In a flurry of statements, industry associations are railing against the Federal Government's recent announcement to hold ISPs responsible for the censure of Internet content through its Broadcasting Services Amendment (Online Services) Bill 1999, claiming the Bill will inhibit the growth of the Internet in Australia.
The Internet Industry Association's (IIA) executive director, Peter Coroneos, claims that making ISPs the subject of complaint because of material a user may find through the connection supplied by the ISP is misguided and that there are no "reasonable steps" which ISPs can adopt to prevent this from happening.
"This provision misunderstands the nature of the Internet," he said. "We are left wondering what steps the Government has in mind and continue to oppose any measure that might damage the efficiency and amenity of the Internet."
The Australian Interactive Multimedia Industry Association (AIMIA) aimed its response at the potential risk to employment in the Internet business sector if the legislation is passed.
AIMIA president Robert Clemente claims the Government's push for the Industry to find a solution, whether it is proxy servers to filter content or not, will cost the industry money.
"This will stifle the growth of e-commerce, and with it employment growth in the sector. The Web offers convenience through speed. If the service is slow, people won't use it," said Clemente. "We don't want to see Australia become an Internet backwater because of bad law."
Electronic Frontiers Australia (EFA) has criticised the legislation on the grounds that it's treating the Internet as television.
Danny Yee, EFA board member, claims the Film and Video classification system ported by the Government and the decision to appoint the Australian Broadcasting Authority with jurisdiction is inappropriate to the medium.
"Australia cannot hope to take advantage of the opportunities afforded by the Internet while it has a Government that insists on forcing it into a totally inappropriate mould," he said.
Stepping up its attack, EFA executive director Darce Cassidy claims: "The Government has demonstrated a total disregard for freedom of speech, not granting it even a token mention either in the legislation or in the accompanying propaganda."
Although welcoming the legislation, the Australia Computer Society (ACS) has also fell in behind other associations and "would not support a requirement that ISPs implement any technical mechanism that degrades performance of their services," said Philip Argy, chairman of the Society's Economic, Legal and Social Implications Committee.
Shifting the focus of the debate, the Government has hit back with a statement by senator Richard Alston, minister for Communications, Information Technology and the Arts, claiming it doesn't "propose to force Internet Service Providers to buy proxy servers to 'filter' online material." Instead the Government claims the legislation would be based on industry Codes of Practice, encouraging the use of filtering technologies by parents.