GILC Member Submission to Australian Senate Select Committee

Except for the addition of this comment and changes to the layout and navigation links, the content of this page was last updated on 30 April 1999 at 8:30am.

We, the members of the Global Internet Liberty Campaign (GILC) listed at the end of this submission, are writing to express our concern regarding the Broadcasting Services Amendment (Online Services) Bill 1999 (the Bill).

The Global Internet Liberty Campaign is an international coalition of organisations that are committed to defending civil liberties and human rights on the Internet.

It is our informed opinion that the proposed legislation is contrary to international human rights treaties, and would be harmful to Australian society, detrimental to the Australian economy, and, in the end, simply unworkable.

We consider that the following issues are important with respect to the Bill:

Any filtering or blocking regime adopted under a code of practice mandated by the Bill will restrict freedom of expression and limit access to information. Government-mandated use of blocking and filtering systems violates basic international human rights protections. The proposed measures will prevent individuals from using the Internet to exchange information on topics that may be controversial or unpopular.

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 under the Bill will remain blocked for at least 2 years by the proposed blacklist model.

The effectiveness of the proposed regime will be minimal. Given that, for content hosted outside of Australia, only RC and X is to be prohibited, the government blacklist will only cover a very small percentage of adult or offensive content. Also tunnelling 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 Bill will not protect minors on the Internet, as it is intend to, but will prevent 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 behaviour 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 Select Committee to take the lead in creating an environment that will help local communities find the best answers to providing greater access to the Internet. The Select Committee could do this by recommending that in the proposed Schedule 5 of the Broadcasting Services Act Clauses 3 to 86, 88, 89 and parts (a) and (e) of Clause 90 be deleted, clause 87 be modified to also include Commonwealth laws, and modify clauses 1 and 2 in line with these changes.

We observe that blocking and filtering software programs cannot possibly filter out all objectionable 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 then minors should be taught the critical skills that are needed as citizens of the information society.

We also point out that no western democracy has introduced such a censorship regime, and that Malaysia has recently abandoned such a regime because of the harm it was doing to its economic prospects.


  • ALCEI - Electronic Frontiers Italy : <>
  • American Civil Liberties Union : <>
  • Center for Democracy and Technology : <>
  • Computer Professionals for Social Responsibility : <>
  • Derechos Human Rights : <>
  • Digital Citizens Foundation Netherlands (DB-NL) : <>
  • Electronic Frontier Canada : <>
  • Electronic Frontier Foundation : <>
  • Electronic Frontiers Texas : <>
  • Electronic Privacy Information Centre : <>
  • Equipo Nizkor : <>
  • Förderverein Informationstechnik und Gesellschaft : <>
  • Human Rights Network : <>
  • Index on censorship : <>
  • Internet Society : <>
  • NetAction : <>
  • Quintessenz user group : <>
  • Last updated: 17 February 2002 at 8:12am. Comments? Email: Dr Michael Baker. Based on Design by Colombia Hosting