Porn police

By Ian Anderson in Melbourne AUSTRALIA plans to introduce the world’s toughest legislation to outlaw pornography on the Net. Among its provisions is a controversial requirement for service providers to block access to offensive material on overseas sites. The industry is openly defiant, describing the law as laughable. “We will not be incorporating unworkable provisions such as mandatory filtering of overseas content,” says Peter Coroneos, executive director of the Australian Internet Industry Association. “No other nation has thought it desirable to take these sorts of steps,” adds Kim Heitman of Electronic Frontiers Australia, which campaigns against online censorship. Late last month, the bill passed a crucial vote in the Senate when two independent senators holding the balance of power sided with the government. The legislation will now be introduced to the House of Representatives, where the government has a majority. It is almost certain to pass with little amendment, and will be implemented on 1 January. Under the new law, anyone will be able to complain to the Australian Broadcasting Authority (ABA) about illegal or offensive material online. If the ABA agrees that the material is unacceptable, it can then ask Net providers to prevent access to the material. If the material is on an Australian server, it must be taken down; if the host computer is overseas, providers must take “reasonable steps to prevent access if technically feasible”. The precise definition of “reasonable steps” is likely to be hotly contested,
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