Refused Classification means what, exactly?

Summary:Australia's planned mandatory internet service provider level internet filter will block Refused Classification (RC) material. Communications Minister Senator Stephen Conroy says that's "child pornography, pro-bestiality sites, pro-rape websites and material like that". But it's actually more than that.

Australia's planned mandatory internet service provider level internet filter will block Refused Classification (RC) material. Communications Minister Senator Stephen Conroy says that's "child pornography, pro-bestiality sites, pro-rape websites and material like that". But it's actually more than that.

The full definition of RC isn't even described by adding the phrase "detailed instruction in crime" which Senator Conroy sometimes mentions. It's actually any instruction in any crime whatsoever. Since copyright infringement now includes some criminal offences, some technical information on bypassing digital rights management or copy protection is potentially RC. Offline, books about graffiti art have already been Refused Classification, as was a satirical article about shoplifting published in a student newspaper.

In Patch Monday this week, Stilgherrian explores the subtleties of Refused Classification with Professor Catharine Lumby, one of the authors of "Untangling the Net: The Scope of Content caught by Mandatory Internet Filtering". She and her co-authors say the internet is not a new medium, it's a new media environment — and that means we should completely re-think what RC means.

This report was just one of the 174 submissions to the Department of Broadband, Communications and the Digital Economy on "measures to increase accountability and transparency for Refused Classification material", which were published last week. Many of these submissions went well beyond the six government-nominated discussion points to speak out against the very concept of the mandatory filter and the scope of material to be blocked — including those from Google, Yahoo, the Internet Industry Association, the Australian Computer Society and the Australian Library and Information Association.

Professor Lumby also confirms that the way Senator Conroy describes RC isn't completely true. His interview on ABC TV's Hungry Beast, for example, contained inaccuracies which have been thoroughly documented at Libertus.net by Irene Graham.

Plus we have the usual idiosyncratic look at the week's IT news headlines.

To leave an audio comments for Patch Monday, Skype to stilgherrian, or phone Sydney 02 8011 3733.

Run time: 25 mins 38 seconds

Topics: Censorship, Government : AU

About

Stilgherrian is a freelance journalist, commentator and podcaster interested in big-picture internet issues, especially security, cybercrime and hoovering up bulldust. He studied computing science and linguistics before a wide-ranging media career and a stint at running an IT business. He can write iptables firewall rules, set a rabbit tr... Full Bio

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