Govt rushes vote on Internet censorship

Govt rushes vote on Internet censorship


The Government's rush to pass its Online Services Bill determining the regulation of Internet content through the Senate has sparked concern amongst industry bodies.

The Bill, to be voted on as early as this week, has survived intact after two weeks of Senate Select Committee meetings with committee chairperson Senator Jeannie Ferris saying "no changes" have been recommended to the Government.

Andrew Freeman, ACS community affairs board director, says the speed at which the Bill is being rushed through the Senate indicates the Government isn't looking at the long-term consequences of such a serious issue. Freeman says the Government's Bill is "equivalent to using a sledgehammer to remove a tumour where it should be using a scalpel".

"It's bizarre, I've never seen anything like it," he said, fearing the Bill will make Australia "laughable" in the eyes of the rest of the world.

Peter Coroneos, executive director of the Internet Industry Association, said the report comes as "no surprise, given the politics of the situation". He claims that while the legislation won't be as onerous in practice as it is in theory, consultation with industry in the lead-up to the upcoming Senate vote has been largely "ignored".

However, Senator Ferris said the report does recommend the Government "clarify several issues in the legislation", including the practical difficulties of "take-down" orders on non-working days, the lack of a specific reference to "technical feasibility" in the legislation and the need to clarify the responsibility of the Internet content providers.

The recommendations proposed to the Senate reflect the IT industry's major concern regarding the technological feasibility of blocking content at an ISP level, claims Ferris. The Senate asserts that it received no information confirming such actions would retard Australia's Internet or e-commerce development.

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