A number of legal, civil and digital rights, tech companies and adult organisations have raised significant concerns with Australia's proposed internet censorship legislation, and its potential to impact those working in adult industries, to lead to
online censorship, and the vast powers it hands to a handful of individuals.
Despite this, the legislation was introduced to Parliament just 10 days after the government received nearly 400 submissions on the draft bill, and the senate committee is
expected to deliver its report nine days after submissions closed. Stakeholders were also given only three working days to make a submission to the inquiry.
In a submission to the inquiry, Australian Lawyers Alliance (ALA) president Graham
Droppert said the government should not proceed with the legislation because it invests excessive discretionary power in the eSafety Commissioner and also the Minister with respect to the consideration of community expectations and values in relation to
online content. Droppert said:
Digital Rights Watch has been leading the charge against the legislationn. Digital Rights Watch programme director Lucie Krahulcova said:
The ALA considers that the bill does not strike the appropriate balance between protection against abhorrent material and due process for determining whether content comes within that
Jarryd Bartle is a lecturer in criminal law and adult industry consultant, and is policy and campaigns advisor at the Eros Association. He said:
The powers to be handed to the eSafety
Commissioner, which was established in 2015 to focus on keeping children safe online, is a continuation of its broadly expanding remit, and should be cause for concern.
The new powers in the bill are discretionary and open-ended,
giving all the power and none of the accountability to the eSafety Office. They are not liable for any damage their decisions may cause and not required to report thoroughly on how and why they make removal decisions. This is a dramatic departure from
democratic standards globally.
Twitter and live streaming service Twitch have joined the mounting list of service providers, researchers, and civil liberties groups that take issue with Australia's pending Online Safety Bill.
The bill as drafted is
blatant censorship, with the eSafety commissioner empowered to strip porn, kink and sexually explicit art from the internet following a complaint, with nothing in the scheme capable of distinguishing moral panic from genuine harm.
Of concern to both Twitter and Twitch is the absence of due regard to different types of business models and content types, specifically around the power given to the relevant minister to determine basic online safety expectations for social media
services, relevant electronic services, and designated internet services. Twitter said:
In order to continue to foster digital growth and innovation in the Australian economy, and to ensure reasonable and fair
competition, it is critically important to avoid placing requirements across the digital ecosystem that only large, mature companies can reasonably comply with,
Likewise, Twitch believes it is important to consider a sufficiently
flexible approach that gives due regard to different types of business models and content types.
Update: Fast tracked
19th March 2021. See
article from ia.acs.org.au The Online Safety Bill 2021 will likely get an easy ride into law after a senate environment
and communications committee gave it the nod of approval last week.
Under the government's proposed laws, the eSafety Commissioner will be given expanded censorship powers to direct social media platforms and other internet services to take down
material and remove links to content it deems offensive or abusive.