On 17 June 2002, the Minister for Communications, Information Technology and the Arts tabled Answers to Questions on Notice in the Senate (asked by Senator Brian Greig in April 2002) regarding the government's Six-Month Report on Co-Regulatory Scheme for Internet Content Regulation January to June 2001. A copy of the questions and answers is below.
Note: The document tabled in the Senate is formatted as a list of questions, followed by a list of answers. For ease of reference, the format below lists each question followed by the answer in indented brown coloured text.
Senator Greig asked the Minister for Communications, Information Technology and the Arts, upon notice, on 8 April 2002:
[list of questions below]
Senator Alston —The answer to the honourable senator's question is as follows:
[list of answers below]
With reference to the 'Six-Month Report on Co-Regulatory Scheme for Internet Content Regulation January to June 2001', released by the Minister on 13 February 2002:
(1) In relation to the eight complaints that resulted in a finding of prohibited Australian-hosted Internet content during the period January to June 2001: (a) how many complaints involved content in Usenet newsgroups; and (b) how many complaints involved World Wide Web content.
(1) The 'Six-Month Report on Co-Regulatory Scheme for Internet Content Regulation January to June 2001' states that 8 complaints resulted in the location of Australian-hosted prohibited content. Subsequent manual data checks have indicated that there were 11 complaints which resulted in the location of Australian-hosted prohibited content in the period from 1 January to 30 June 2001. Furthermore, the manual checks indicate that action was taken in relation to 34, rather than 37, items of content. Of the 11 complaints:
(a)Four complaints related to content in Usenet newsgroups.
(b)Seven complaints related to World Wide Web content.
1. The Report issued by the Minister stated 37 prohibited items were found from 8 complaints. The Minister subsequently advises in answers to questions that those numbers were wrong and that 34 prohibited items were found from 11 complaints.
2. The 34 prohibited items were classified as follows:
3. During the six months, the ABA investigated 4 complaints about "Australian-hosted content" that resulted in the ABA finding 13 items of RC content, i.e. possibly child pornography, that the ABA referred to State/Territory police. All 13 of the 'RC' items referred to S/T police were newsgroup postings, quite probably posted to the world-wide Usenet newsgroups by persons overseas (see answer to Q2 and Q3 below).
4. During the six months, the cost of the ABA's Internet regulatory activities was approximately half a million dollars (see answer to Q9 below).
5. Neither the Minister, the ABA, or police, report on whether the police investigated the items referred by the ABA and, if so, prosecuted distributors/publishers.
(2) In relation to the eight takedown notices issued to Australian Internet content hosts covering 37 items of content:
(a) how many Internet content hosts were issued with a final takedown notice, and how many Internet content hosts were issued with more than one final takedown notice;
(b) for each of the final takedown notices issued concerning prohibited World Wide Web content hosted in Australia, how many items were classified: (i) 'R', (ii) 'X', and (iii) 'RC'; and
(c) for each of the final takedown notices issued concerning prohibited Usenet newsgroup content hosted in Australia, how many items were classified (i) 'R', (ii) 'X', and (iii) 'RC'.
(2) As noted above, Australian-hosted prohibited content was located in the case of 11 complaints, relating to a total of 34 items of Internet content. A take-down notice was issued to the Internet content host (ICH) in each of the 11 cases.
(a)Take-down notices were issued to 8 ICHs. One ICH received three notices and one ICH received two notices. The remaining six ICHs received one notice each.
(b)The following table lists for each take-down notice issued the type of content (WWW or newsgroup) and the number of items classified R, X and RC.
2001002049 WWW 3 0 0 2001002087 WWW 1 0 0 2001002089 WWW 0 1 0 2001002096 WWW 2 7 0 2001002110 Newsgroup 0 0 10 2001002134 WWW 0 1 0 2001002164 Newsgroup 0 0 3 2001002203 WWW 0 1 0 2001002207 Newsgroup 0 0 2 2001002208 Newsgroup 0 0 2 2001002212 WWW 1 0 0
(3) In relation to the 23 items of Australian-hosted Internet content that the Australian Broadcasting Authority (ABA) referred to the relevant state or territory police service:
(a) how many items were found on Australian-hosted World Wide Web sites (excluding web-based interfaces to Usenet newsgroups);
(b) how many items were found in Usenet newsgroups (including web-based interfaces to Usenet newsgroups); and
(c) how many items were found elsewhere (ie. 'other files that can be downloaded from an archive or library').
(3) The 23 items referred to State and/or Territory police were as follows:
(a)10 items of WWW content
(b)13 items of Usenet newsgroup content
(c)0 items of other content
Almost half of the material referred to State/Territory police (10 items of WWW content) was evidently not child pornography nor other items classified RC, but items classified X (non violent sexually explicit material involving adults). Other than in Victoria, 'X' material is not prohibited online under State/Territory laws.
(4) In relation to the 153 items of overseas-hosted content investigated by the ABA and referred to filter makers by the ABA:
(a) does the ABA receive subsequent information from those filter makers confirming that their filter does or will henceforth block the particular content referred to them by the ABA; and
(b) does the ABA or NetAlert conduct regular checks of the relevant filters to ascertain whether content notified by the ABA to the filter makers is blocked by their filtering products.
(4)In relation to the 153 items of overseas-hosted content that were referred to the makers of filter software:
(a)The filter software makers/distributors listed in the Schedule to the registered code of practice for ISPs have previously provided written undertakings that they will give effect to the ABA's notifications. In addition, several filter makers/distributors automatically forward acknowledgment of the ABA's notifications.
(b)The ABA has tested the filter software products on an annual basis to ascertain whether the notified content is blocked. The next testing process is scheduled to be conducted during the second half of 2002.
(5) In the third 6-month report, does the total of 185 investigations/complaints shown in 'Table 1: Outcome of investigations - January to June 2001 (number of complaints)' include investigations initiated by the ABA itself and/or its staff, for example, following receipt by the ABA of information which could not be formally considered to be a complaint.
(5)Yes, Table 1 includes investigations initiated by the ABA.
Although Table 1 refers to 'number of complaints', it does not in fact refer to the number of 'complaints' received from Australian residents. Under the law, only Australian residents are entitled to lodge complaints. Table 1 includes referrals to the ABA from overseas hotlines and invalid 'complaints' such as those from non-Australian residents that the ABA chooses to investigate (see Q6 below). Hence the numbers in Table 1 overstate the number of complaints.
(6) During the 6 months January to June 2001:
(a) how many investigations were initiated by the ABA itself and/or its staff as a result of: (i) receipt of complaints or information from overseas complaint hotlines, (ii) receipt of complaints or information from non-Australian residents (other than overseas complaint hotlines), and (iii) receipt of complaints or information from unidentified or anonymous persons;
(b) how many complaints were initiated by government agencies (other than the ABA); and
(c) how many complaints were initiated by members of Parliament.
(6)During the period 1 January to 30 June 2001:
(a)Three investigations were initiated by the ABA on the basis of information received from an overseas hotline. No investigations were initiated based on information supplied by other non-Australian residents. Ten anonymous complaints were received and investigated. (b)No complainants identified themselves as government agencies.
(c)One complaint was received from a person who was known to be a Member of the Australian Parliament at the time the complaint was lodged. One further complaint was received from a person who supplied the address of the office of a Member of the Australian Parliament as their contact address.
(7)On the basis of information supplied by complainants in their complaints, 98 separate individuals or organisations lodged complaints in the period 1 January to 30 June 2001.
(8)Of the 215 complaints received:
(a)Three were received from non-Australian residents; and
(b)Ten were anonymous.
(9)The total cost of the Internet regulatory activities of the ABA for the period 1 January to 30 June 2001 is estimated to be $531,477.91. This was comprised of employee costs of $216,157.52, administrative costs of $277,123.22 and apportioned overhead costs of $38,197.17.
The expenditure on community education activities by NetAlert during the period 1 January 2001 to 30 June 2001 is estimated to be $813,955.47.
(10) During the 6 months January to June 2001:
(a) how many items of Australian-hosted Internet content were referred to the Office of Film and Literature Classifications (OFLC) and what was the total amount of fees levied by the OFLC for classification of these items; and
(b) how many items of overseas-hosted Internet content were referred to the OFLC and what was the total amount of fees levied by the OFLC for classification of these items.
(10)(a) and (b) The ABA submitted a total of 54 items to the OFLC in the period 1 January to 30 June 2001. One was subsequently withdrawn, and 53 proceeded, at a cost of $510 each. The total fee was therefore $27,030.
Given only 34 items of Australian-hosted content were found to be prohibited, it appears the other 19 items classified at a cost of $510 each were either not prohibited or were material located on overseas sites that the ABA is not required by law to have classified by the OFLC. Information released to EFA under FOI by the OFLC in May 2002 shows 5 of the 19 items were classified PG, M or MA (i.e. not prohibited), suggesting other 14 items classified were on overseas sites.