Refused Classification means what, exactly?

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.

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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 trap, clear a jam in an IBM model 026 card punch and mix a mean whiskey sour.

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3 comments
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  • Conboy always starts his references to the RC definition with "child pornography, bestiality and rape". This is clever (or just cunning) of him, since he is well aware that these things are illegal and therefore covered by other laws.

    He also knows or should know that this illegal stuff is not circulated openly on the internet, so that it will not be detected by the law. So his filter will have no effect on this stuff, except to drive it further underground where it will be harder to detect.
    .
    gnome-8be8a
  • "No instruction in crime"?

    This will be very hard on bankers and rules out the majority of economics textbooks.
    SydWalker
  • Listening back to this episode a year later in preparation for recording an update tonight, I must admit we should hand it to Senator Conroy for listening to Prof Lumby's and other's calls to review the RC category -- because the entire content classification system is indeed being reviewed.

    SydWalker, you raise a good point. The current rule that "instruction in crime" automatically becomes RC become problematic. Information security specialists must be told how hacking works so they can defend against it. A bank's anti-fraud teams must be shown how fraudsters work. The police must be taught the modus operandi of the entire spectrum of criminals. Do we really want to ban their course material? I suspect not.
    stilgherrian