Australian government to censor 3G mobile content

Thursday, June 15, 2006

A 3G mobile phone showing the Vodafone Live! mobile content service

Helen Coonan, Australia's communications minister announced on Wednesday that the Howard government planned on introducing legislation into parliament restricting access to inappropriate or harmful material on so-called "emerging content services". The government considers 3G mobile communications and subscription-based Internet portals to be emerging content services.

Senator Coonan said in a statement that the government was supportive of new technology, but felt that the technology requires safeguards to ensure that children are not exposed to inappropriate content.

“The Government supports the development of innovative new communications services which provide access to the Internet, email, games, instant messaging, chat rooms, video clips and television programs,” she said.

“However, these new content services may also potentially carry offensive or harmful content and we need to ensure that appropriate safeguards are in place to protect children from exposure to content that might be harmful.”

Senator Coonan said the government intends to prohibit material rated X18+ and restrict access to other services based upon the subscriber's age and content classification. Speaking of the proposed legislation, the minister said “It will extend the current safeguards that apply to content delivered over the Internet or television to be applied to content delivered over convergent devices,"

“This will include prohibition of content rated X18+ and above, requirements for consumer advice and age-restricting access to content suited only to adults.”

The announcement comes as the government released a report into the effectiveness of the current regulatory framework and how it applies to new delivery methods.

The report, received by the government in April, found that the differences between television, print, radio and Internet media would be blurred by devices such as 3G mobile phones and wireless Internet access. It suggested that the government regulate based on the amount of control service providers have over content instead of via the method used to access it.

It also found that much of the content available via emerging content services was based upon that of other mediums, where censorship already takes place.

The report did however express concern about mobile chat services, claiming they could be used by pedophiles to target children. The report found it would be more difficult for parents to supervise their children's mobile chat behaviour as they would have access to the service from anywhere. The report said this could be countered by the fact that mobile users are easier to identify than users on the Internet, making pedophiles less likely to use the service.

The report also suggested that Internet access via mobile telephones be limited to customers over the age of 18, unless minors have permission from their parent or guardian. Under current Australian law, a minor is unable to sign up for an account with an Internet service provider, but is able to access WAP based Internet services without restriction.


This article features first-hand journalism by Wikinews members. See the collaboration page for more details.
This article features first-hand journalism by Wikinews members. See the collaboration page for more details.