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2023: April-June

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Australian 'safety' commissioner demands unsafe communications for everyone...

Industry proposed guidelines rejected as they don't allow the state to snoop on messages (along with Russians, Chinese, hackers, scammers and thieves)

Link Here 20th June 2023
Full story: Internet Censorship in Australia...Wide ranging state internet censorship
Australia's eSafety Commissioner has made the decision not to register two of eight online censorship codes drafted by the online industry as they fail to provide appropriate mechanisms to deal with illegal and harmful content online.

New mandatory codes will cover five sections of the online industry and operate under Australia's Online Safety Act 2021. The codes require industry to take adequate steps to reduce the availability of seriously harmful online content, such as child sexual abuse and pro-terror material.

eSafety's decision not to register the Designated Internet Services (DIS) code, covering apps, websites, and file and photo storage services like Apple iCloud and Microsoft One Drive; and the Relevant Electronic Services (RES) code, covering dating sites, online games and instant messaging, is due to the failure of the codes to define appropriate snooping/surveillance mechanisms, which is a requirement for registration .

eSafety will now move to develop mandatory and enforceable industry standards for Relevant Electronic Services and Designated Internet Services.

The eSafety Commissioner has reserved her decision on a third code, the draft Search Engines code, covering online search over concerns it is no longer fit for purpose following recently announced developments in the field of generative AI and its integration into search engine functions. eSafety has requested that a revised Search Engines code be submitted within four weeks to address specific concerns we have raised.

eSafety Commissioner Julie Inman Grant said:

While I commend industry for their significant amendments following our final feedback on these world-first codes in February, these two codes still don't meet our minimum expectations.

For example, the Designated Internet Services code still doesn't require file and photo storage services like iCloud, Google Drive, or OneDrive to detect and flag known child sexual abuse material.

We know that online storage services like these are used to store and share child sexual abuse material and pro-terror material between offenders.

And the Relevant Electronic Services code also doesn't require email services and some partially encrypted messaging services to detect and flag this material either, even though we know there are proactive steps they can take to stem the already rampant sharing of illegal content.

Industry codes will come into effect six months from the date of registration while eSafety will begin the process of drafting industry standards for Designated Internet Services and Relevant Electronic Services.

Once a code or standard is in place, eSafety will be able to receive complaints and investigate potential breaches. An industry code or standard will be backed up by powers to ensure compliance including injunctions, enforceable undertakings, and maximum financial penalties of nearly $700,000 per day for continuing breaches.

The draft industry censorship codes submitted to eSafety on 31 March can be found at .



Reflecting community 'sensitivities'...

Australian film censor announces extended consumer advice and trigger warnings for film ratings

Link Here5th June 2023
Full story: Games Censorship in Australia...Censorship rules for games
Australia's federal government is altering the current film censorship system to add further details explaining the reasons for movie ratings.

It follows a survey of 2,000 Australians last year on their expectations around classifications. Most people said they wanted more details about why a movie was given a specific rating, and that the reasons for those decisions should be modernised to reflect community 'sensitivities'.

The classification system will now include a wider range of explanations for Australia's censorship board to choose from when rating a movie. Those explanations include such terms as animated violence, family violence, blood and gore, mental health themes and bullying.

The new information will appear at the beginning of the movie alongside the rating.

Classification board director Fiona Jolly said the changes better reflect today's community standards:

It provides helpful information enabling Australians to make informed choices, particularly in relation to content which may be of concern to them.

The changes will be made this week, with viewers expected to notice the additional information from next week.



Moralists hit the jackpot...

Australian government is set to impose mandatory censorship ratings for video games including simulated gambling or loot boxes

Link Here30th April 2023
Full story: Games Censorship in Australia...Censorship rules for games
Australia's government is moving to require an R18+ rating to all video games that contain simulated gambling as part of a proposal targeted at restricting children's access to popular casino-style games.

It will also seek to change classification rules to require all games with paid loot boxes --  where players can purchase a box with a randomised in-game item -- to carry at least a mature M-rating. The M rating is an advisory 15 rating like a PG-15 in US terms.

Due to adverse publicity some game developers have already phased out loot boxes, including in the popular game Fortnite.

Communications Minister Michelle Rowland says the proposals will require the agreement of states and territories to proceed and are designed to address concerns that these games can encourage players to migrate to gambling.



Beau is Afraid...

A few worries about possible cuts to the latest Ari Aster movie

Link Here12th April 2023
Beau Is Afraid is a 2023 Canada/Finland/US comedy horror drama by Ari Aster
Starring Joaquin Phoenix, Parker Posey and Amy Ryan BBFC link 2020 IMDb

Following the sudden death of his mother, a mild-mannered but anxiety-ridden man confronts his darkest fears as he embarks on an epic, Kafkaesque odyssey back home. reports that on 17 March 2023, a 179-minute Australian cinema release for Ari Aster's BEAU IS AFRAID was passed with an R18+ (High impact sex) rating.

On 4 April, it was resubmitted for cinema and again was rated R18+, with the same running time and consumer advice. speculated that maybe Roadshow Films made minor cuts to the sex in the hope of securing a more commercial MA15+. Instead, the censorship was insufficient to make a difference for the Classification Board who awarded the same rating. If this is the case, by 20 April, expect either an appeal to the Classification Review Board, more cuts in search of an MA15+ or a cut or uncut R18+ release.

On 5 April, Roadshow Films received an R16 (Violence, sexual violence, offensive language and content that may disturb) rating in New Zealand. Unlike the Australian Classification Board, their OFLC provides an exact running time of 178:50s.

Meanwhile back in the UK the film has been passed 15 without BBFC cuts for strong threat, violence, sex, drug misuse, language, nudity, injury detail. The BBFC noted a rather short sounding running time of 178:02s.

There are no suggestions of BBFC cuts, but as there is a possibly a cut version knocking round then possible this could correlate to the shorter running time. Of course it is more likely that the discrepancy is down to distributor logos or running time rounding algorithms....but if anyone know differently then please let us know.



Political censorship...

Australian book censors get drawn into gender politics

Link Here5th April 2023
Full story: Book Censorship in Australia...Australian books banned by censors

Australia's book censor has rejected a push by anti-LGBTQIA+ activist to ban memoir titled Gender Queer.

The book was referred to the Classification Board after Queensland Police was tipped off by conservative campaigner Bernard Gaynor.

The Australian Classification Board has now classified non-binary author and cartoonist Maia Kobabe's Gender Queer: A Memoir as unrestricted with the rating M (Mature). Not Recommended for Readers Under 15 Years.

The award-winning book has become one of the most banned books in America over its depictions of LGBTQIA+ sex and sexuality, including explicit illustrations and descriptions.



A fetish for censorship...

Australian government releases report proposing a couple of modest improvements to very restrictive porn censorship laws

Link Here2nd April 2023
The Australian government has recently released a report into Australia's national classification regulation, which is likely to have a significant impact on the laws regarding pornography across the nation.

Currently Australia does allow for the classification of hardcore porn as X18+ for video and Category 2 Restricted for magazines. However its has more restrictions in play than most of the free world. One particular restriction that was discussed in the report is that fetish material is banned outright and that dramatic violence is also banned outright even if it is nothing to do with the sex content. (Eg a pirate film with sword fights above deck and totally separate sexual exploits below deck).

Even if a pornographic publication or film is able to get classified in Australia, there are significant restrictions on where that media can be sold or exhibited.

Category 1 (softcore) and Category 2 (hardcore) restricted publications are able to be sold in all States and Territories except for Queensland, but must only be sold in age-restricted sections of premises, in packaging which conceals their content.

X 18+ classified films can only be sold or exhibited in the ACT or the Northern Territory. It is therefore a criminal offence to sell or exhibit X 18+ films throughout most of Australia.  

The recently released report into national classification regulation suggests a number of key reforms when it comes to pornography. This includes:

  • The removal of prohibitions on "fetishes" in Category 2 (restricted) publications and X 18+ films as long as they are not illegal .
  • The removal of prohibitions on violence in sexually explicit films, if the violence is not related to sexual activity.
  • Limits the need to classify sexually explicit films to films which are professionally produced, directed at an Australian audience and distributed for commercial purposes. This means that many "amateur" forms of pornography no longer need to be classified.

Any such reform to Australia's classification guidelines will require cooperation and agreement from each State and Territory and is likely to be a gradual process.

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