Australia: Bans, Filters and Government 2.0 Taskforce
if the Government filter out MA15+ games, and ban any games not classified, what happens to World of Warcraft? What about social spaces like Second Life? How about iPhone games and Facebook apps? MySpace? a Job for Government 2.0 Taskforce methinks.
I’m pretty sure the Inquisitr article (80 comments) is a bit of a beat-up job – and Asher Moses of Sydney Morning Herald (zero comments) is riding in on Duncan Riley’s coattails. The government has said in the past that multiplayer games are inherently unclassifiable and I doubt that will change.
The Australian Minister for Censorship has today confirmed what I’ve been reporting for nearly two years: online adult games including Second Life will be banned in Australia.
Incidentally, with regards to online games, some are boxed (closed systems such as Grand Theft Auto), some are box and server (multiplayer such as World of Warcraft) and some are downloadable clients or simply web based clients to a hosted server (Second Life, Habbo). There is still a basic lack of understanding about filters, blacklists and classification systems in Australia.
- Games must be classified by paying a licence fee etc, or be exempt. If you don’t submit your game to be classified it can be banned and filtered. The game will not be allowed in the country (if a box) and will be filtered (presumably banned at the Domain level – see below) until the game development company coughs up the licencing fee, if they think the Australian market place is worth it. It doesn’t matter if your game is for children or adults, if it’s not classified, your not allowed to distribute it.
- Filters at an ISP level are opt-out – contact your ISP and name yourself as a pervert and they will remove the filter for you. Porn, graphic violence, dentists in Qld, and other mistakenly filtered sites are yours to peruse. If the game is deemed MA15+ (not General, not Children) then it is auto-filtered. Expect World of Warcraft teens to badger mum and dad to get the filter removed. Once your game is classified it is made available to everyone online unless it is classified MA15+ in which case it’s only available to those who ask for the filter to be removed.
- Filters at a Domain level – blacklisted sites that are not accessible under any circumstances. This blacklist has been around for a decade or more and gets updated regularly. Typically include Osama Bin Laden’s DIY bomb sites and known kiddyporn sites. No way Jose are you allowed to legally access these sites. But to be honest, if you know about them, you know other ways of getting to them.
… but I decided to bite anyway, and sent this email to classification.gov.au who handles OFLC (italic indents are quotes, everything else is mine):
Dear Sir/MadamMy name is Laurel Papworth and I am a senior consultant in social media and online games in the Australia/Asia area.I would like to know if the information below is accurate and still valid – AUSGAMERS, April, 2008.
Exclusively online games are not submitted to the OFLC for classification.
My original question (sent to the OFLC on August 22, 2005) was answered today when the OFLC’s Ron Robinson called me to discuss this topic (I sent a followup email a couple days ago after the GTA stuff jogged my memory of this ancient request).
Ron let me know that World of Warcraft was not rated by the OFLC – in fact, was never even submitted for classification – it was a “waste of time” as the game is exclusively online, exclusively multiplayer, and has no defined start and end. Thus it is inherently unclassifiable.
If World of Warcraft is no longer “inherently unclassifiable”, then I am attempting to determine if reports of potentially blocking Second Life, World of Warcraft and other multi user online games is correct. Particularly the issue of open unending games vs closed boxed games.Given that Second Life is not a game but a collaborative social space, will there also be an attempt to classify Facebook, MySpace and other “entertainment” sites? As many of these sites also act as software platforms, will there be an attempt to classify games (“apps”) such as What’s My Stripper Name and others with adult concepts?
Is the OFLC also examining classifying mobile social networking and gaming sites? iPhone applications comes to mind?
Senator Conroy’s spokesman said the filter would cover “computer games such as web-based flash games and downloadable games, if a complaint is received and the content is determined by ACMA to be Refused Classification”. All games that exceed MA15+ are deemed to be RC.
The filtering could also block “the importation of physical copies of computer games sold over the internet which have been classified RC”, the spokesman said.Thankyou for your time and please note that I am seeking an official response to be used in presentation papers and articles,RegardsLaurel Papworth
The issue is not whether the games are naughty or not, it’s the “ban first, unban later” approach. Club Penguin, under the guidelines would be blocked until Disney or whoever owns it now, submits (and pays for) a licence. Second Life has 3 different versions – Teen Second Life which would need a Children’s Rating I presume, normal Second Life (education and wholesome entertainment) would need a General classification and Zindra the Adult Second Life (background check to make sure you are over 18) would need MA or R or similar. Open Sims (open source worlds) would also fall under the same umbrella and each one would need to be rated.
So there’s a number of issues: major developers of online games need to know about Australia’s classification system and then pay for a licence. This is not selling boxed games on shelves where the distribution process is well known but services that are hosted in the States and elsewhere. User generated 3D worlds – think Google Lively on a mass scale in the future – will also full need to be classified. As a game player, you will need to convince the developers to submit for a licence, then tell your ISP to give you access. As web based java games are also included, that means any kid creating a game, up to an advertising agency making a viral *cough* game through to a Facebook app or iPhone game.
If classifications are to be required for iPhone apps and Facebook java applications (games and entertainment), that are free or make a few bucks each, how will developers pay for the licence fee? If every game and website that has games is classified how is the influx dealt with? If Unity (game engine) or the free open sims (downloadable muiltiworlds) means a 14 year old can make a multiplayer 3D world and host it on a $7 a month server, how will we deal with that? And so on, and so forth.
Ssshhhh. Listen. Hear it? …. the sound of INNOVATION dying, one pixel at a time. Taking the CONVERSATION along with it. This is the slippery slope that started with YouTube and Facebook being blocked at schools and government departments, through Second Life and ‘adult’ games being filtered and ends with Facebook blocked (we might discuss court cases and stuff under subjudice!) and Twitter (teenagers might be harassed or do the harassing). Once we hand off responsibility to the Government rather than using collaborative meta-government tools, we lose control of what is acceptable and what is not when it comes to the protection vs censorship debate.
So anyway, that’s a job for the new Government 2.0 TaskForce. Sorting out the classification system for user generated content and social worlds, as well as social distribution systems. Unfortunately the Taskforce first act was to make a fundamental online community booboo – please make us a logo kthnxbai – but hopefully they will learn as time goes on. See here for more information on the perils of running online design competitions. Be careful of asking members to do stuff before you have built the community – GoGetFunkd or NoSpec will gitcha!
The Taskforce could of course work with other governments internationally to fund metagovernment microformats for the billion or so in the Internet community to rate and review websites. Then responsible adults (parents, teachers) could set filters such as only allow sites voted suitable for children by a minimum of 560,000 people – collaborative filtering such as the Slashdot system. The way the world should be working, in my view. Ah well, one day…
“under the filtering plan, it will be extended to downloadable games, flash-based web games and sites which sell physical copies of games that do not meet the MA15+ standard”
Linden Lab has done (and as far as I know still does) restricted all but over 18’s on the main grid… it is by their own definition restricted to over 18s, and hence the equivalent of a R rating (if it existed for games)
That it has yet been classified by ACMA is chicken and egg stuff…and indeed you’re right in some degree when you say this “government has said in the past that multiplayer games are inherently unclassifiable”….if it can’t be classified (which it can’t) then it’s RC. Given there’s no over 18’s classification for games, it’s a given that it gets RC.
Laurel, I want to be wrong here, I really do, but the minister has made it very clear now.
.-= Duncan Riley´s last blog ..Actress Gale Storm dies at 87 =-.
hmmm “boxed” games can be downloaded from those premium server sites. Maybe that’s what s/he meant? I wish s/he had said “muiltiplayer games” or “social collaboration games” to make it clear. Otherwise it might just be GTA (Grand Theft Auto) downloaded (not a bought box) which, as far as we have already accepted the status quo, is acceptable.
Duncan, if they ban Second Life and World of Warcraft, they have to ban user generated worlds too. And games. Which means MySpace apps and Facebook Whats Your Stripper Name and that stupid iPhone one where you turn the phone upside down and the girls are undressing (like naughty pens). Do we really want everyone in the world who can drag and drop some java modules submitting apps for classification? iTunes could probably handle it, but the other sites? nah. Not scaleable by a government department, especially if not harnessing the collaborative metaGov stuff.
It has to stop somewhere – otherwise classifying TV and film will start to be classifying every YouTube video. And we’ve seen how the government handles that (they ban the whole site, including Harvard, MIT and Stanford Lecture series). Again, not scaleable.
Filter Second Life, World of Warcraft, – filter everything or risk being sued for unfair practices. Filter everything and we grind to a halt. Or maybe that’s the point…
Have you actually spoken with the Minister’s office? They’ve already said that SL won’t be banned.
.-= skribe´s last blog ..Commercial – SkyView Home Rentals =-.
We’ve been trying, but so far the Minister’s office hasn’t responded to us. To whom did they say it, and when?
The ABC Island admin. This morning. There is no way the govt will ban SL as long as the ABC maintains a presence there.
.-= skribe´s last blog ..Commercial – SkyView Home Rentals =-.
Wasn’t parliament trying to encourage the ABC to shuck its SL presence just recently?
.-= skribe´s last blog ..Commercial – SkyView Home Rentals =-.
Hmm. It was May 2007. Dig out the Hansard for the Communications committee.
http://www.personalizemedia.com/when-a-virtual-world-glitch-rocks-real-world-parliament-the-power-of-ripples/ is the link – a completely beat up job, Stephen Conroy was perpetrating a fake situation in May 21 2007.
A small point, about 25% of those “inherently unclassifiable games” have been classified by the Australian Classifications Board. The remainder were never submitted on some understanding that classification was “not required”
Even the CB has admitted in an offical, cleared statement that it would not have, and could not have classified the ones that it did if the games were not classifiable games under the Classifications Act.
Yeah I don’t have a link to the cleared statement – do you? please send? 😛 – but “Ron” from the department told the Ausgamer guy in a telephone call “Ron let me know that World of Warcraft was not rated by the OFLC – in fact, was never even submitted for classification – it was a “waste of time” as the game is exclusively online, exclusively multiplayer, and has no defined start and end. Thus it is inherently unclassifiable. ”
I think YouTube videos also falls in the “Should Be in TV/Film/Broadcast Public Audience Category But Too Hard Basket”, no?
I got the statements from them by email when I was researching for several articles earlier this year.
By the end there, they were starting to contradict themselves, and then completely refused to respond. I still have their statements tucked away in my email somewhere.
My last comment is probably lurking in your spam filter due to the several URLS in it 🙂
Oh, while I remember – they don’t go by the OFLC name anymore. They dropped that back in 2007, when they merged with the Federal Attorney General’s office. They’re just the CB nowadays.
Yes, it was annoying they changed their name – old links don’t work and their current search engine is frankly b0rked. I had to use Google domain search to find anything on their site. But thanks for your comments 😛
RT @rashford: The slippery slope: Australia ban of Second Life & more http://tinyurl.com/lnddd3
Australia: Bans, Filters and Government 2.0 Taskforce | Laurel …: So anyway, that's a job for the new Gove.. http://bit.ly/otqa2
Australia: Bans, Filters and Government 2.0 Taskforce | Laurel … http://bit.ly/VbjOO
Australia: Bans, Filters and Government 2.0 Taskforce | Laurel … http://bit.ly/VmKCi
ha ha the internetz is dead to Australians, shame the pollies haven’t worked out that even the most brain dead internet user can get around their filters.
Time for a “Pirate Party”/”EFF” style political membership organisation for the Australian federal givernment so that over tea and crumpets someone of their stature can take them to one side and point out they are living in a fairy land.
My recommendation is start a non taxable charity and run on this platform “Laurel Papworth for Presidentz of the Internetz”.
Australia: Bans, Filters and Government 2.0 Taskforce | Laurel … http://tinyurl.com/lnddd3
Australia: Bans, Filters and Government 2.0 Taskforce | Laurel … http://bit.ly/dAWkN
Australia: Bans, Filters and Government 2.0 Taskforce | Laurel … http://bit.ly/wiYdZ
Australia: Bans, Filters and Government 2.0 Taskforce | Laurel Papworth- Social Network Strategy http://tinyurl.com/lnddd3
Australian government looking to ban World of Warcraft, and other online games. Maybe even Steam and Second Life? http://twurl.nl/3aisd5
RT @SilkCharm Australia: Bans, Filters and Government 2.0 Taskforce | Laurel Papworth- Social Network Strategy http://tinyurl.com/lnddd3
I think its totally unfair to remove a internet recreation activity such as Second Life and WOW. There are far more internet websites that promote child abuse than secondlife. Why should people that spend their
recreational dollars on meeting people from all over the world in an interactive way such as SL. You would be much fairer if there was a gateway link that needed to be age verified for adults to access second
life. What ever happened to democracy in our Country? When did politicians stop listening to the little people, especially those with a disability that use SL as their only social outlet. This Game is not all
about sex, some of us build and run clubs to enjoy music from all over the world. For some people this is all they have, dont punish the minority. Think hard why you became a politition and who helped you get
I’m a Graduated helper in Secondlife and I spend time to help newbies and I don’t see any proof of child pornography and anything else really. Why would Stephen Conroy take away Adult Leisure and left nothing for us to enjoy. I think he’s is morally wrong for pointing secondlife as Game as it is not a game but it is 3d Virtual 3d Social networking. I made friends on it and if cut off there no way I can contact them. Also
Facebook is stay and so is Secondlife is stay.
I have hearing disabilities and low esteem and don’t have many friends in RL and this is only way of my communication to keep me going.
Australia is freedom country and this is not China!!!!
Please stop this happening.
The filtering legislation is being introduced tomorrow (Tuesday, 2 February). Last I looked, supporters of the (as yet unseen) legislation numbered exactly enough for it to pass. I imagine that unless something surprising happens that it will pass quickly.
Comments are closed.