R18+ computer games, finally, but little on cybercrime

Australia’s Standing Committee of Attorneys-General has been meeting in Adelaide these past two days. They’ve finally agreed to allow an R18+ classification for computer games. But I’m surprised to see they’ve said almost nothing about online crime.

In their Communiqué and Summary of Decisions [25kb PDF] they say:

R 18+ Classification for Computer Games

Ministers made a decision in principle, to introduce an R 18+ category for computer games. NSW abstained.

Ministers:

(a) agreed to take the Guidelines for the Classification of Computer games, as amended at the meeting, to their respective Cabinets

(b) agreed in principle, with the exception of the NSW Attorney General who abstained, that the Commonwealth introduce the proposed amendments to the National Classification Code to support the introduction of an R 18+ category

(c) agreed, with the exception of the NSW Attorney General who abstained, to commence drafting amendments to their enforcement legislation to reflect the introduction of an R 18 + category for computer games

(d) agreed that it would be desirable for classifications of existing games to be reviewed in light of the new classification Guidelines.

This leads to the interesting possibility that the federal government could legislate to create the R18+ category, but NSW could choose not to implement matching laws. The result would be that the games would be legal to sell everywhere in Australia except NSW.

A similar situation already exists for X-rated movies. The federal government passed the laws, but the states changed their minds later. So X-rated material is available in the ACT.

But as I say, there was precious little on cybercrime.

Continue reading “R18+ computer games, finally, but little on cybercrime”

Patch Monday: ISP filtering goes ‘voluntary’, plus updates

Australia’s mandatory internet filter is at least two years away, but Telstra and Optus are only weeks from implementing their “voluntary” equivalents. Where are we up to with this controversial issue?

That’s what I covered in yesterday’s Patch Monday podcast for ZDNet Australia. And as I explained on the weekend, I’m returning to my habit of doing a blog post here for each episode.

For this internet filtering update, I spoke with Peter Black, who teaches internet and media law at the Queensland University of Technology; network engineer Mark Newton; and Lyle Shelton, chief of staff for the Australian Christian Lobby.

You can listen below. But it’s probably better for my stats if you listen at ZDNet Australia or subscribe to the RSS feed or subscribe in iTunes.

Since this podcast was recorded, we’ve discovered that Primus isn’t so sure about voluntary filtering any more. They were the third ISP to commit to the plan last year. However the Internet Industry Association (IIA) has said most Australian ISPs will filter via the Interpol list this year.

Previous podcast on this issue covered the meaning of the Refused Classification content category, Senator Conroy’s announcement of the strategy in July 2010, and the apparent fact that parents don’t act on their cybersafety fears.

Please let me know what you think. Comments below. We accept audio comments too. Either Skype to stilgherrian or phone Sydney +61 2 8011 3733.

Homophobic beat-up by Sun-Herald’s Heath Aston

“EXCLUSIVE”, trumpets this morning’s story in Sydney’s Sun-Herald. “[NSW Liberal leader] Barry O’Farrell has his big fingers to blame for appearing to promote pornography.” Orly? “Appearing to promote pornography”? What bullshit, state political editor Heath Aston!

Here’s what seems to have happened.

On Twitter, O’Farrell apparently marked as a “favourite” a tweet by someone linking to a video of Matty Daley and Bobby Canciello (pictured), two American students who were attempting to break the Guinness World Record for the longest kiss.

“Watch two boys break the record for longest kiss,” Aston reckons the video was entitled, though from the context it’s not clear whether that was the actual video title or just the text in the tweet.

That tweet was, we’re told, from someone who had previously linked to “images of male nudity and gay sex scenes”, either in tweets or in their Twitter profile. Again, we don’t know for sure because that Twitter account and O’Farrell’s favouriting have since been committed to the memory chute, and Aston hasn’t provided sources.

The user, who cannot be named for legal reasons, also posted a picture of a youth with his shirt off titled “an early teen boy completely and utterly adorable. That body is excellent.”

Aston claims O’Farrell is now “red-faced after saving a link on his Twitter account that leads to images of a shirtless under-age boy”.

Aston’s grubby little exercise in join-the-dots slander seems to work like this.

Continue reading “Homophobic beat-up by Sun-Herald’s Heath Aston”

Weekly Wrap 13 and 14

A weekly summary of what I’ve been doing elsewhere on the internets, once again done fortnightly because I forgot to do it last weekend. Suffer.

Articles

  • Nile’s porn excuse doesn’t hold water, for Crikey. Sydney’s Daily Telegraph alleged that various NSW politicians had been using their parliamentary computers to access pornography, and that anti-sex-industry campaigner and Christian Democrats leader Reverend Fred Nile was the worst culprit. He denied it, but as the story stood on 2 September 2010 I didn’t believe him.
  • NSW Parliament’s flawed porn hunt, for Crikey. By the following day, it was clear that the “audit” of parliamentary web browsing was deeply flawed.
  • What the NBN will deliver to Windsor’s mob, for Crikey. Independent MP Tony Windsor said that the National Broadband Network was a major factor in him choosing to support Labor over the Liberal-National Coalition.
  • ACMA and Nine demonstrate Australia’s institutionalised racism, for ABC Unleashed. Sam Newman’s continued low-brow bigotry on The AFL Footy Show gets “punished” with a slap on the wrist. Again. It took only six comments before someone accused me of political correctness gone mad and compared Australian with North Korea. And another commenter said that I “looked like a potato that had been boiled too far”. The standard of discussion at ABC Online isn’t all that flash.

Podcasts

  • Patch Monday episode 55, “BYO computers: cloud security risk?”.
  • Patch Monday episode 56, “Parliament’s poor porn probe exposed”. If ZDNet allowed longer headlines and more robust language in their stories, I’d have entitled this podcast “Pollies’ piss poor Parly porn probe exposed”. Poetry.

Media Appearances

Elsewhere

Most of my day-to-day observations are on my high-volume Twitter stream, and random photos and other observations turn up on my Posterous stream. The photos eventually appear on Flickr.

[Photo: Enmore Village on a Spring evening, taken from one of my favourite afternoon working spots at the Warren View Hotel, corner of Stanmore and Enmore Roads. Compare it with the photo in this post, My village really is home.]

Attorneys-General, are you really up for reform?

[Update 22 July 2010: I failed to update my brain. The Standing Committee of Attorneys-General postponed their meeting thanks to the federal election. If only I’d re-read their website. Still, this means there’s now plenty of time to make the point.]

The other day, communications minister Senator Stephen Conroy called for a review of Refused Classification material online, something I called his “filter masterstroke”. With the Standing Committee of Attorneys-General due to meet in Perth tomorrow and Friday on 4 and 5 November 2010, I’m calling for them to review the whole classification system — not just online and not just RC.

Here’s what I just sent the NSW Attorney General, John Hatzistergos MLC (pictured):

The Hon John Hatzistergos MLC
Attorney-General of New South Wales
GPO Box 5341
Sydney NSW 2001

Fax +61 2 9228 3600

Review of Refused Classification

Dear Minister,

As you will be aware, Senator Stephen Conroy, Australia’s Minister for Broadband, Communications and the Digital Economy, has recommended that the Standing Committee of Attorneys-General review that category of online content called Refused Classification.

I urge you and your fellow Attorneys-General to extend that into a full review of the classification system, not just for the internet but for all media.

In brief, Australia’s classification system is currently an inconsistent mess. I doubt that it accurately reflects the mature, tolerant and robust Australian community standards of the 21st Century. Simply put, such a review is long overdue.

Irene Graham has documented in detail the state of Refused Classification in Australia at http://libertus.net/censor/isp-blocking/au-govplan-refusedclassif.html and it is clear that over the years the RC category has been extended in an ad hoc manner to include material well beyond the governments’ original intentions — in many cases without reference to parliaments, let alone to the people.

Looking through the rest of Ms Graham’s site, it is clear that for the last decade, and perhaps longer, more attention has been given to the views of vocal minority groups rather than to the peer-reviewed social research that is available. This must change.

It is also clear that many decisions have been made on the basis of content being perceived as “offensive” to people’s tastes, rather than any demonstrable risk of harm. It simply is not the government’s place to legislate on matters of taste.

Finally, this is the age of media convergence. It is ridiculous to have different classification standards for the same video material, for example, depending on whether it is delivered via broadcast television, a DVD in a shop or via the internet.

In no way should any of this be seen as wishing to relax the laws relating to criminal material such as child abuse material. But that is a matter for criminal law, not classification.

If you require any further details, please do not hesitate to contact me.

Stilgherrian

cc: The Hon Carmel Tebbutt MP, Member for Marrickville

It’s all very last-minute, but I reckon a lot of phone calls, faxes and emails to your state Attorney-General wouldn’t go astray.