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Australia Censorship News


2021: Jan-March

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Updated: A censorship mystery...

The Australian Censorship Board has banned the video game Disco Elysium: The Final Cut


Link Here29th March 2021
Full story: Games Censorship in Australia...Censorship rules for games
Disco Elysium: The Final Cut is the latest video game in a long line of censorship casualties in Australia.

The game launches on March 30th 2021 for PlayStation and Stadia owners but the Australian government has banned it from sale in the country.

The Australian Censorship Board hasn't specified exactly why Disco Elysium's been banned and developer ZA/UM has yet to publicly respond on this. However the core gameplay mechanics prominently include drugs and alcohol and which is a bit of a no-no for the country's censors.

 

Update: Criticising Australia's archaic games censorship

29th March 2021. Thanks to Daniel. See article from theguardian.com

The banning of video game Disco Elysium from sale in Australia has renewed calls for the Australian government to overhaul the classification system to move away from the moral panic associated with video games.

The chief executive of the Interactive Games & Entertainment Association, Ron Curry, told Guardian Australia:

Games are treated differently and the classification guidelines do not hide it. In spite of the government's own research to the contrary, when an R18+ classification was introduced for games they still insisted on making interactivity a determinant in classifying games, unlike film and publications.

There are also other restrictions levelled at games around violence, sex, drug use and incentives that aren't applied to film.

The sad reality is that the national classification system applies a stricter set of rules for video games than it does for pretty much every other kind of content, reflecting the early 1990s era in which those rules were written, when video games were associated with a moral panic and certainly not treated as the mainstream medium and artistic discipline that they are.

The Australian Lawyers Alliance said in a submission to a public consultation on the government's upcoming internet censorship bill named the Online Safety Bill:

The online classification system needed review, which should be done before the online safety bill passes. This bill should not be reliant on such an outdated classification system. The ALA therefore submits that this legislation should not proceed until such a review into the [classification scheme], incorporating community consultation, has been undertaken.

 

 

Chairman of Australia...

Three artworks taken down in Canberra gallery due to Chinese complaints


Link Here27th March 2021
Full story: China International Censors...China pressures other countries into censorship
A Canberra art gallery has removed three artworks relating to Chinese leaders after receiving complaints and hundreds of angry messages in what appears to be an attack coordinated by China.

The Ambush Gallery at the Australian National University (ANU) in Canberra removed three pieces -- including one depicting Communist China's founding leader Mao Zedong as Batman and another depicting him as Winnie the Pooh.

The works were part of a 25-piece exhibition exploring the pressures people are facing during the COVID-19 pandemic. The whole show is a comment on the abuse of power, artist Luke Cornish said.

In response to criticism of supposed racism, Cornish previously apologised for the work depicting Chairman Mao as Batman, which he said was an attempt to mock conspiracy theories around coronavirus origins. He said the other two works were taking the piss out of an authoritarian regime.

 

 

Updated: Dangerous legislation...

A diverse group of organisations criticise Australia's hastily drafted and wide ranging internet censorship bill


Link Here19th March 2021
Full story: Internet Censorship in Australia...Wide ranging state internet censorship
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:

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 classification.

Digital Rights Watch has been leading the charge against the legislationn. Digital Rights Watch programme director Lucie Krahulcova 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.

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 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.

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.

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.

 

 

Believers in extreme state control...

Victorian MPs recommend a state ban on Nazi insignia


Link Here14th March 2021

Displaying the Nazi swastika would be a criminal offence in Victoria if the government implements a recommendation of a cross-party parliamentary inquiry into anti-vilification laws.

After a year-long investigation the final report from the legal and social issues committee urges the government to legislate tougher laws against hate speech and racist insignia.

Premier Daniel Andrews said that the government was open to criminalising Nazi symbols. It would be the first jurisdiction in Australia to impose such a ban.

The committee said it believed limitations on freedom of speech were justified when it impinged on the human rights of others, citing recent events, including the storming of the US Capitol by far-right groups and social media giants banning former US president Donald Trump's accounts.

 

 

Fast tracked porn censorship...

Australian internet child protection bill inevitably slips in censorship capability to block adult consensual porn


Link Here1st March 2021
Full story: Internet Censorship in Australia...Wide ranging state internet censorship
Fast-tracked internet censorship legislation could ban all adult content online and force sex workers off the internet, sex workers and civil liberties groups have warned.

The Online Safety bill is supposedly aimed at giving powers to Australia's eSafety commissioner to target bullying and harassment online, extending existing powers protecting children from online bullying to adults.

It increases the maximum penalty for using a carriage service to menace, harass or cause offence from three to five years in jail, and allows for the removal of image-based abuse and other supposedly harmful online content.

The legislation also promotes the the eSafety commissioner to a new post of Internet Censor and gives her the power to rapidly block sites hosting violent and terrorist content. But the proposals go further. The bill carries over existing powers under the Broadcasting Services Act which allow for content with a rating of R18+ (equivalent to the UK 18 rating) to be blocked or for removal notices to be issued, and goes much further by giving the Internet Censor sole discretion over whether the content is rated R18+ or over and therefore should be removed.

A Sex Work Law Reform Victoria spokesperson, Roger Sorrenti, said the legislation's effect would be to effectively censor adult online content that could potentially have unintended consequences for the sex industry and porn industries and have a devastating impact on the ability of sex workers to earn a legitimate income.

Consultation for the draft legislation attracted more than 370 submissions between 23 December and 14 February, none of which the government published before the communications minister, Paul Fletcher, introduced the legislation into parliament 10 days later. The bill has been referred to a Senate committee, with submissions due on Tuesday. The government has decided to fast-track this bill despite repeated calls for caution by the industry and civil liberties organisations, as well as a parallel review currently occurring into Australia's classification scheme.

The eSafety commissioner, Julie Inman Grant, claimed to Guardian Australia that she didn't intend to use her powers under the legislation to go after consensual adult pornographic material online. But she ominously pointed out that hosting explicit adult sexual content is prohibited in Australia. Guardian Australia has also seen a notice sent by her office in January to adult websites requesting that content be removed for being R18+, X or refused classification.

 

 

Updated: Who should pay for state approved journalism?...

Facebook blocks Australians from accessing or sharing news sources


Link Here18th February 2021
Full story: Facebook Censorship since 2020...Left wing bias, prudery and multiple 'mistakes'
The internet has offered plentiful cheap and mobile entertainment for everyone around the world, and one of the consequences is that people on average choose to spend a lot less on newspaper journalism.

This reality is clearly causing a lot of pain to the newspaper industry, but also to national governments around the world who would prefer their peoples to get their news information from state approved sources.

But governments don't really want to pay for the 'main stream media' themselves, and so are tempted to look to social media giants to foot the bill. And indeed the Australian government is seeking to do exactly that. However the economics doesn't really support the notion that social media should pay for the news media. From a purely business standpoint, there is no case for Facebook needing to pay for links, if anything Facebook could probably charge for the service if they wanted to.

So Facebook has taken a stance and decided that it will not be paying for news in Australia. And in fact it has now banned Australian news sources from appearing in the news feeds of Australian users and Facebook has also blocked local users from linking to any international news sources.

And it seems that this has annoyed the Australian Government. Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison has said his government will not be intimidated by Facebook blocking news feeds to users. He described the move to unfriend Australia as arrogant and disappointing.

Australians on Thursday woke up to find that Facebook pages of all local and global news sites were unavailable. People outside the country are also unable to read or access any Australian news publications on the platform.

Several government health and emergency pages were also blocked. Facebook later asserted this was a mistake and many of these pages are now back online.

Update: Facebook makes its case

18th February 2021. See article from about.fb.com by William Easton, Managing Director, Facebook Australia & New Zealand

In response to Australia's proposed new Media Bargaining law, Facebook will restrict publishers and people in Australia from sharing or viewing Australian and international news content.

The proposed law fundamentally misunderstands the relationship between our platform and publishers who use it to share news content. It has left us facing a stark choice: attempt to comply with a law that ignores the realities of this relationship, or stop allowing news content on our services in Australia. With a heavy heart, we are choosing the latter.

This discussion has focused on US technology companies and how they benefit from news content on their services. We understand many will ask why the platforms may respond differently. The answer is because our platforms have fundamentally different relationships with news. Google Search is inextricably intertwined with news and publishers do not voluntarily provide their content. On the other hand, publishers willingly choose to post news on Facebook, as it allows them to sell more subscriptions, grow their audiences and increase advertising revenue.

In fact, and as we have made clear to the Australian government for many months, the value exchange between Facebook and publishers runs in favor of the publishers -- which is the reverse of what the legislation would require the arbitrator to assume. Last year Facebook generated approximately 5.1 billion free referrals to Australian publishers worth an estimated AU$407 million.

For Facebook, the business gain from news is minimal. News makes up less than 4% of the content people see in their News Feed. Journalism is important to a democratic society, which is why we build dedicated, free tools to support news organisations around the world in innovating their content for online audiences.

Over the last three years we've worked with the Australian Government to find a solution that recognizes the realities of how our services work. We've long worked toward rules that would encourage innovation and collaboration between digital platforms and news organisations. Unfortunately this legislation does not do that. Instead it seeks to penalise Facebook for content it didn't take or ask for.

We were prepared to launch Facebook News in Australia and significantly increase our investments with local publishers, however, we were only prepared to do this with the right rules in place. This legislation sets a precedent where the government decides who enters into these news content agreements, and ultimately, how much the party that already receives value from the free service gets paid. We will now prioritise investments to other countries, as part of our plans to invest in new licensing news programs and experiences .

Others have also raised concern. Independent experts and analysts around the world have consistently outlined problems with the proposed legislation. While the government has made some changes, the proposed law fundamentally fails to understand how our services work.

Unfortunately, this means people and news organisations in Australia are now restricted from posting news links and sharing or viewing Australian and international news content on Facebook. Globally, posting and sharing news links from Australian publishers is also restricted. To do this, we are using a combination of technologies to restrict news content and we will have processes to review any content that was inadvertently removed.

For Australian publishers this means:

  • They are restricted from sharing or posting any content on Facebook Pages

  • Admins will still be able to access other features from their Facebook Page, including Page insights and Creator Studio

  • We will continue to provide access to all other standard Facebook services, including data tools and CrowdTangle

For international publishers this means:

  • They can continue to publish news content on Facebook, but links and posts can't be viewed or shared by Australian audiences

For our Australian community this means:

  • They cannot view or share Australian or international news content on Facebook or content from Australian and international news Pages

For our international community this means:

  • They cannot view or share Australian news content on Facebook or content from Australian news Pages

The changes affecting news content will not otherwise change Facebook's products and services in Australia. We want to assure the millions of Australians using Facebook to connect with friends and family, grow their businesses and join Groups to help support their local communities, that these services will not change.

We recognise it's important to connect people to authoritative information and we will continue to promote dedicated information hubs like the COVID-19 Information Centre , that connects Australians with relevant health information. Our commitment to remove harmful misinformation and provide access to credible and timely information will not change. We remain committed to our third-party fact-checking program with Agence France-Presse and Australian Associated Press and will continue to invest to support their important work.

Our global commitment to invest in quality news also has not changed. We recognise that news provides a vitally important role in society and democracy, which is why we recently expanded Facebook News t o hundreds of pu blications in the UK.

We hope that in the future the Australian government will recognise the value we already provide and work with us to strengthen, rather than limit, our partnerships with publishers.

 

 

Harm is in the eye of the beholder...

Australia's adult trade association argues against mainstream adult material being considered as an online 'harm'


Link Here8th February 2021
Full story: Internet Censorship in Australia...Wide ranging state internet censorship
Australia's trade association for the adult industry has slammed a proposed law that they claim would harm the livelihood of their workers and limit Australian's sexual impression under the guise of protecting citizens.

The Eros Association has made a submission to the consultation for the government's Online Safety Act, a law that expands the powers of the eSafety Commissioner to censor what the government considers are online harms.

The Australian internet censorship proposal includes enabling censors to force the takedown of content within statutory timeframes, removal of accounts and even delisting from search engines. The proposed censorship remit includes sexually explicit content from consenting adults. Note that Australia has always had a problem with even vanilla hardcore and the vast majority of the country bans such material from sale in sex shops and from being hosted on Australian websites.

Eros Association policy and campaigns advisor Jarryd Bartle commented:

You could have your business ruined in 24 hours if a complaint is made and a removal notice is issued, your content is taking down, accounts taken down and website taken down in the case of fetish content.

The Eros consultation submission notes:

It is the position of Eros that:

  • The online content scheme under Part 9 of the Bill should be removed as it is not related to issues of online safety and is likely to harm the livelihood of sex workers, adult media performers and adults-only businesses.

  • The role of the eSafety Commissioner should be to focus on non-consensual, abusive and harmful content and not imagery of consensual sexual activity between adults.

Under this Bill, adult media for online content regulation likely encompasses advertising for sex work services, adult entertainment and adult retailing, impacting a broad range of industries.

As drafted, the online content scheme would provide for the removal of many forms of adult content impacting the livelihood of producers, sex workers, adult retailers and adult entertainment venues.

The scheme is so broad reaching it would also limit the sexual expression of Australians online whether or not they are posting sexually explicit content for profit.

It is Eros' view that the proposed scheme is not in keeping with community standards. Previous government attempts to filter sexual ly explicit content online have proven very unpopular, and were widely viewed as an infringement on freedom of speech.

The overwhelming majority of Australian pornography users note that adult media has had a 'positive' or 'neutral' impact on their life. It is therefore inappropriate to regulate this content within a Bill designed to tackle online harms .


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