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Australian Senate questions government on ACMA censorship and WikiLeaks
May 11, 2009
Senate questions to the Australian Government by Senator Ludlam about the Australian censorship list run by the Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA), three editions of which were revealed by WikiLeaks.
Senator Ludlam: To ask the Minister for Broadband, Communications and the Digital Economy— (1) With reference to the hearings of the Environment, Communications and the Arts Committee additional estimates of 23 February 2009, in which an officer of the Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA) stated ‘As you may recall, Senator, every six months those overview profiles of the number of investigations that we have done and the breakdown—whether it was RC [Refused Classification], child pornography, X and so on—are tabled in parliament. If we look at one of those six-month reports, there is a lot of information on what we do regarding our investigations there’ (Committee Hansard, 23 February 2009, ECA 108): was the officer referring to the Co-regulatory Scheme for Internet Content Regulation reports; if so, have those reports been prepared and tabled since the report for the period July to December 2005; if so, where can copies of these reports, for the 3 years since 2005, be obtained. (2) If the answer to (1) above is no: (a) what are the six-monthly reports to which the officer referred to; and (b) where can copies of these reports be obtained. (3) Does the ACMA charge a fee to filter suppliers for the ACMA’s blacklist and/or updates to the blacklist; if so: (a) is the fee $15 000 (as reported by a filter supplier on 26 March 2009 at http://www.crikey.com.au); if not, how much is the fee; Page 66 66 No. 66—12 May 2009 (b) for what period of time does the fee cover (for example, annually, half-yearly, monthly, etc); and (c) when did the ACMA commence charging a fee. (4) Does the ACMA charge a fee, or does it intend to do so in future, for the supply of its blacklist to Internet Service Providers (ISPs) who provide server-level filtering; if so, how much. (5) What procedures or systems does the ACMA have in place to ensure that filter suppliers promptly add and delete Uniform Resource Locators (URLs) on notification of updates by the ACMA, for example, does the ACMA undertake audits of filter suppliers’ copies of the ACMA’s blacklist; if so, how often. (6) In regard to media reports in March 2009 that the ACMA stated that a page containing photographs by Mr Bill Henson had been incorrectly added to the ACMA’s blacklist as a result of a ‘caching error’: (a) what is a ‘caching error’; and (b) can the ACMA prevent a ‘caching error’ happening in future; if so, how. (7) When the ACMA adds to its blacklist the URL of a hacked page on an overseas-hosted web site, that is operated/maintained by an Australian resident or Australian-based business, does the ACMA notify the Australian resident/business of the existence of the prohibited content so that it may promptly delete such content and have its page promptly removed from the blacklist; if not, why not. (8) How does the ACMA determine whether web page content has ‘an Australian connection’, for example, does the ACMA base this determination on the geographical location of the business/person to whom the IP [Internet Provider] address of the web site’s domain has been allocated, the geographical location of the business/person identified as the registrant the administrative or the technical contact of the domain in the ‘whois’ information. (9) In regard to the ACMA’s blacklist: (a) how many URLs on the blacklist are main domain addresses, for example, http://www.example.com (not the address of a sub-page on a web site); (b) when the ACMA notifies filter suppliers of a domain address, are filter suppliers required to block only that particular page (that is, the site’s ‘home’ page), or all pages on the domain; and (c) if filter suppliers are required to block all pages on a domain, by what means does the ACMA determine that there is a substantial likelihood that all pages on the domain are, if classified, potential/prohibited content. (10) In regard to the ACMA online content statistics for the month of December 2008, ACMAsphere No. 38, states that 237 overseas-hosted items were actioned and 22 items were ‘R18+ Language’, while the ACMA’s Internet statistics web page states that 253 overseas-hosted items were actioned, no items were ‘R18+ Language’ and 22 items were ‘X 18+ Actual sexual activity’ and given that there are also other discrepancies between the two sets of reported statistics: (a) which statistics are accurate; and (b) what caused the discrepancies. Page 67 No. 66—12 May 2009 67 (11) For each of the following periods: 20 January to 31 June 2008 and 1 July 2008 to date: (a) how many items of Internet content did the ACMA submit to the Classification Board for the purpose of complying with clause 116 of Schedule 7 (samples of content to be submitted for classification) of the Broadcasting Services Act 1992; and (b) how many of these items were content that did not have an ‘Australian connection’. (12) In regard to ACMA Internet content assessors: (a) why are the names, dates of appointment and short biographies of the assessors not made publicly available (as has long been the case in relation to members of the Classification Board and Classification Review Board); (b) are content assessors, like members of the classification boards, appointed by the Governor-General; if not, who appoints them; (c) in selecting and appointing content assessors, are there requirement that they have the capacity to assess, identify and represent community standards; (d) are content assessors initially appointed for a fixed term of service; if so, what is that period of time; (e) is there a statutory or other limit on the maximum term of service for a content assessor; and if so, what is that period of time; (f) for each content assessor, what was the date of their initial appointment; (g) how many content assessors are: (i) former full-time or part-time members of the Classification Board, (ii) former temporary/casual members of the Classification Board, (iii) current temporary/casual members of the Classification Board, (iv) former members of the Classification Review Board, and (v) former employees, in any role, of the former Office of Film and Literature Classification; and (h) for each content assessor referred to in (12)(g) above, what is each of their total period of service in the abovementioned former roles. (13) Do ACMA content assessors undergo regular training by the Classification Board to help ensure consistency of decisions; if so, how often does such training take place. (14) How many content assessors view and assess an item of Internet content prior to an ACMA determination that it is ‘potential prohibited content’ because there is a substantial likelihood that it would be classified by the Classification Board as: (a) RC, ‘RC-Child Depiction’; (b) RC, for any other reason; (c) X18+; (d) R18+; and (e) MA15+. Page 68 68 No. 66—12 May 2009 (15) In regard to the page on an anti-abortion web site that was determined by the ACMA to be ‘RC-Violence’ in January 2009 and the criteria for RC in the national classification code: (a) was the content determined to be prohibited/potential prohibited content under clause 1(a) of the criteria for RC (depictions of violence that offend against the standards of reasonable adults) or under clause 1(c) (promote, incite or instruct in matters of crime or violence); and (b) how many content assessors participated in making a decision that there was a substantial likelihood that the content would be RC if classified. (16) In regard to the ACMA’s ‘Restricted Access System Declaration 2007’, the explanatory statement to the declaration and the ACMA’s web page titled ‘new restricted access arrangements’ state that the requirements in the declaration apply only to content that has an ‘Australian connection’ (is hosted in Australia or provided from Australia): (a) what procedures/systems are available to providers of overseas-hosted content to enable them to ensure that content they provide that is, or would be classified R18+ or (commercial) MA15+, is not added to the ACMA’s blacklist; and (b) if these procedures/systems comply with the ‘Restricted Access System Declaration 2007’, how can the ACMA, and Australian Internet users, know that an overseas content provider is complying with the Australian National Privacy Principles under the Privacy Act 1988, as required by the Restricted Access System Declaration 2007, in relation to use/disclosure etc of proof of age documentation/information they acquire and are required to keep for 2 years. *1496 Senator Ludlam: To ask the Minister for Broadband, Communications and the Digital Economy— (1) With reference to the hearings of the Environment, Communications and the Arts Committee additional estimates of 23 February 2009, in which an officer of the Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA), stated that in ‘the last financial year’ the ACMA had actioned 774 prohibited content items and that 410 of those were child sexual abuse items (Committee Hansard, 23 February 2009, ECA 95) and given that in March 2009 a list of Uniform Resource Locators (URLs) purporting to be the ACMA blacklist was published and was deemed by the ACMA to be sufficiently sensitive that the leaked blacklist was, itself, added to the blacklist, can the Minister identify by name which of the URLs on the list of URLs purporting to be the 18 March 2009 list are designated by the ACMA as not being ‘child sexual abuse items’. (2) Are URLs which are not ‘child sexual abuse items’ legal for Australian adults to read and view. (3) (a) Is the list itself a ‘child sexual abuse item’; and (b) is it legal for Australian adults to read and view it. (4) When did the Government’s policy change from using the ACMA prohibited content list, as documented in its pre-election platform materials, to using a new list of Refused Classification (RC) material, as documented in the latest version of the Minister’s form letters. Page 69 No. 66—12 May 2009 69 (5) Does the Government intend the ACMA to use its own judgement to determine that Internet content has been refused classification as per existing practice for offshore content or does the Government intend to use the services of the Classification Board, as stated by the Minister on the Special Broadcasting Service program Insight, on Tuesday, 31 March 2009. (6) With reference to the Minister’s form letter on Internet filtering which states that the ‘scope of the definition of prohibited content in legislation cannot be expanded without changes to legislation being passed by Parliament, and the Government does not intend doing this’, what lawful authority empowers: (a) the ACMA to maintain a list of RC content, separate from its existing list of prohibited content; and (b) the Government to require Internet Service Providers (ISPs) to maintain mandatory filtering systems on their networks. (7) Is it legal for Australians to possess, read and view material which has been refused classification by the Classification Board, but which has not been judged to be illegal in a court. (8) Is it illegal for Australians to view RC images of aborted foetuses. (9) Is it illegal for Australians to read RC copies of The Peaceful Pill Handbook, or view the film, The Peaceful Pill. (10) Will the content which the ACMA assessed as RC on the abortiontv.com website be blocked by ISPs on a mandatory basis for adults; if not, what other exceptions to RC, on other websites, would be similarly permitted. (11) Will the content in the YouTube presentations of The Peaceful Pill which the ACMA assessed as RC be blocked by ISPs on a mandatory basis for adults; if not, what other exceptions to RC would be similarly permitted. (12) Will the lists of URLs purporting to be copies of the ACMA blacklist on http://www.wikileaks.org, which the ACMA assessed as RC, be blocked by ISPs on a mandatory basis for adults; if not, what other exceptions to RC would be similarly permitted. (13) Will computer games exceeding the requirements of the MA15+ classification be RC and potentially blocked by ISPs on a mandatory basis for adults; if not, what other exceptions to RC would be similarly permitted. (14) If the Government intends to distribute to ISPs a blacklist of RC websites used by millions of end users across the length and breadth of Australia, what safeguards does it intend to put in place to prevent the list from being: (a) leaked and subsequently published; and (b) reverse engineered by one or several of those users and subsequently published. (15) Has the Government consulted with officials in overseas jurisdictions to determine their likely reaction in the event that a leaked copy of an Australian list of RC material is published on the Internet, and which subsequently enables criminal activity outside Australia’s borders; if not: (a) why not; and (b) does the Government intend to consult these jurisdictions.
- Search WikiLeaks for "ACMA"