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Australia's Internet Regulations Take Effect

1 January 2000

New Federal Internet regulations, industry codes of practice and a complaints hotline came into effect in Australia on Saturday, designed to reduce the amount of offensive locally hosted content and protect children from accessing adult material online.

The laws have seen the establishment of a complaints line for Australians to report content which they believe is offensive or illegal. The service is maintained by Australia's broadcasting regulator, the Australian Broadcasting Authority (ABA). At present, the only way to make a complaint is by writing or sending a fax to the ABA.

Content located in Australia which is classified RC or X will be the subject of a take-down order -- the content host will have to remove it from the Internet. Content hosted in Australia which is classified R, and not subject to an approved restricted access system, would also be banned if not placed behind such an access control system.

If the content is not hosted in Australia and is prohibited, the ABA will notify the content to the suppliers of approved filters.

Under a deal worked out with the Internet Industry Association, a code of practice will require ISPs in Australia to provide end-users with Internet content control information and filtering tools or optional filtered Internet access services. The ABA will be in contact with the makers of approved filtering software to update their lists with prohibited content.

Further enforcable rules under the IIA's code of practice will prevent children under the age of 18 from opening Internet accounts without parental or adult consent. Combined with the promotion and provision of filtering software, the IIA hopes the code will go some way to protecting children without being to burdensome on ISPs.

"This will ensure a basic level of control from the very start," said Peter Coroneos, executive director of the IIA. "ISPs would then augment this with the provision of empowerment tools. While no one will be forced to use a filter, we see no reason why Australian families will not also take advantage of these options."

Coroneos claimed that the costs to ISPs implementing the code would not significantly impact on the costs of Internet access in Australia.

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