19 March 2009
ACMA list of prohibited and potentially prohibited overseas hosted content
The Australian Communications and Media Authority is aware that a list purporting to be the ‘ACMA blacklist’ has been posted on an overseas website.
ACMA does not consider that the release and promotion of URLs relating to illegal and highly offensive material is responsible.
The regulatory scheme for online content that has been administered by ACMA since 2000 is underpinned by the National Classification Code that also applies to traditional media platforms (including cinema, DVDs and publications). ACMA’s role is to investigate complaints and take such actions as prescribed by the legislation on materials assessed to be prohibited or potentially prohibited content.
The Sydney Morning Herald yesterday provided ACMA with a list of some 2300 URLs, purported to be the list of URLs of prohibited content and potential prohibited content maintained by ACMA as part of its regulatory responsibilities for online content under Schedule 7 of the Broadcasting Services Act (this list is often referred to as ‘the ACMA blacklist’).
ACMA has previously investigated and taken action on material—including child pornography and child sexual abuse images—at some of the sites on this list of 2300 URLs. However, the list provided to ACMA differs markedly in length and format to the ACMA blacklist. The ACMA blacklist has at no stage been 2300 URLs in length and at August 2008 consisted of 1061 URLs. It is therefore completely inaccurate to say that the list of 2300 URLs constitutes an ACMA blacklist.
It also appears that many of the 2300 URLs provided on the list are no longer active. However, some of the URLs that remain active appear to relate to online depictions of child sexual abuse. Possessing, distributing or accessing such material may amount to an offence under the Commonwealth Criminal Code and relevant State laws.
ACMA provides the ACMA blacklist to the fourteen providers of filter software which have been tested and accredited by the Internet Industry Association (IIA), as part of IIA’s Family Friendly Filter scheme. ACMA is discussing with the IIA what if any action it may need to take to help ensure that ACMA’s list remain secure.
ACMA considers that any publication of the ACMA blacklist would have a substantial adverse effect on the effective administration of the regulatory scheme which aims to prevent access to harmful and offensive online material. Such publication would undermine the public interest outcomes which the current legislation aims to achieve.
Media contact: Donald Robertson, ACMA Media Manager on (02) 9334 7980.
Under Schedule 7 to the Broadcasting Services Act 1992 (BSA) ACMA must investigate complaints it receives from the public about suspected 'prohibited content.'
Prohibited content is online content that has been classified by the Classification Board and which, as a result of its classification, is prohibited content under Schedule 7 to the BSA. Under clause 21 of Schedule 7 to the BSA, 'potential prohibited content' is online content that has not been classified by the Classification Board, but which ACMA considers is likely to be prohibited content if it were classified. The following categories of online content are the sole categories that are prohibited:
- Online content that is classified RC or X 18+. 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 which is classified R 18+ and not subject to a restricted access system. 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 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.
ACMA is required by law to take action if as a result of an investigation it locates content that is prohibited content or potential prohibited content. In the case of content that is hosted in or provided from Australia, ACMA must issue a take-down notice to the person hosting the content. ACMA has no power to direct the removal of prohibited content and potential prohibited content hosted outside Australia. Instead, under Schedule 5 to the BSA, the Australian internet industry has developed a procedure based on the use of internet filter software. ACMA notifies the URLs of prohibited content and potential prohibited content hosted outside Australia to the makers of certain filter software products, which Australian ISPs are required to offer to their customers.
ACMA’s current list of approximately 1100 URLs relating to prohibited content and potential prohibited content hosted outside Australia includes material in the following categories:
- depictions of child sexual abuse;
- depictions of bestiality;
- material containing excessive violence or sexual violence;
- material containing detailed instruction in crime, violence or drug use;
- real depictions of actual sexual activity;
- depictions of simulated sexual activity which are not subject to a restricted access system.
Schedule 7 to the BSA also requires ACMA to investigate complaints about ‘links services’ which are hosted in Australia and which lead to prohibited content. If as a result of investigating such a complaint ACMA determines that a link relates to potential prohibited content, ACMA is required to direct the provider of the links service to remove the link, pending classification of the content concerned by the Classification Board.
ACMA can take such action only in relation to links services that are hosted in Australia.
The Interactive Gambling Act 2001 (the IGA) makes it an offence to provide, or advertise, certain interactive gambling services. ACMA is responsible for investigating formal complaints made under the IGA in relation to prohibited internet gambling content.
Prohibited internet gambling content is content that can be accessed, or is available for access, by customers of a prohibited internet gambling service.
A prohibited internet gambling service is a gambling service provided in the course of carrying on a business to customers using an internet carriage service, and an individual physically present in Australia is capable of becoming a customer of the service.
If ACMA receives a complaint about prohibited internet gambling content that is hosted in Australia, ACMA will refer the matter to the Australian Federal Police.
If prohibited internet gambling content is hosted outside Australia, ACMA will notify the content to makers of the approved Family Friendly Filters listed in Schedule 1 to the Interactive Gambling Act Industry code.
ACMA provides a comprehensive national program of cybersafety initiatives as part of the Australian Government’s cybersafety policy. As well as managing the public complaints process about prohibited and potentially prohibited material on the internet, ACMA’s program includes researching current trends in cybersafety, undertaking targeted information and awareness-raising campaigns and activities, and developing cybersafety education materials for use in schools.