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Global Internet Liberty Campaign Member Statement



Sydney, 31st March 1999


The Australian ministry for Communications, Information Technology and the Arts has announced a proposal to introduce draconian measures to block information on the Internet that is rated RC, X or R according to Australian film and video classification standards. The Australian Broadcasting Authority (ABA) will administer this regime.

The Australian Government requires that online service providers take responsibility to remove RC and X-rated material from the Internet once they have been notified of its existence. The regime also provides for self-regulatory codes of practice for the online service provider industry, to be overseen by the ABA. These codes of practice must include a commitment by an online service provider to take all reasonable steps to block access to such content hosted overseas, once the service provider has been notified of the existence of the material by the ABA. Many millions of websites are likely to be blocked if the proposals are effectively implemented.

RC rated content, to be completely censored from the Internet under this regime, includes, but is not limited to, the following types of content: Information that depicts, expresses or otherwise deals with matters of sex, drug misuse or addiction, crime, cruelty, violence or revolting or abhorrent phenomena in such a way that they offend against the standards of morality, decency and propriety generally accepted by reasonable adults, depicts it in a way that is likely to cause offence to a reasonable adult. Or if the content promotes, incites or instructs in matters of crime or violence, the use of proscribed drugs, depictions of practices such as bestiality. Or if it appears to purposefully debase or abuse for the enjoyment of viewers, and which lack moral, artistic or other values, to the extent that they offend against generally accepted standards of morality, decency and propriety. And also includes gratuitous, exploitative or offensive depictions of violence with a very high degree of impact or which are excessively frequent, prolonged or detailed, cruelty or real violence which are very detailed or which have a high impact, sexual violence, sexual activity accompanied by fetishes or practices which are offensive or abhorrent, incest fantasies or other fantasies which are offensive or abhorrent.

X-rated content, to be completely censored from the Internet under this regime, is material which contains real depictions of actual sexual intercourse and other sexual activity between consenting adults, including mild fetishes.

R-rated content, to be subjected to a mandatory adult verification scheme, includes information about, or containing, drug use, nudity, sexual references, adult themes, horror themes, martial arts instruction, graphic images of injuries, medium or high level coarse language, sex education, health education and drug education.



We, the undersigned members of the Global Internet Liberty Campaign, consider that the following issues are important with respect to these proposals of the Australian government:

The filtering and blocking regime that has been announced by the Australian government will restrict freedom of expression and limit access to information. Government-mandated use of blocking and filtering systems violates basic international human rights protections.

These measures will prevent individuals from using the Internet to exchange information on topics that may be controversial or unpopular. They may enable the development of country profiles to facilitate a global/universal rating system desired by governments, block access to content on entire domains, block access to Internet content available at any domain or page which contains a specific key-word or character string in the URL, and over-ride self-rating labels provided by content creators and providers.

Government mandated blocking and filtering of content is unreasonable because it does not consider the dynamic nature of the Internet. A website on the Internet that is deemed offensive or illegal today may contain harmless content tomorrow, but is likely to remain blocked in the future by the proposed blacklist model.

The effectiveness of the proposed regime will be minimal. It is unlikely that the government blacklist will cover a substantial percentage of adult or offensive content, as there are millions of such locations on the Internet. Tunneling and other technologies that are available make it relatively easy for informed users to access any website they wish despite the existence of a filter.

The proposals will not protect minors on the Internet, as they intend to, but will prevent lawful access to information by adults. Additionally the introduction of mandatory adult verification mechanisms poses a threat to privacy of the adult, as these mechanisms are likely to store information about the behavior of adults on the Internet.

We believe the great appeal of the Internet is its openness. Efforts to restrict the free flow of information on the Internet, like efforts to restrict what may be said on a telephone, would place unreasonable burdens on well established principles of privacy and free speech.

We encourage the Australian government to further take the lead in creating an environment that will help local communities find the best answers to providing greater access to the Internet. We observe that blocking and filtering software programs cannot possibly filter out all bjectionable material and instead may provide communities with a false sense of security about providing access. We believe that filters cannot offer the protections provided by education and training. If protection of minors is the intention of the Australian government then minors should be taught the critical skills that are needed as citizens of the information society.



American Civil Liberties Union

ALCEI, Electronic Frontiers Italy

Campaign Against Censorship of the Internet in Britain

Computer Professionals for Social Responsibility

Cyber-Rights & Cyber-Liberties (UK)

Dutch Citizens Foundation Netherlands (db-nl)

Electonic Frontiers Australia

Electronic Frontier Foundation

Electronic Privacy Information Center

Feminists Against Censorship

Förderverein Informationstechnik und Gesellschaft

Fronteras Electronicas España (FrEE)

Human Rights Network

IRIS (Imaginons un reseau Internet Solidaire - France)

Internet Society


Quintessenz user group


The Global Internet Liberty Campaign
Media release by the minister of IT, arts and communications.
Australian Broadcasting Authority
Australian Office of Film & Literature Classification
HRW report, SILENCING THE NET: The Threat to Freedom of Expression On-line.
GLAAD report, Access Denied: The Impact of Internet Filtering Software on the Lesbian and Gay Community.
ACLU report, Fahrenheit 451.2: Is Cyberspace Burning? How Rating and Blocking Proposals May Torch Free Speech on the Internet.
Cyber-Rights & Cyber-Liberties (UK) Report, 'Who Watches the Watchmen: Internet Content Rating Systems, and Privatised Censorship,'
Cyber-Rights & Cyber-Liberties (UK) Report: "Who Watches the Watchmen: Part II - Accountability & Effective Self-Regulation in the Information Age,"
Internet Free Expression Alliance
National Commission on Library and Information Science, "Kids and the Internet: Promise and the Perils, Practical Guidelines for Librarians and Library Trustees" (US)
Electronic Privacy Information Center, "Faulty Filters: How Content Filters Block Access to Kid-Friendly Information on the Internet" (US)
Censorship in a Box: Why Blocking Software is Wrong for Public Libraries

Computer Professionals for Social Responsibility Filtering FAQ