- What is the co-regulatory scheme for online content?
- What is prohibited online content?
- Is it legal/illegal to host prohibited content?
- What does the ACMA do about prohibited online content that's hosted in Australia?
- What does the ACMA do about prohibited online content that's hosted overseas?
- What does the ACMA do about spam and e-security?
What is the co-regulatory scheme for online content?
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 1992 (the Act) and aims to address community concerns about illegal and offensive content online.
Co-regulation means that Government, industry and the community all have roles to play in managing online safety issues.
Key components of the scheme include:
- Codes of practice for ISPs and online content service providers
- A complaint mechanism
- Community education about online safety issues
- A range of supporting activities including research and international liaison
The co-regulatory scheme covers content on World Wide Web sites, Usenet newsgroups, peer-to-peer file sharing applications, live content (such as ‘live’ streaming audio / video and adult chat services) and other types of content that can be accessed online (including on the internet or on a mobile phone). The scheme does not cover content contained in email, instant messages, chat SMS or MMS, unless they are provided as part of a service that is an adult chat service or a service that specialises in the provision of prohibited or potentially prohibited content.
Under the Act, the following categories of online content are prohibited:
- Any online content that is classified RC* or X 18+* by the Classification Board (formerly the Office of Film and Literature Classification). 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 hosted in Australia which is 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 which is 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.
Further information about the types of content covered by the scheme is in our complaints section. Online content that has not been classified but which, if classified, would be prohibited content is regarded as potential prohibited content and is dealt with in a similar way to prohibited content.
Unless the content is in one of the above categories, the ACMA cannot take action over online content that you simply don't like or do not agree with. In such cases, you may wish to raise your concerns directly with the providers of the content in question.
Is it legal/illegal to host prohibited content?
The Act does not make it an offence for a content service provider to host prohibited content. However, IPSs and internet content hosts have responsibilities under the Criminal Code Act 1995. If the ACMA directs a content service provider to prevent access to prohibited or potential prohibited content, the content service provider must comply with this direction and failure to do so may amount to an offence.
The ACMA can direct a content service provider to prevent access to prohibited and potential prohibited content. It does this by issuing a take-down notice, service cessation notice or link deletion notice. In the case of prohibited content, a final take-down notice is issued, directing the content service provider not to host the content concerned at any time. In the case of prohibited content, a final notice is issued, directing the content service provider not to provide access to the content concerned. In the case of potential prohibited content, an interim notice is issued, directing the content service provider not to provide access to the content until it has been classified by the Classification Board.
If the ACMA thinks that the content is sufficiently serious (for example, illegal content such as child pornography), it refers the matter to the relevant State or Territory police force.
Details of prohibited and potential prohibited content hosted outside Australia are forwarded to the makers or suppliers of the filter software products that are listed in the Schedule of the registered code of practice for ISPs. The makers or suppliers of these products have agreed to update their products to give effect to these notifications. The code requires Australian ISPs to provide one of these products to their subscribers.
If the ACMA thinks that the content is sufficiently serious (for example, illegal content such as child pornography), it refers the matter to the Australian Federal Police, or to the hotline in the country concerned, for the attention of law enforcement officials in that jurisdiction.
The ACMA is responsible for enforcing the Spam Act and actively works to fight spam in Australia. Under the Spam Act 2003 it is illegal to send, or cause to be sent, unsolicited commercial electronic messages. The Act covers email, instant messaging, SMS and MMS (text and image-based mobile phone messaging) of a commercial nature.
The ACMA also plays an important role in e-security in Australia, gathering evidence and assisting in protecting Australians from computer fraud and identity theft.
Further information is available on the ACMA spam pages.