Research: Internet censorship best left to individuals

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Research: Internet censorship best left to individuals
computer keyboard chained

Report part-funded by Google concludes mandatory filtering regime "misconceived".

Two UNSW researchers have called for a review of media content regulations in Australia to aid consistency and cut confusion across criminal codes in state and federal laws.

University of NSW professors Kate Crawford and Catharine Lumby said in a 60-page report released last night that the Federal Government also needed to rethink its attempts to regulate converged media environments like the internet.

They said that the internet could not be considered a "singular medium" like radio, TV or cinema and therefore should not be subject to traditional forms of government regulation.

"It is a whole new media environment that incorporates many media forms," the professors noted.

"This requires us to rethink how we regulate content, protect vulnerable groups and define the relationship between media consumers and media producers."

Traditional media regulation was assumed to be a matter between government and industry, according to the report.

It also assumed audiences were "largely passive bodies of consumers" where the Government's role was to intervene and protect against inappropriate content.

"In contrast to this model, contemporary media [i.e. internet] users are not just 'consumers' – they are highly active, and are often media producers and distributors," the report stated.

"Within social networking services that host extraordinary quantities of data it is users who are the most likely to identify offensive material and to notify the relevant host or government agency."

The researchers suggested that individuals – not governments or industry – were best placed to determine the appropriateness of internet content in the age of converged media.

They also recommended the creation of a "Convergent Media Board" to consider social, cultural and regulatory issues and identify areas for further policy debate and research.

The report, entitled The Adaptive Moment: A Fresh Approach to Convergent Media in Australia, was part-funded by Google Australia and featured input from the Internet Industry Association's outgoing chief Peter Coroneos.

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