- What is an Internet Service Provider (ISP)?
- What should ISPs do if they become aware that their service can be used to access child pornography or child abuse material?
- What is prohibited content?
- What are ISPs required to do about prohibited content?
- What other responsibilities do ISPs have under the Code?
- What if an ISP does not comply with an industry code of practice or an ACMA direction or notice?
- Can an ISP seek a review of an ACMA decision?
- Are ISPs protected from legal action by content providers whose content has been blocked?
- Need more information?
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 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 internet safety issues.
For the purposes of the scheme, an ISP is a person who supplies or proposes to supply an internet carriage service to the public.
What should ISPs do if they become aware that their service can be used to access child pornography or child abuse material?
From 1 March 2005, ISPs have had responsibilities under the Criminal Code Act 1995. ISPs who become aware that their service can be used to access particular child pornography or child abuse material must refer the details of the material to the AFP. Further information is available from the Attorney-General's Department.
What is prohibited content?
Under the Broadcasting Services Act 1992, 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 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.
ISPs have a responsibility to follow the procedures set out in an industry code of practice (or in the absence of a code, an industry standard) for dealing with overseas-hosted content that would be prohibited if it was classified in Australia.
A code or standard may make provision whereby 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 1992 and the Internet Industry Codes of Practice.
Industry codes of practice require ISPs to take appropriate steps to protect the public from prohibited content. The codes set out opt-in filtering arrangements that require ISPs to offer customers filters on a cost recovery basis (the charge must not be more than the total cost incurred by the ISP in obtaining, supplying or supporting that filter). Filters are made available either directly or via a filter software portal maintained by the Internet Industry Association.
The Internet Industry Association provides further information about Family Friendly filters.
There are a graduated range of enforcement mechanisms and sanctions to allow flexibility in dealing with breaches depending on the seriousness of the circumstances.
Industry codes of practice can be expected to 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.
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 is 50 penalty points, that is, $5,500 per day for an individual and up to $27,500 per day for a corporation.
An ISP may apply to the Administrative Appeals Tribunal for a review of any of the ACMA's decisions affecting it under the scheme.
ISPs are protected from civil proceedings (for example, for breach of contract or defamation) in respect of anything they have done in compliance with an ACMA notice or direction.
If you would like more information about the scheme please contact the ACMA.