Submission to ABA Investigation

Except for the addition of this comment and changes to the layout and navigation links, the content of this page was last updated on 19 February 1996 at 8:30am.

From: Michael Baker <mbaker@pobox.com>
To: online@aba.gov.au
Cc: efa-board@efa.org.au, tomw@acslink.net.au, chairman@efa.org.au, Tony.Barry@library.anu.edu.au, Roger.Clarke@anu.edu.au
Subject: Submission to On-Line Services Investigation by Michael Baker

From: Dr Michael Baker
To: Ms Karren Koomen
Manager
On-Line Services Investigation
Australian Broadcasting Authority

Dear Ms Koomen,

This is my personal submission to the On-Line Services Investigation. I am a Software Engineer employed by GEC Marconi Systems and am a Member of the Australian Computer Society. I was instrumental in the establishment of Electronic Frontiers Australia two years ago and was until last year its first Chairman and also served on the ACS/EFA Joint Task Force.

[ This submission is available on the World Wide Web at URL:http://pobox.com/~mbaker/aba.html ]

Further to my email of 15-Feb-96 I called your 1-800 number and received permission to make this submission before 9am on Monady 19 February. As I stated in my previous email all of the substantive points in that email are included in this submission.

Most of the points that I wish to make in regard to your investigation have already been made by others. In particular by Simon Vandore, Irene Graham, and Electronic Frontiers Australia Inc. I have five points to make:

  1. As suggested on "Click On!" on Radio National this afternoon, Australia has a real opportunity to become a world leader on the Internet. With the passage of the Communications Decency Act (CDA) the US has shot itself in the foot. There are many sites in the US which are now looking for a safer place to operate from. These sites are not purveyors of pornography but sites which contain literature, scripture, photos of art works, museum displays, and others, all of which may fall foul of the indecency test of the CDA. For examples of sites that could fail the indecency test see URL:http://www.eff.org/BlueRibbon/sites.html

    To be able to take such a lead we, as a nation, need to understand this new medium, not be frightened by it, and realise the unprecedented power that it gives individuals to control what they and those in their care see and hear. Having done this we need to create a legal system which protects all who provide services from liability for that over which they have no control. If this is done soon we as a nation will be able to take a leadership role in the continuing development of the Internet, the fastest growing communications medium on earth.

  2. I request that before making any proposals that you conduct some type of cost benefit study. Not in an economic sense but in terms of answering questions like:
    • Is additional regulation required or are existing laws sufficient to cover the areas of concern?
    • How effective will the proposed solution be? i.e. how much of the material likely to harm or disturb children will it stop children accessing?
    • What are the adverse consequences of the proposed solution? In particular will the proposed solution have adverse effects on Australian interests such as the development and promotion of Australian services and "content"?
    And then asking if the benefits or effecitiveness outweigh the costs or adverse effects.
  3. I also request that as well as considering regulation that you consider the costs and benefits of an educational campaign to explain the new technology, how an individual can use it to control what they see and hear, and how parents and teachers can control what their children and pupils see and hear. I suspect that an educaitional campaign will be much more cost effective.
  4. The operation of the Internet is built on the development of consensus. I assume that you aim if possible to develop consensual solutions to the matters you are investigating. To that end I request that you enter into a dialogue via the internet with people who have a wide experience of how this technology works. The advantage of holding such a dialogue is that you can have a much higher level of confidence that any solutions which emerge will be both technically feasible and have minimal adverse consequences. To set up such a dialogue I suggest that you contact any of:
    Tom Worthington
    President of the Australian Computer Society
    tomw@acslink.net.au
    Kim Heitman
    Chairman of Electronic Frontiers Australia
    chairman@efa.org.au
    Tony Barry
    Maintainer of the link mailing list
    Tony.Barry@library.anu.edu.au
  5. I wish the following submissions by my self and others to be considered by your investigation:
Yours sincerely,

Dr Michael Baker.

PS As an example of how easy it is to forge email please note that althogh my email address is mbaker@pobox.com I actually use an Australian access provider (dove.mtx.net.au). I suspect that as you read this you will not be aware that this email actually came from mbaker@dove.mtx.net.au and not from mbaker@pobox.com. This level of address "forgery" is trivial. Instead of mbaker@pobox.com I could equally as well have set it up so that it appeared that this message came from president@whitehouse.gov, online@aba.gov.au or any other address that I chose. More sophisticated fogeries are not much more difficult.

If this throws some doubt on the authenticity of this submission please call me at work (08) 262 3511 or at home (08) 388 8439. These numbers can be confirmed in the white pages (GEC Marconi Systems Pty Ltd, Technology Park, The Levels; and Baker Michael, 1 Willis Road, Flaxley).


mbaker@pobox.com
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