Board Report: 2011 Annual General Meeting

Introduction

On behalf of the board, I am pleased to present the Annual report for 2011. The year has been somewhat of a change of pace for us, 2010 was very focussed on the public campaign against the ALP proposal for a mandatory national Internet filter, the so called ‘Clean Feed’ policy, which was a very public, media based, campaign. The Gillard minority government has proved reluctant to pursue the policy, and the board has been able to refocus on other policy questions, and organisational improvements.

I became Chair of the Board only part way through the year, due to the resignation of Colin Jacobs as Chair in June. Colin remains on the board, and stepped down only due to taking on a new role as advisor to Senator Di Natale. The board thanks Colin for his service as Chair.

Censorship Issues

Internet Filtering
EFA is pleased to report that the Gillard government does not appear to have proceeded with its proposal for a national Internet filtering system. The proposal remains ALP policy, and EFA continues to monitor the proposal and is prepared to vigorously oppose it should it show signs of returning as an active government priority.

Several major ISPs announced that they would voluntarily introduce a filtering scheme based on a limited list of sites provided by Interpol. While preferable to the government scheme, EFA still believes it is a poor policy decision by the ISPs involved, and continues to oppose it.

Classification
2011 has been a very busy year for policy debate around the Australian classification system. There have been review processes of the entire classification system by the Senate Legal and Constitutional Committee, and by the Australian Law Reform Commission. In addition there has been national debate around the way computer games are classified, as the issue of an R-18+ rating for computer games has finally been addressed by the Standing Committee of Attorney Generals.

EFA participated in both classification review processes. We made a submission to the Australian Law Reform Commissions review of the Classification System, and attended a review forum event. EFA also made a submission to the Senate Legal and Constitutional Committee Inquiry into the classification system, and board member Andrew Pam attended a Senate Legal and Constitutional Affairs Committee hearing in person.

EFA also made a submission to the Joint Select Committee on Cyber-Safety, discussing the risks to children online and counselling a focus on education and against technological measures to control childrens online exposure.

EFA supported the campaign for an R-18+ rating for computer games through lobbying and public statements. EFA is continuing to track the process of implementation.

Copyright
EFA made a public statement in response to a study released by AFACT. disputing claims about the economic impact of copyright violation on the Australian economy. EFA believes that AFACTs methods of estimating the cost of copyright violation greatly overestimate it, in order to justify unreasonable controls on public internet use. The EFA response is found at https://www.efa.org.au/2011/02/17/afact-study/.

EFA met with Creative Commons Australia, and is investigating ways to work together more effectively.

EFA board members attended the Australian Digital Alliance policy forum Righting the Copyright Imbalance, discussing reform to the Australian copyright system.

Telecommunications Interception
EFA made a submission regarding the Proposed Accession to the Council of Europe Convention on Cybercrime, and advised that the convention had many issues and advised against Accession. The government proceeded with accession legislation. EFA submitted to the Joint Select Committee on Cyber-Safety inquiry into the Cybercrime Legislation Amendment Bill, which put in place the legislation necessary for Accession to the Convention. EFA advised against passing the bill in the form submitted. EFA believes the Bill expands the range of federal computer crimes unduly, and far more than is necessary for accession to the convention.

EFA has an ongoing project to support the TOR (The Onion Router) project, and hopes to announce sponsorship of a TOR node soon.

International
Board member David Cake attended three meetings of ICANN, in San Francisco, Singapore and Dakkar in Senegal. EFA participates in ICANN as a member of the Non-Commercial User Constituency (NCUC), part of the Non-Commercial Stakeholder Group, through which civil society organisations can participate in policy creation for the global domain name system. David was re-elected to the Executive Committee of NCUC, and also served on the ICANN Security, Stability and Resiliency Review Team, reviewing core parts of the global domain name system. Issues for ICANN included the approval of the new global top level domain program, domain takedowns, and efforts to revise the dispute-resolution policy for domain names (which is heavily weighted towards trademark holders in its current form).

EFA is a member of the Civil Society Information Society Advisory Council (CSISAC), an organisation of civil society organisations active in the information technology field that contributes to the OECD Committee for Information, Computer and Communications Policy (ICCP).

EFA chair Colin Jacobs attended the Oxford Internet Institute policy forum on Child Protection, Free Speech and the Internet, held at Oxford University.

Working With Other Organisations
Working closely with other organisations who support increased civil rights in the online space continues to be a board priority.

EFA was one of several civil society organisations (including the Australian Privacy Foundation, the Internet Society Australia, and several civil liberties organisations) that co-signed a letter to the Attorney-General requesting an improvement in consultation with civil society on telecommunications and online issues. A reply has been received, but this issue remains ongoing, and EFA thanks the Australian Privacy Foundation for taking the lead on this important issue.

EFA became a member of the Australian Communications Consumer Action Network. EFA supports the many active ACCAN campaigns in support of consumer rights. EFA attended the ACCAN annual conference.

EFA remains an active member of auDA, .au Domain Administration Ltd. and EFA Secretary Kim Heitman continued to serve as Deputy Chair. EFA believes the ,au domain space is well run, in an open and transparent fashion, and that EFAs ongoing involvement in auDA has helped ensure that. EFA encourages individual users to join auDA to ensure the Demand Class membership reflects community concerns. Joining is cheap and easy - see: http://www.auda.org.au/membership/membership-overview/

Media
EFA was asked for comment on a number of news stories this year. Replying to media enquiries was a significant part of board workload. Media contact included radio including Triple J’s Hack program, 5MU, 2UE, ABC regional radio, print outlets including The Age, the Canberra Times, the Daily Telegraph and the Sydney Morning Herald, web media such as delimiter.com.au and ZDNet, and a TV appearance on ABC News 24, on issues including Facebook privacy, the proposed Do Not Track system, Apples iCloud service, patent issues, the Sony Data Breach, and the US PROTECT-IP Act.

Administration
Improving internal administration tools and procedures has been a major issue for the board this year. A projects is nearly completed to move member administration and communication to a new CiviCRM system, which will provide the organisation with tools to work with its members far more effectively. We are also putting in place a system for direct financial payments via our own merchant account, enabling EFA members to bypass Paypal, which is unpopular with many members, and has also proved to be an administrative burden. We also changed out server and email hosting services.

Working effectively with volunteers was an issue that received significant board attention this year. EFA continues to be dependent on volunteer efforts, both by the board and by others, and is continuing efforts to manage this process more effectively. The board is grateful to the many offers of assistance from volunteers it has received.

In the coming year, the board hopes to have completed projects that will lead to greater engagement with members, more effective use of volunteers, and stabler ongoing funding, so that EFA can continue its tradition of informed critical advocacy and can continue to lobby effectively for your rights online.

David Cake
EFA Chair