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The Internet has emerged as a dynamic new communications medium at an astounding pace in recent years. It enables the exchange of text, sound, video and images between millions of individuals from all around the world in a manner not possible via traditional media. But along with the growth of these services and the benefits they can provide for enhanced communication, entertainment and educational services, concerns have been raised around the world about the content of these services. The nature of these concerns often reflects the different cultural, religious and political values of the international community. The paper outlines the preliminary findings of a pilot study presently carried out by ABA. It considers the issues related to the content of online services, the impact of recent technical developments such as Platform for Content Selection (PICS) and content labeling. It compares regulatory responses in four countries and identifies areas of potential international cooperation.
The Internet is a dynamic new communications medium which has emerged at an astounding pace in recent years. The Internet, is one of many on-line services which offers a revolutionary means by which individuals and organisations can communicate, entertain, educate and inform. There is no central control or ownership of the Internet and the functions performed by the participants in the on-line environment are not as fixed as in existing media publications and broadcasting models. Most significantly, a person from anywhere around the globe can create content and make it available on-line.
The Internet has enormous potential as a means to enhance the diversity of information and entertainment available to individuals and corporations around the world. Its relatively low barriers to entry, which are identical for both speakers and listeners, provides access to all who wish to participate in the medium, and even creates a relative parity among speakers. It has been described as 'the most participatory form of mass speech yet developed'.
However, along with the growth of these services, and a recognition of the enormous benefits which they can provide, concerns have been raised around the world about the impact of the Internet, particularly in terms of the content which can be provided and accessed on-line. Some have argued that there is nothing that can be done to manage Internet content, whilst others state that the issues can only be tackled by international cooperation. In the meantime many countries have been investigating and/or implementing their own regulatory measures in relation to the Internet and other on-line services.
In January 1997 the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) commissioned a pilot study from the Australian Broadcasting Authority (ABA) on the Internet and International Regulatory Issues. The pilot study has four main objectives. The first is to examine the nature of the on-line environment. The second is to identify some of the legal and ethical issues which arise in that environment, particularly as they relate to content. The third objective is to collect comparative data on the approaches taken by four countries, namely Australia, Malaysia, Singapore and the United Kingdom in response to these issues. The fourth objective is to discuss the feasibility of a larger comparative study which may be undertaken following consideration of the pilot study.
The ABA is due to report to UNESCO in mid 1997. As the study is not yet complete I cannot report on all of the findings in this paper. However, I will outline the approach taken in the study and identify some of the trends which have emerged to date.
Countries Included in Pilot Study and Methodology
The countries selected for the pilot study are Australia, Malaysia, Singapore and the United Kingdom. These four countries were not intended to be representative in any way and are dealt with in alphabetical order in respect of the topics considered in the study. The four countries do not represent all the major geographic regions of the world nor of the range of national responses to concerns about on-line content. Rather they were selected for the following reasons.
· Given the short time frame for the pilot study, ie. approximately 10 weeks, the ABA was conscious of the availability of existing information and the ease of obtaining additional information on the regulatory responses to on-line services in the countries selected;
· The ABA was also conscious of choosing countries which already had proposed or introduced measures in place in relation to on-line content;
· It was considered useful to have at least one 'less developed' country in the pilot study to provide a comparison to responses in 'more developed' nations;
· The countries selected are located in three of the major geographic regions in the world - Asia, Europe and the Pacific.
Quotes talked about in this paper
Terminology referenced in this research paper
online services, software products, Platform,
Technology referenced in this paper
Organizations included in this term paper
the Recreational Software Advisory Council, ABA, Government, SBA, Australian Broadcasting Authority, Internet Watch, UNESCO, United Nations, Singapore Broadcasting Authority, Internet Watch Foundation,
Locations mentioned in this paper
the importance, United Kingdom, Singapore, Malaysia, United States,
Keywords talked about in this paper
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