Guide For Internet Users

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 The Internet Industry Association (IIA) has prepared a guide to assist Australian Internet users understand Australia's co-regulatory framework for online content. 

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Contents of this Guide

Introduction

The Internet Industry Association (IIA) has prepared the following guide to assist Australian Internet users understand Australia's co-regulatory framework for online content, pursuant to the requirements of legislation introduced by the Australian parliament in 1999. The new regulatory regime commenced on 1 January 2000 and places certain obligations on Internet Service Providers and Internet Content Hosts. It also requires the development of industry codes of practice.

The Internet Industry Association (IIA) announced its new code of practice for online and mobile service content providers effective 16 July 2008. Following a 30-day public consultation, the Australian Communications and Media Authority, (ACMA) the industry regulator, has reviewed and approved it as a code of industry practice to oversee, monitor and enforce. 

A copy of the registered code is available at here.

The Codes are registered with and monitored by ACMA. The Codes apply to all ISPs, Content Hosts and Mobile Carriers in Australia. ACMA monitors compliance with the Codes and can seek enforcement action in the Federal Court. Heavy penalties exist for non compliance. 

The Codes have been written to help industry comply with the law at a practical level. More importantly, they are there because the internet industry in Australia wants to support parents' ability to supervise their children's access to the internet. [ISPs are directed to A Guide for Australian ISPs for more information about their obligations].

Just as IIA’s Codes are all about ‘end-user empowerment’, this web page also aims to provide information to users about their rights, responsibilities and options in regard to online content issues, as well as providing answers to Frequently Asked Questions.

Here are some key terms that will be used in this guide:

Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA)
The Australian Government regulator for broadcasting and internet content

Codes of Practice
Best practice rules of conduct developed by industry and approved by government.  For the purposes of the IIA Family Friendly ISP Seal program, they refer collectively to the IIA Content Codes and Interactive Gambling Codes of Practice.
 
Internet Industry Association (IIA)
A non-profit, private sector industry body which, among other things, develops best practice rules for the industry in Australia.

Internet Service Provider (ISP)
A business or other organisation providing users with access to the internet. 

Cybersmart.gov.au (formerly NetAlert)
The community advisory body whose primary role is to provide information about protecting families, and particularly children, on the internet.

The IIA "Family Friendly ISP" Seal Program

On 26 March 2002, the IIA launched the IIA Family Friendly ISP scheme. This is designed to dovetail with the Codes of Practice by providing a visible symbol, the "Family Friendly ISP" to show which Australian ISPs are compliant with the IIA Codes. It is hoped that internet users, particularly those responsible for the care of children using the internet, will take advantage of the information and tools that compliant ISPs must offer as part of the code scheme. 

What does the "IIA Family Friendly ISP"  seal mean?

Australian ISPs bearing this seal have agreed to comply with the IIA Codes of Practice. Under the IIA Codes, ISPs are required to provide their users with certain information, plus the option of obtaining a "IIA Family Friendly" content filter (ie. one that is on the IIA Family Friendly filters published on this page).

If you want to download a filter or activate a filtered service now

If you have reached this page via clicking on the IIA Family Friendly logo and wish at this point to obtain a IIA Family Friendly filter from your ISP, hit the 'Back' button on your browser control panel above until you get back to your ISPs Family Friendly page  then follow their instructions under "How to Obtain a IIA Family Friendly Filter". If you are not sure how to go back that way, you can also try typing your ISPs "web address" in your browser's location bar to return to their site. Then click on the Ladybird again and follow the directions to obtaining a filter. (Note that since the program will have phased implementation, not all ISPs will have the Ladybird seal on their sites immediately. In the event that they do not yet have the seal installed, please refer to their home page and follow any links to filter downloads. If you have any difficulty in achieving this, please email us at familyfriendly@iia.net.au and we will do our best to help).  

What are IIA Family Friendly filters?

In general terms, filters are computer programs designed to limit access to certain types of content on the internet. It is important to note that the use of filters is not mandatory in Australia, either under law or the IIA Codes. Users can choose whether or not to install filters, and if and when to activate them. Likewise, ISPs are not required to filter or monitor internet traffic. However, the IIA recognises that some families find filters a useful addition to direct parental supervision, and for that reason supports their availability.

To qualify for IIA Family Friendly Filter status, a filter must undergo rigorous independent testing to ensure that it meets the crieteria as set out in the IIA Codes. These include effectiveness, ease of use, configurability, availablilty of support and agreement by the filter company providing the filter to update the filter as required by ACMA, for example where ACMA determines following a complaint, that a specified site is prohibited under Australian law.

Filters operate in different ways, and different filters will be better suited to different operating environments and age groups. More information about filters can be obtained from either ACMA or NetAlert websites (addresses are shown below). In addition, the list of IIA filters currently recognised under our Codes is also available here. To be compliant with the IIA Codes, ISPs must offer an IIA Family Friendly Filter.

2011 Update to IIA Family Friendly Filter Program
The IIA Family Friendly filter program has been reviewed in 2011 and qualification as an IIA Family Friendly Filter has been broken up into different classification codes.

Unclassified – ACMA Prohibited URL Filter (PUF) – recommended for 18+ years of age

Class 1 - recommended for children over 15 years of age

Class 2 - recommended for children between 10 and 15 years of age

Class 3 - recommended for children under 10 years of age

Important points to note...

  • The IIA Family Friendly ISP program is here to help the public better identify code-compliant ISPs, that is, ISPs who have agreed to assist those families with information and tools to help make the internet experience a little safer for their children.
  • IIA Family Friendly filters are not intended to replace adult supervision and should not be relied upon as an infallible substitute for this. However, they can be useful to assist some families, which is why they form part of the overall scheme.
  • The IIA wrote the Codes of Practice to provide guidance for ISPs who want to provide a "family friendly" service; in complying with the IIA code, ISPs also know that they are also complying with Australian law
  • The IIA does not warrant that an ISP bearing the "IIA Family Friendly ISP" seal is necessarily compliant with our Codes, or that internet users who choose that ISP will not access potentially offensive material online, even if provided with tools and information by a Code compliant ISP. However, by agreement with the IIA, and as a condition of use of the symbol, the ISP promises that they will follow the Codes and do those things that the Codes require of them.
  • ACMA monitors compliance with the IIA Codes. Complaints about non-compliance should be directed to ACMA (at www.acma.gov.au). ACMA also has a complaints system which deals with seriously offensive material on the internet.
  • The IIA will take steps against a non-compliant ISP who bears the seal, in breach of its undertaking to comply. This can include terminating the license agreement which gives permission to use the seal.

Additional information and links

Australian Communications and Media Authority

Here you will find information about making complaints about internet content, as well as useful information about filters.

NetAlert

Here you will find answers to frequently asked questions, information for families and safe surfing information for children as well as useful information about filters.

How does the content co-regulatory regime work?

There are two parts to Australian internet co-regulatory regime. The first is that Internet Service Providers must provide to the end users with both tools and information about the ways that they can take greater control over the content which is accessible in their homes. This is consistent with the IIA approach of 'industry facilitated user empowerment', with the emphasis on end user choice and control.

There are a number of different tools and strategies available to end users to enable them to minimise exposure to content that users consider inappropriate for themselves or their families.  These include content filtering products and services. 

The second part of the regime is that Internet Content Hosts in Australia must take down content that has been the subject of a complaint to ACMA, and ACMA deems the content to be in breach of Australian law.  If an Internet Content Host receives a notice from ACMA to take down content it must do so by 6.00pm on the next working day. There are heavy penalties for ISPs for non-compliance.  For both technical and legal reasons, take down notices can only apply in relation to content hosted in Australia.

What must Internet Service Providers and Internet Content Hosts do under the Codes?

Under the legislation and the codes of practice, Internet Service Providers (ISPs) and Internet Content Hosts (ICHs) must:

  • take reasonable steps to ensure that Internet access accounts are not provided to children under 18 without parental consent or the consent of a responsible adult
  • provide for use filtering software which can be installed on the home computer or provide an optional filtered service available direct from the ISP;
  • provide end users with information about their rights and responsibilities online. This includes information on the following:
    • ways of supervising and controlling children's access to Internet content
    • the procedures which parents can implement to control children's access to Internet content
    • users right to make complaints to ACMA about online content
    • the procedures by which such complaints can be made.

This guide aims to satisfy the informational requirements under the code so that ISPs and ICHs will be in compliance with their obligations to inform by clearly directing their users to this page.

How will my ISP provide me with one of the approved filter software products or services?

Each ISP must provide to its users one or more approved filter software products or services  as soon as practicable. Most ISPs will do this by providing users with an Internet link which they can click on to download the software, or providing a link to a download page prepared by the IIA which offers the full range of IIA Family Friendly Filter software, or by providing a CD which enables users to install the software on their own computer. It should be easy for users to install the software provided by each ISP. 

ISP’s may also offer a ‘server based’ filter software service. This is a service which filters Internet Content before it is sent to the users computer.  End users who choose this service therefore do not need to install software on their own computers as it has already been done by the ISP. It is important to note that in accordance with government policy, server level filtering is optional in Australia. This policy is supported by the IIA.

How to install the filter products?

The filter products that have been recognised under our Codeshave been chosen because they satisfy a range of criteria, including ease of installation.

However, each filter product has a web site which provides more information about the product and how to use it.  If you would like more information about the product or would like some further information on how to use it go to the web site of the filter product provider. Your ISP may also be able to answer questions about installation of the filter software products and services that have been provided by it.   

Who bears the cost of the filter products and services?

There are costs involved in providing filtering software products and services to end users.  It is up to your ISP whether or not these costs will be passed on to you.  Whilst a number of ISPs offer filtered products and services free to their users, the IIA does not require that ISPs should carry the cost of complying with the new regulatory regime because it is concerned that this would disadvantage many small ISPs.

If you wish to find out whether you will be charged an additional fee for using filtering products or services you will need to contact your ISP. Under current IIA Codes, ISPs are not permitted to charge above the cost price of obtaining, supplying and supporting filters. This is further evidence of our commitment as an industry to help interested users obtain filter technologies as affordably as possible.

It is important to remember that a filter product or service adds value to your Internet connection and allows you to exercise greater control over the content that can be accessed by you and your family.

What if I don't know how to install filter software on my home computer or am I worried that my kids will turn it off?

ISPs are given the option of offering you a filtered 'differentiated' service that you can access by dialling a separate number when you access the Net. This will have the same effect as if you had installed the filter software on your home computer, but is less susceptible to circumvention by mischievous kids at home. It will not require you to install anything on your computer. That will be handled at the ISPs 'server'. Your ISP will advise you if they offer optional server level filtering for families.

Are all platforms supported?

We recognise and support the diversity of computing platforms which end-users operate. Your ISP may not be in a position to directly offer you a filter that will work on your system.
Recognising this, the IIA has compiled a resource (below) that contains all IIA Family Friendly Filters to provide users with an alternative method of accessing a greater range of approved filter products. The list of filters is designed to evolve as more and better filter products are developed. There is also the option of using an ISPs who offers a server-level service for users who have problems finding compatible software.

Who bears the cost of filtering?

It is up to your ISP whether or not the costs will be passed on to you. The IIA does not expect that ISPs should have to carry the cost of the regulations, indeed we are concerned that the many small ISPs are not disadvantaged by having to do so. However under the new Codes now in force ISPs are not permitted to profit from the provision of filters to their customers.

What material can I post on the Internet?

Australian Internet users should be aware that placing certain content on the Internet may give rise to criminal or civil liability under applicable State, Territory or Commonwealth law. The following categories of Internet content are prohibited for hosting on servers within Australia:

  • Content which is (or would be) classified RC or X by the Classification Board. Such content includes:

- material containing detailed instruction in crime, violence or drug use;

- child pornography;

- bestiality;

- excessively violent or sexually violent material.

- real depictions of actual sexual activity; and

  • Content hosted in Australia which is classified R and not subject to a restricted access system which complies with criteria determined by the ACMA. Content classified R is not considered suitable for minors and includes:

- material containing excessive and/or strong violence or sexual violence;

- material containing implied or simulated sexual activity;

- material which deals with issues or contains depictions which require an adult perspective.

Placing content on the Internet may also give rise to civil liability.  An example of where this arises is where a person places content on the Internet that is in breach of copyright, or if it defames another person. It is not possible to list here all of the possible civil actions which may arise in relation to Internet content so it is important that content providers, including private individuals, take care about what they post online. If you are in any doubt about what you should and should not post online, the IIA strongly recommends that you seek competent legal advice. An overview of some of the risks can be found at ACMA web site.

Resources for Parents on Supervising Children's Access

The Internet offers users, including children with a wealth of experiences that can be fun, educational and rewarding.  But, just as in the real world, there are some parts of the Internet that are not appropriate for children and where they require guidance and supervision online. Often, the kind of rules we set for children on dealing with strangers, watching television, or buying magazines are also relevant online. 

ACMA has developed a Families Guide to the Internet as part of their Cybersmart Kids program, This is designed to help families get the best from the Internet while protecting children from risks.

The IIA recommends that families explore this site, which can be a fun way of beginning your online experience.

There are a number of other sites which are also dedicated to providing information about how to get the most out of the Internet for your family and tips for how to use the Internet safely  Whilst the IIA cannot warrant the accuracy of the information contained in these sites, they contain information that some parents may find useful:

Unsolicited email containing offensive materials or promoting offensive sites

Experienced internet users will no doubt be familiar with the phenomenon of 'spam', or unsolicited emails. The IIA does not support spamming and has taken steps to discourage it through supporting the development of legislation, the Spam Act 2003.

In addition, many ISPs prohibit spamming by subscribers in Acceptable Use Policies and in their terms and conditions of use.  Many ISPs have also installed 'relay protection mechanisms' to prevent spamming from non-subscribers. Your ISP can tell you more about steps you can take to reduce spam.

One common way of minimising spam for those who "Participate in newsgroups" is to add into your reply address an obvious junk term that genuine respondents will know to remove on reply. For example, if your email address is bob@isp.com.au, you can manually change your 'reply-to address' (in your email preferences settings) to include the term '_nospam', so that your public email address becomes bob_nospam@isp.com.au. You then need to tell your receipients to remove the '_nospam' before replying.

More information on spam can be found here!

Lodgment of Complaints - Rights and Procedures

Internet users who are resident in Australia have the right to make a complaint to the  Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA) about content which they believe may be Prohibited under the regulatory regime. The ACMA's complaints handling scheme is set out at a special page for that purpose. The page details about who can lodge complaints, the kinds of content that you can complain about, and how you lodge a complaint.

It is important to note that ACMA will not investigate a complaint about something a person disagrees with or simply does not like, if it is not otherwise prohibited content. Such complaints should be directed to the authors of the content.

How to make a complaint

The most convenient way to make a complaint is to complete the online complaint form. Alternatively, you can post your complaint to:

The Content Assessment Hotline Manager
Australian Communications and Media Authority
GPO Box Q500 Queen Victoria Building NSW 1230

You can also fax your complaint to (02) 9334 7799

To help ensure that ACMA can investigate your complaint, you must set out:

  • your name and contact details;
  • the Internet address of the Internet content and any other details required to access it;
  • a description of the Internet content; and
  • the reason that you think the Internet content is, or may be, prohibited content (you should refer to the Classification Board Guidelines for the Classification of Films and Videotapes).

Commercial Content Providers

The legislation and IIA code places certain obligations on Internet Content Hosts.  In particular it requires Internet Content Hosts to encourage Content Providers, to use appropriate labelling systems in respect of content which is likely to be considered unsuitable for children, even though it is not Prohibited or Potentially Prohibited.

Most labelling and rating systems are based on PICS (Platform for Internet Content Selection). PICS was developed by the World Wide Web Consortium as a technical platform to attach labels to Internet sites, which can then be read by most browsers.  Labels can come from different sources including the content developers or third parties.

Australian Internet Content Hosts encourage content providers to consider the following labelling systems: ICRA & SafeSurf.

Conclusion

The IIA has worked hard to put a scheme in place to assist users better control their Internet access. We have aimed to strike a reasonable balance between protecting end users and nurturing our rapidly developing industry, and are confident that the scheme will help make Australian families better off by providing more choice in the way that content can be accessed.

This site will be updated as more information about how content can be better controlled in the home. We hope that the result will be a safer and more enjoyable Internet experience for all.

For comments or feedback, please feel free to email us at info@iia.net.au.

This article has been translated to Serbo-Croatian language by Jovana Milutinovich from Webhostinggeeks.com

 

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