Govt, industry welcome new online code of practice

Content Services Code comes into force to ensure protection of children online

The Communications minister has signaled the government's support for the Content Services Code, an Internet Industry Association code of practice for providers of online and mobile phone content.

The legislation establishes a framework for the regulation of content services, such as Internet streaming and 3G mobile services, to provide protection to children from exposure to unsuitable content and ensure content providers adhere to requirements of the new code.

The code was approved by the Australian Communications and Media Authority on 10 July, 2008, with Senator Conroy today calling it part of a broader government strategy to promote online safety for Australians.

"This is the first industry code under the new Schedule 7 of the Broadcasting Services Act, which commenced in January 2008. Online safety is critical for children to enjoy positive Internet experiences, and to protect themselves from danger," Conroy said.

ACMA chairman Chris Chapman said the code is a result of collaboration across a wide cross-section of industry and that the ACMA is encouraged by the recognition that content regulation must be approached from the perspective of convergence between the two major platforms for delivery of online content - Internet and mobile phones.

According to the ACMA, the code will require all content likely to be rated MA15+ or above to be assessed and classified by trained content assessors hired by online and mobile content providers. A best practice guidance is offered for providers and hosts of content on how to manage complaints from consumers.

"The code is consistent with the emerging global approach to online and mobile content regulation as exemplified in similar guidance for interactive content services prepared by an international task force that included ACMA. The guidance was released in the UK earlier this year," the ACMA said.

Senator Conroy's department also issued a statement today stating that the government has committed $125.8 million over the next four years to a range of cyber-safety measures including funding to enable the Australian Federal Police to expand its online child exploitation investigations, ISP level filtering of illegal material, a dedicated cyber-safety helpline, and a Youth Advisory Group to advise the government on the relevance and effectiveness of cyber-safety programs.

The new code comes with the news this week that the Australian Federal Police has taken 10 Australian school children to London to participate in the International Youth Advisory Congress (IYAC), a world-first congress giving kids a say in how they can be better protected online.

A copy of the Content Services Code can be viewed at the IIA Web site here

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Andrew Hendry

Computerworld
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