Aussie Gov. Sets Steep Child Porn Fines for ISPs

Gretchen Gallen
SYDNEY – The Australian government has handed down sobering new penal provisions to Internet service providers that could set a dangerous precedent for the rest of the Internet community when it comes to indirect involvement with child pornography distrubution.

Beginning March 1, ISPs and Internet content hosts that do not report knowledge of online child porn to police could face maximum fines of $55,000 for corporate offenses if their services are used to aid in the distribution of child porn content, and $11,000 for individuals, per incident, Ellison said.

The change to the country's Criminal Code Act of 1995 was handed down by Justice Minister Chris Ellison, who said that "every horrid piece of child pornography is a tragic case of an abused, defenseless child."

ISPs and ICHs will be subject to the fines if they have reasonable grounds to believe they are helping to distribute child pornography or child abuse material. If they do not refer details of that material to the Australian High Tech Crime Centre within a reasonable time period of becoming aware of the material's existence, fines will be incurred.

The new penal provisions also make it a federal offence to overlook the presence of child porn, with a penalty of 10 years' imprisonment.

"In the U.S., any professional ISP already has standard operating procedures in place," Joan Irvine of ASACP told XBiz. "If an ISP is informed that there is actual child pornography on their servers, they back up all the information about this customer, inform the government and then terminate the account. It is required that this is done within 24 hours. I would assume that professional ISP and content sites in Australia would do the same."

According to Ellison, the new provisions are not imposing an active monitoring system on ISPs, they only require that an ISP act immediately upon being made aware of illegal content.

"ISPs and ICHs should be aware that come March 1, they will be obligated to join the federal government's frontline fight against abuse of children online," Ellison said.