Statement in response to the News.com.au article ‘News.com.au forced to remove Islamic State article after Classification Board decision, sparking censorship concerns’ and Adjudication 1732 by the Australian Press Council.
An article published on the website News.com.au on 28 February 2018 (7.41am) by Charis Chang claims that the office of the eSafety Commissioner has “declined to reveal the source of “several complaints” that sparked its review, and whether they were from a member of the public or from a government official or representative.”
These are the facts of the matter: On 31 May 2017, two separate complaints were made to eSafety via our online reporting form. One concerned a URL hosted by news.com.au ('the story'), and another concerned a PDF copy of a specific issue of Rumiyah magazine ('the magazine') hosted on a file-sharing site. They were received within a matter of minutes of one another.
Both were assessed as complaints under Schedule 7 of the Broadcasting Services Act 1992 (Cth), and a provisional decision was made that both would likely fall within the scope of s 9A of the Classification (Publications, Films and Computer Games) Act 1995 (Cth), which requires that material advocating a terrorist act be classified Refused Classification.
It is contrary to law for an Australian web host to allow prohibited material—that is, content classified X 18+ (showing real sexual activity between adults) or RC (e.g. pro-terror, child abuse or other highly offensive content)—to be hosted in Australia. Where R 18+ (e.g. high-level violence or simulated sexual activity) material is placed behind a restricted access system, it may be hosted in Australia.
If prohibited material is hosted in Australia, the eSafety Commissioner may issue an interim takedown notice to the relevant web host, before applying to the Classification Board for classification. Once a classification decision has been reached, a final takedown notice will be issued to the web host. Failure to comply with a takedown notice can attract significant daily fines, enforceable by the eSafety Commissioner.
In the case of news.com.au, there was no evidence the content was hosted in Australia. Therefore, the eSafety Commissioner did not issue an interim takedown notice. The magazine was shown to be hosted overseas, and similar limitations applied to our powers.
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