Australian Computer Society

to: Michael McLean
Acting Secretary
Select Committee on Community Standards Relevant to the Supply of Services Utilising Electronic Technologies
Parliament House, Canberra, ACT 2600
Fax: 06 2775809

Submission on the Regulation of Bulletin Board Systems

Thank you for the opportunity to present material to the committee on the regulation of BBSs (Bulletin Board Systems) at your public seminar next Tuesday.


Attached as is a draft report of the Australian Computer Society and Electronic Frontier's Australia joint task force on "Freedom in Cyberspace". The task force was set up in February 1995 to prepare a response to the Government BBS report and to advise the ACS and the EFA on further action.

Please note that this draft was produced at short notice for your committee. Normally such a report would be subject to internal review by the ACS & EFA and issued for public comment.


  1. The Government BBS Task Force report must be published electronically immediately.
  2. The recommendations of the current report must be rejected by the government as a basis for policy because of its technical naiveté.
  3. Dialogue must be opened between the government and the online community to discuss workable solutions to controlling potentially offensive information. This should be done on the Internet itself to maximise the amount of input from the online community. It will also help the government learn about the medium.
  4. "Information Carrier" guidelines must be adopted by the Federal government immediately to protect system operators from becoming scapegoats for circumstances outside of their control.
  5. Laws to do with liability for speech and information should put the responsibility on the shoulders of the originating user, not on the shoulders of the intermediate information carriers. The Internet is a communications device, not a newspaper, and telecommunications liability laws should be adopted.
  6. Internet software authors should be encouraged to add blocking and monitoring facilities for parents to control what their children are accessing.
  7. Encourage sysadmins and sysops to establish complaints mechanisms to deal with the few cases of "Refused Classification" material that may crop up in the future.


The ACS is not "pro" or "anti" network regulation, so much as interested in assisting the community make choices on the use of technology for community benefit. To that end I have invited members of the networking community to suggest the "best" and the "worst" of the Internet. That is the material they consider of the highest quality and the most socially worthwhile, or that of the least value and possibly harmful (in particular for children). I hope to be able to display a selection of this material on-screen Tuesday.


So as to involve the wider community in the seminar I have issued a copy of the program on the Internet. This has sparked considerable interest. On behalf of the more than 500,000 Australian citizens who are network users, and millions of interested observers in other countries, I request a transcript of Tuesday's seminar to be made available on the Internet.

Tom Worthington MACS
Director of the Community Affairs Board
G.P.O. Box 446
Canberra A.C.T. 2601

Telephone: (06) 247 4830
Fax: (06) 249 6419

30 March 1995

Provided on the Web as a community service by Tom Worthington, Australian Computer Society.