Date of Award

1-1-2001

Degree Type

Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Science

Faculty

Faculty of Communications, Health and Science

First Advisor

Mark Brogan

Second Advisor

Dr Timo Vuori

Abstract

The success of the online adult industry has provoked a public policy controversy over the need for internet censorship, and in recent times there has emerged desire to protect minors from possibly unsuitable content. On January 1st 2000, the Broadcasting Services Amendment (Online Services) Act (Cwlth, 1999) (BSA) was proclaimed. The Act purports to regulate and control Internet content in Australia. Operating in tandem with the Act is the Internet Industry Association Code of Practice, giving Australia a co-regulatory approach to Internet content control. The Australian Broadcasting Authority (ABA) is charged with implementing the regime. This study sets out examine the Internet content control problem in the Australian context. The political issues surrounding the topic of Internet censorship and the lack of reliable operational statistics, revealed the difficulty of estimating the effectiveness of the current control regime. Pivotal questions for the study concerned the scope and scale of content control in the Australian context and trends in hosting. This study used website typology, as defined by data topology and data topography, to examine the scope and scale of the content control task, and the implications for the effectiveness of the BSA. It was expected that if the BSA was to have an impact, that a discernible change in user download behaviour should ensue. This study used information provided by the adult Internet Content Provider (ICP) industry to gauge the BSA's impact-on user download behaviour as a measure of the control regime’s effectiveness. It was suggested by some observers that the so-called 'data deficit' between Australia and the US would be exacerbated by the new content control regime, with possible negative implications for the conduct of e-commerce in Australia generally. A study of Australian adult website hosting arrangements and data topography was conducted to examine the implications of the control regime for the "data deficit'. This study suggests that most Australian online adult content is in fact hosted in the US. The reasons for offshore hosting are almost totally financial and pre-date the introduction of the Broadcasting Services Act (Online Services) Amendment Act 1999. The study also suggests that any effect on the 'data deficit' should be minimal, and that the typology of adult content websites in such that the current co-regulatory regime may prove ineffective in controlling access to adult content.

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