How to Make a Complaint
Complaints to the Australian Communication and Media Authority (ACMA) must be in writing and must include the following details:
- your name and contact details;
- internet address of the content and any other details required to access it (e.g. a password);
- description of the internet content; and
- the reason/s you feel the content is objectionable.
Alternatively you may post or fax your complaint to:
The Content Assessment Hotline Manager
Australian Communications and Media Authority
Level 44, Melbourne Central Tower
360 Elizabeth Street
Melbourne Vic 3000
Postal address: PO Box 13112 Law Courts, Melbourne Vic 8010
Tel: 9963 6800 Fax: 9963 6899
TTY: (03) 9963 6948
Email: via the website
What Happens to Complaints?
Once ACMA receives a complaint it is obliged to investigate it. If the content is hosted in Australia and is prohibited or likely to be prohibited, ACMA will direct the ICH to remove the content from their service. Prohibited content is that which is or would be classified RC or X by the Classification Board. As part of an investigation ACMA may request the Classification Board to classify the content according to its guidelines for the Classification of Films and Computer Games.
If an Australian site hosts the RC or X material, ACMA will issue a "take-down notice". If the ICH is aware of the content and does not comply, they will be fined. In serious cases (e.g. involving child pornography), state or territory police can also become involved. Depending on the state or territory, the content provider, the ICH and the ISP, if they knew the content was illegal, may all be prosecuted and face a fine or a jail term.
If the RC or X content is hosted outside Australia, the Australian co-regulatory scheme does not apply to the off-shore ICH. However, Australian ISPs are subject to the scheme. When an ISP is issued an "access-prevention notice" by ACMA, it must comply with Internet Industry Codes of Practice or an industry standard, or take reasonable steps to block overseas-hosted material.
The Codes of Practice require an ISP to have an approved filter on its system for this purpose. ACMA will forward the content details to the filter makers or suppliers so that they can update the software. ACMA also regularly notifies ISPs about prohibited or potentially prohibited content. In serious cases the Australian Federal Police or the relevant overseas law enforcement agencies may become involved.
R content hosted without a restricted access system will be removed until the ICH installs an appropriate one. A restricted access system must have a registration process where applicants prove that they are at least 18. Subscribers have to input a special PINnumber or password before they can access the R material. Depending on the state or territory and the particular situation, if children have accessed the material, police may prosecute the content provider, the ICH and the ISP.
What else can be done?
Besides the complaints system, the shared effort to regulate internet content includes Codes of Practice developed by the Internet Industry Association. While the Codes are largely voluntary and self-regulated, ACMA can direct particular ISPs and ICHs to comply with their responsibilities under the Codes. ACMA can also implement mandatory industry standards where there is no code or the code is inadequate. Compliant ISPs are registered with ACMA and entitled to display a "family-friendly" Ladybird seal.
Education and information are another aspect of the co-regulatory scheme. This is justified on the principle that industry and the community have their own responsibilities to comply with the codes and to help prevent inappropriate access by children.
It should be noted that ACMA and the Internet Industry Association regard parents and teachers as being in the best position to advise children and monitor their access, using the information resources available. Other information and advice sites are listed under "Further information", below.