[The following Press release was issued by ACT Attorney-General, Mr Gary Humphries, on Tuesday 10 July 1996. No hypertext links existed in the original document, these have been added. In addition to the contact numbers given at the end, Mr Humphries' office advises that comment may be emailed to michael_keenan@dpa.act.gov.au. The PC Users Group (ACT) Inc issued its own Press Release in response.]

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE 10 July 1996

THE COMPLEXITIES OF CENSORING
THE INTERNET

A proposal from New South Wales to regulate internet service providers and effectively make them responsible for what their customers view or communicate to others on the internet is a dangerously simplistic way of addressing a deeply complex issue, ACT Attorney-General, Gary Humphries, said today.

Mr Humphries said that the ACT would not support New South Wales' proposal for model legislation at this time, but instead would call for a more detailed analysis of regulatory options.

It is estimated that close to 50% of Canberrans have access to the internet through home, work, school or university.

"Quite simply, it is inappropriate for service providers to be held responsible for the actions of their customers in most cases.

"That's like saying that Telstra is responsible for every four-letter word used on a telephone by one of its customers, or that Australia Post has the responsibility to check every single item of mail sent through its system.

"Logistically, the New South Wales proposal is difficult. It has been put forward in haste and more work needs to be done, both here and overseas, to determine an appropriate standard for material on the internet.

"The Australian Broadcasting Authority's report on regulation on on-line services is a very good start, preferring to focus on end-users not service providers.

"Perhaps something which has caught governments around the world off-guard is the speed of the creation of a world information superhighway. This development brings with it challenges which extend well beyond state, or even national, boundaries.

"If NSW is after a quick fix out of this week's meeting of Censorship Ministers, they will be disappointed. The ACT Government will not condone measures which invade the personal privacy of individual computer users to achieve a quick fix.

"Ultimately, the question of regulating what is on the internet is a question which will not be ours alone to solve. But to act alone will simply push problems offshore without actually addressing their cause or the reality that a small number will always try to use the internet for purposes for which it was never intended.

"And, as we already know, the internet passes over borders with no regard to different regulatory regimes," Mr Humphries said.

Media Contact:
Michael Keenan (Minister's office) (06) 205 0022 office
Stephen Forshaw (Minister's office) (06) 205 0133 office