Australia Fights Online Obscenity

By eweek  |  Posted 2001-02-26

Proposed efforts by the state of South Australia to crack down on offensive content online have underscored concerns among some Australians that such initiatives may be painting Australia as anti-Internet, and may discourage foreign investment.

The proposed legislation for the state of South Australia, which includes the city of Adelaide, would let police take action against those believed to have posted illegal material online, even before it has been rated as such by a national classification board, critics said. They also said it would ban content online that is currently allowed in the offline world.

James Lewis, director of technology policy at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, said those outside Australia should be concerned by such moves because its another example of what he termed the "balkanization" of the Internet, with countries trying to extend their laws to the borderless world of the Internet.

South Australias move comes one year after enactment of national legislation in Australia that imposed a rating system for Internet content and allowed the countrys broadcasting authority to act on complaints from citizens by ordering that offensive content be taken down.

"The whole regime would tend to send the message that Australia isnt Internet-friendly and doesnt consider the ramifications of legislation," said Irene Graham, executive director at Electronic Frontiers Australia, which promotes free speech in cyberspace.

Graham added that such legislation may send the wrong message to foreign investors about the difficulty of doing business in Australia.

And Patrick Fair, Australias Internet Industry Associations chairman, said, "We dont want people to think Australia is not a good place for business."

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