IN a bid to crack down on e-crime, the Federal Government will introduce amendments seeking to outlaw use of the Internet for offensive or menacing purposes.
In a joint media statement, Communications Minister Senator Richard Alston and Justice Minister Senator Chris Ellison said the amendments to be introduced sought to make it a criminal offence to use a telecommunications service to carry offensive Internet content.
Under existing provisions, using a telecommunications service to carry offensive Internet content is not covered, however it is currently an offence to use a telecommunications service in a way that would be considered by reasonable persons as offensive, or with the result that another person is menaced or harassed.
Under the proposed changes, the new offence would carry a penalty of two years’ imprisonment — double the punishment for existing offence.
Internet Service Providers (ISPs) and Internet content hosts would be exempted from the new offence where they do not have knowledge of the content of the material that they transmit or host.
People using the internet to advocate or facilitate violent protests, for example by spreading information on methods of violently disrupting international meetings and attacking police officers protecting such gatherings – including those using the Internet to harass or menace others – are among those who could be prosecuted under the proposed changes.
The new category would form part of a package of new telecommunications-related offences that include offences for the possession and distribution of Internet child pornography.
The package will also include offences dealing with the ‘rebirthing’ of stolen mobile phones — a practice that allows criminals to circumvent technology that prevents stolen mobiles from accessing Australian mobile networks.
The new offence would complement the Online Content Co-Regulatory Scheme, through which the Federal Government regulates Internet content.
Under this scheme, the Australian Broadcasting Authority can act on complaints from the public and can order Internet content hosts in Australia not to host prohibited content.
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