Australia eyes internet content regulation plan

The Internet Industry Association (IIA) last week submitted a draft code to the Australian Broadcasting Authority, detailing what it believes are technically and commercially feasible terms for internet content regulation.

IIA's draft code places responsibility for filtering prohibited content hosted overseas away from ISPs themselves, instead suggesting filtering should occur within homes using tools provided by ISPs.

The draft code also makes the manufacturers of those tools responsible for ensuring the filtering tools comply with ABA requirements.

The IIA's proposal is a response to the federal government's call for industry comment on what can reasonably be expected from the industry in terms of the regulation of internet content in Australia, following the institution of the Broadcasting Services (Online Services) Amendment Act in May 1999.

The Act calls for internet service providers (ISPs) to take "reasonable steps" to block access to illegal and highly offensive internet content hosted overseas, and requires them to develop a code of practice to set out those steps.

According to IIA, the draft code incorporates amendments to bring it into line with the requirements of the Act. Peter Coroneos, executive director of IIA, commented: "We're pretty optimistic that the draft code will be sufficient to meet the objectives of the legislation.

"Not only does it meet the overall objectives of the legislation it does so in a way that is not damaging to the industry."

Coroneos explained that IIA is now "in consultation and negotiation with the ABA," following submission of the code.

However he added that IIA's position that there should not be a mandatory requirement for ISPs to block content was "non-negotiable."

If the ABA rejects the code, Coroneos claimed "the alternatives aren't very promising."

"This is the only opportunity we have to provide an alternative to what is a pretty interventionist requirement," he said, adding "I've had no word back from the ABA about the adequacy or otherwise of what we've submitted [and until I do get back], I'm in no position to say what the next step will be."

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