An internet service provider (ISP) supplies an internet carriage service to the public and a content service provider provides content through these carriage services. This includes internet content hosts, defined under Schedule 5 of the Broadcasting Services Act 1992 as a person who hosts or proposes to host Internet content in Australia.
The ACMA administers a co-regulatory scheme for online content. The scheme is established under Schedule 5 and Schedule 7 of the Broadcasting Services Act and aims to address community concerns about illegal and offensive online content (including internet and mobile phone content).
Under the Broadcasting Services Act, the following are prohibited:
- Any online content classified RC* or X 18+* by the Classification Board. This includes real depictions of actual sexual activity, child pornography, depictions of bestiality, material containing excessive violence or sexual violence, detailed instruction in crime, violence or drug use, and/or material that advocates the doing of a terrorist act.
- Content classified R 18+* and not subject to a restricted access system that prevents access by children. This includes depictions of simulated sexual activity, material containing strong, realistic violence and other material dealing with intense adult themes.
- Content classified MA 15+*, provided by a mobile premium service or a service that provides audio or video content upon payment of a fee and that is not subject to a restricted access system. This includes material containing strong depictions of nudity, implied sexual activity, drug use or violence, very frequent or very strong coarse language, and other material that is strong in impact.
* Classifications are based on criteria outlined in the Classification (Publications, Films and Computer Games) Act 1995, National Classification Code and the Guidelines for the Classification of Films and Computer Games 2005.
ISPs have a responsibility to follow procedures set out in an industry code of practice for dealing with overseas-hosted content that would be prohibited if it was classified in Australia.
A code or standard may make provision where an ISP is not required to take action (for example, blocking) in relation to a particular end-user if access by that end-user is subject to an alternative access-prevention arrangement. An example of such an arrangement is the designated notification scheme set out under Schedule 5 of the Broadcasting Services Act and the Internet Industry Codes of Practice.
Content service providers have a responsibility to remove or prevent access to prohibited content from their service once notified by the ACMA of the existence of the content.
Industry codes of practice may include compliance mechanisms, such as withdrawal of industry association rights or privileges, and compliance incentives, such as the right to display compliance symbols. Such mechanisms will need to be approved by the ACMA through the code registration process.
Online provider rules require ISPs to comply with the ACMA notices and directions, for example, an access-prevention notice or a direction to comply with a code or standard.
Content/hosting service provider rules require content service providers to comply with ACMA notices and directions, for example, a take-down notice or a direction to comply with a code or standard.
Contravention of an online provider rule is a criminal offence and a continuing offence for each day the contravention continues. Following successful prosecution, the penalty per day for ISPs is 50 penalty points, that is, $5,500 per day for an individual and up to $27,500 per day for a corporation. The penalty per day for content service providers is up to 100 penalty points, that is, up to $11,000 per day.