IIA steps up mobile content protection

The Internet Industry Association (IIA) has stepped up with its plan to protect minors from objectionable mobile phone content.IIA chief executive Peter Coroneos today revealed that the organisation had amended its existing Internet content code of practice to bring the mobile environment within its purview and was weeks away from releasing a consultation draft of the document for public comment.

The Internet Industry Association (IIA) has stepped up with its plan to protect minors from objectionable mobile phone content.

IIA chief executive Peter Coroneos today revealed that the organisation had amended its existing Internet content code of practice to bring the mobile environment within its purview and was weeks away from releasing a consultation draft of the document for public comment.

Coroneos said all five of Australia's major mobile carriers had agreed on changes to the existing code which have been placed before the Australian Broadcasting Association (ABA) for its consideration.

"We need to be on the front foot here because we don't want a situation developing where there are further calls for regulation," said Coroneos today.

According to Coroneos, the industry group's proposal for regulating mobile content strongly parallels the regime currently applied to Internet content.

"It's a long the same lines of what we've done with the fixed Internet content, which is all about end-user empowerment, but we've had to figure out how we can apply that in a mobile environment," said Coroneos.

He added that the new code will effectively stretch the existing censorship regime, including a take-down notice mechanism and content classification measure, into the mobile space.

He also hinted that there may be restrictions placed on content and services available to handsets in line with the age of their users.

The Australian Communications Authority was expected to release a set of rules for handling mobile content early this year after then ICT minister Darryl Williams made a hasty determination giving the ACA jurisdiction over a wider range of mobile content services.

The ACA was expected to release its rules last February in unison with its first allocation of 19x numbers set aside to carry premium-rate SMS content.

However, it was a task with which the regulator struggled. ACA deputy chairman, Allan Horsely, said in February this year that the dilemma for law makers was deciding whether carriers were acting as Internet service providers when their handsets were used to access the Internet.

Horsely said that was making it hard to define where the mobile content sits in respect to current classification laws.

"That's one of the things we're confronting: if you've got this [mobile] device in your hand is it an Internet terminal or a telephone terminal, and how do you get control?" said Horsely in February.

The issue then appeared to ricochet back to Darryl William's office who called for public comment as part of a review into the handling of offensive material on mobile devices in July.

Coroneos today said he was confident that the IIA's plan would be accepted by the government and regulators.

"It's some of the most advanced work that's been done in this area internationally and it will provide the kind of protection they should be entitled to expect without impinging on free speech," said Coroneos.

The changes represent second major review of the code since it was first ratified by the Australian Broadcasting Association in 2001, after the federal government passed amendments to the Broadcasting Services Act 1992 in June 1999 to regulate Internet content hosted in Australia.

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