Australia cracks down on offensive content

Publishing offensive content on the Internet could mean a two-year jail term under new laws being proposed in Australia

Senator Richard Alston, Australia's Minister for Communications, Information Technology and the Arts, has flagged new laws to crack down on Internet harassment and the use of the medium to advocate violence.

Under the new laws, "the use of a telecommunications service to carry offensive Internet content" will become a criminal offence. While it is currently illegal to use a telecommunications service in an "offensive" way, the new laws will cover Internet content, and penalties for breaches will be doubled.

Offenders will face a penalty of up to two years in jail.

"People using the Internet to advocate or facilitate violent protests, for example by spreading information on methods of violently disrupting international meetings and attacking police officers protecting such gatherings, including those using the Internet to harass or menace others are amongst those who could be prosecuted under the new offences," a statement from the Minister's office read.

ISP's are in the clear -- they are exempt from the tough new law -- assuming that they are unaware of the content being transmitted.

The new legislation is a part of a swathe of government moves to attack everything from child pornography to the "rebirthing" of stolen mobile phones. It will also make the hosting of prohibited content a criminal offence.

"The new offence will complement this scheme by introducing criminal penalties for placing material on the Internet that would be regarded by reasonable persons as being, in all the circumstances, offensive," the statement said. "Prohibited content is material that has been or would be Refused Classification or classified 'X'. Content hosted in Australia that is or would be classified 'R' is also prohibited if the offending material is not subject to adult verification restrictions."