Australia needs a new classification system: Google

Australian Family Association calls for classification of Web pages

Google has added to the growing number of voices arguing that Australia’s current classification system is unworkable in today’s converged environment.

Detailing its response to the Australian Law Reform Committee (ALRC) National Classification Scheme review, Google ANZ head of public policy and government relations, Iarla Flynn, said a new regulatory framework was required to take into account the network, platforms, and content layers of converged media.

At the network level, such an approach would involve promoting competition and greater transparency to preserve the open nature of the Internet.

At a platform level, the sheer amount of content, and the often global nature of services, effectively rendered any classification obligations on the platform provider not only prohibitively expensive, but also practically impossible, Flynn said.

“48 hours of content are uploaded onto YouTube every minute,” Google’s submission reads. “Platforms such as YouTube simply have no practical way of being aware of what content is posted to their services unless and until they are notified by a user or government authority.

“To be effective, a policy framework must acknowledge these practical limitations. Google submits that a robust safe harbour should be a central plank of a framework designed to address online content.”

Flynn said that the content level, a classification regime needed to take into account that content in a converged environment moved, locally and globally, across platforms and distribution channels.

“The government’s approach to policy at this level should also take into account the ability of users in an online environment to self-regulate within their own communities,” the submission reads.

“A regime that seeks to impose a top-down approach to what types of content people should be free to access, might be un-workable, and could come at a great cost to innovation, access to information and freedom of expression.”

Australian Family Association calls for Web page classification

Google’s call for a completely new framework echoes that made by the Australian Civil Liberties Australia (CLA), which in its submission argues that the technological landscape, and major distribution channels for content, have dramatically changed over the past two decades.

“This means that many of the things that the current framework attempts are no longer possible,” [[xref: |the CLA submission reads|.

The Australian Family Association said in its submission that the focus of a new classification scheme should contemplate the classification of Web pages.

“Classifying media content is all the more important given that the internet is becoming even more pervasive in the lives of children,” the submission reads.

“Web-enabled media devices range from PCs and laptops to mobile phones to gaming consoles to tablet PCs, and so on. Device-based filtering is liable to inconsistency and is more amenable to circumvention than ISP-level filtering.

“Mandatory filtering of the internet at the ISP level is the most effective method of controlling access to restricted online content. Opt-in access to restricted content could be enabled by an age-verification mechanism.”

The Eros Association, Australia’s national adult retail and entertainment body, said in its submission that the current classification scheme belonged “to another era” and could not be improved.

“Only a completely new approach will work for adult retailers and distributors,” the submission reads.

The Pirate Party Australia (PPA) has also argued that the existing system is “fundamentally broken.”

Follow Tim Lohman on Twitter: @Tlohman

Follow Computerworld Australia on Twitter: @ComputerworldAU

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