Film and
Literature Classification is available to the public -- and parents and
citizens would rightly be outraged if books were secretly removed from
school libraries or syllabuses in response to complaints."

"The approved suppliers are mostly United States companies or Australian
companies reselling United States products under different names.
Such software typically reflects the values of the United States 'Bible
Belt', with some products openly blocking feminist, gay and lesbian,
and left wing political information."

Studies carried out in Australia and overseas have demonstrated that
filtering software causes extensive 'collateral damage', blocking
many innocuous sites.  Some ironic examples are the blocking of the
National Party of Australia site and of Queensland parliamentary records.
And many filtering products censor massive amounts of valuable information
by blocking entire domains such as geocities.com, ozemail.com.au, or
deja.com.

"Trying to force filtering software on unwilling adults will be as
ineffective as it is repugnant", said Yee.  "And only filtering products
that use open blocklists and algorithms -- available for public scrutiny
-- should even be considered for use in schools.  The process by which
products are selected needs to be open and transparent, not carried out
behind closed doors.  And content providers must be informed when their
content is blocked, so they have a chance to appeal the decision."

[ENDS]

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      Electronic Frontiers Australia Inc  --  http://www.efa.org.au/
      representing Internet users concerned about on-line freedoms
      Email: [email protected]  Phone: 02 9255 7969  Fax: 02 9255 7736
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BACKGROUND

ABA registers code of practice
        http://www.aba.gov.au/about/public_relations/newrel_99/134nr99.htm

IIA Code
        http://www.iia.net.au/code6.html

DCITA press release
	"Decisions on content will be made by the NCB based on an
	established classification system. Decisions will not be based
	on personal whim."
        http://www.dcita.gov.au/nsapi-text/?MIval=dca_dispdoc&ID=4226

Office of Film and Literature Classification 
        http://www.oflc.gov.au/

Conservative, Bible-Belt communities, are helping to set the standards
for what students in more cosmopolitan places are allowed to see:
http://www.nytimes.com/library/national/regional/121599ny-schoolfilter-edu.html
 (registration required) 

Censorware Project (detailed studies of filtering products)
        http://www.censorware.net/

An EFA study of Internet Sheriff
        http://www.efa.org.au/Publish/report_isheriff.html

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