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Media Release

An Open Letter to the Commonwealth and State Attorneys General

From: The President of the Australian Computer Society (ACS)
Date: 14 June 1996

This is in response to concerns from ACS members over Internet legislation being prepared for consideration by the July meeting of the Committee of Attorneys General.

The ACS has participated in a number of Parliamentary and Government enquiries into the issue of Internet regulation and has facilitated the distribution of information to the public on the issue. In its submissions the ACS supported regulation in line with that applied to other forms of communication in Australia. The ACS expressed concern about adopting models of regulation which did not take into account the features of the Internet by which it differs from other media, particularly "broadcasting".

The ACS has noted yesterday's decision by a Full Bench of the US Federal Court to grant a preliminary injunction against the Government's controversial Communications Decency Act which seeks to censor material distributed over the Internet.

While the Society has been unable to obtain a copy of the proposed Australian legislation, reports indicate it is based on an early model in the Federal Attorney General's Bulletin Board Task Force Report. The BBS Report was heavily criticised by the ACS and others at the Senate Inquiry and in other forums.

If this is the basis for the proposed legislation, the ACS would have concerns as to the appropriateness of the legislation to protect children from objectionable material and its possible detrimental effect on the development of Australia's on-line economy.

The ACS and other responsible bodies had been working towards a community consensus on this issue for several years. Regrettably a number of inflammatory statements made in the media over the past few months have made that process more difficult.

In a bid to progress the issue, the ACS requests that the Standing Committee of Attorneys General release for public comment the legislation drafted by the NSW Parliamentary Counsel.

We also suggest that you and your staff become more familiar with Internet technology, to better understand the benefits and the problems of the technology and how to apply it.

The ACS will continue to assist with community consideration of this complex technical and social issue. You and your staff should consider attending the 14th World Computer Congress, to be hosted by the ACS in Canberra. The Governor-General will open the event on 2 September.

International experts in a range of IT fields, including Internet regulation, will discuss these and other issues in Canberra, and via a global on-line conference.


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