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Censorship Your Rights Online

AU Classification Board To Censor Mobile Apps 129

Posted by samzenpus
from the we-got-a-ban-for-that dept.
bennyboy64 writes "The Australian Classification Board is seeking to censor mobile phone applications under its National Classification Scheme. 'I recently wrote to the minister [Minister McDonald] regarding my concern that some so-called mobile phone applications, which can be purchased online or either downloaded to mobile phones or played online via mobile phone access, are not being submitted to the board for classification,' Australia's Classification Board director Donald McDonald told a Senate Estimates committee. I wonder if they know that there are over 80,000 applications on the iPhone platform alone?"
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AU Classification Board To Censor Mobile Apps

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  • Go censorship! (Score:2, Insightful)

    by cbope (130292)

    Just think, it will likely take them YEARS just to catch up with all the iPhone mobile apps. The best thing we can hope for is their heads will implode from all the "reviewing".

    Just when I thought the nanny state of the UK could not be topped...

    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      My thoughts exactly. I wonder if they will just trust Apples review process? probably not... they don't trust ESRB ratings do they?
      • by jc42 (318812)

        ... they don't trust ESRB ratings do they?

        Wait ... Eric (S) Raymond's Blog has ratings of phone apps now? I gotta check this out ...

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by slacker22 (1614751)
      I'd hazard that the only things to be censored will be a few isolated but popular (newsworthy) apps which have the potential to be politically embarrassing.
      • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

        a few isolated but popular (newsworthy) apps which have the potential to be politically embarrassing.

        AbiMap - tracks troop and train movements so users can see where the Aborigines are being exported for "resettlement"

        Conroy - "Censor it! Censor it now!"
        UniformedThug- "Yes sir!"
        Conroy - "And terminate the programmer of this app with extreme prejudice."

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Hasney (980180)
      Australia have got so hot on censoring everything these days they're more of a great grandma state at this point.

      With all the digital distribution options as well, I don't think they really know how easy it is to bypass regional restrictions on places like app stores.
      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        The current trend in digital distribution options might actually make things harder to circumvent, not easier.

        With brick and mortar boxed software sales, stopping commercial-scale imports at the border is pretty easy; but there is pretty much nothing stopping you from having friends/family overseas mail you a disk in generic wrapping. The wide availability of warez makes importation even easier. Once you have a copy, it'll run on your computer as well as anywhere else.

        By contrast, with an iPhone, the
        • It would be pretty trivial for Apple, if put under legal pressure, to implement geographic restrictions there.

          It would be equally trivial for Australians to log into the app store through a proxy server, thereby totally circumventing the geographic restriction.

          • im fairly certain the phones know what cell towers theyre connecting to, where theyre located, and who the provider is.
            • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

              by nneonneo (911150)

              You can still download apps off iTunes, and it is possible to create free accounts in other countries without needing a credit card (you simply need to switch stores and download a free app).

              So, if you proxy iTunes, and use a foreign (e.g. American) account to purchase apps, there's not a whole lot censorship can do.

              • by mrdoogee (1179081)
                You or I could do that. But remember that the iPhone's great success was that it brought "smartphones" to the masses. Most folks with an iPhone wouldn't know how to proxy even if you explained it to them. I'd say that if the app store became geographically locked, you'd see most Austrailian users just end up using the crippled AUS app store.
                This seems mostly dependent on if Apple (and to a lesser extent, other Smartphone app publishers) will tell the AUS gov't to go soak its head or
          • Assuming that they also have an account tied to a foreign credit card. And further assuming that Apple's implementation of geographic restrictions didn't include nationality information embedded in the phone(since most of the phones sold are already carrier locked, at least, it is clearly doable to customize the phone according to its intended area of use).

            Heck, while I'm sure Apple wouldn't want to(since it would just piss people off), it would be technically feasible for them to tie per-app geographic
          • by darthflo (1095225)

            Credit cards tend to have a country and a currency associated with them. Watertight as long as we forget about gift credit cards (U.S.-centric phenomenon).

            Then again, it's iPhones we're talking about here. I'd be very surprised if Apple didn't have a way to track any App Store sale to it's phone number, and even if they can't, they get the S/N of the device and know what S/N was destined for what market (and, if sold through an Apple Store, when it was purchased with what method of payment). This is easily

        • You ever seen Gene Roddenberry's Earth: Final Conflict? There's a character on there called Augur who can hack into virtually any system. That's what we all need to become - Augurs - to hack around government obstacles and protect our right of free speech and freedom of expression even when the politicians "forget" to obey the laws they have created:

          EU Charter of Rights - Article 11

          "Everyone has the right to freedom of expression. This right shall include freedom to hold opinions and to receive and impar

          • by Kreigaffe (765218)

            ..."unless it involves anything that makes anybody remember Nazis, and then it's just fucking banned, man, get out of here with that history crap."

    • Re: (Score:1, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward

      There may well be 80,000+ apps for the iPhone and a rapidly expanding number of apps on Android, WinMobile, WebOS, Meamo and Symbian but surely that is the point. This is about a quango seeking to expand its influence as it sees the content matter that it originally was set up to certify becoming increasingly less relevant in the exploding world of multimedia, always on (and available) platforms and distribution channels. It is a pure matter of self interest and survival.

    • by Jaysyn (203771)

      Not years, decades. Assuming they can completely review 2 apps a day (paperwork, government workers inefficiency, etc), including weekends, it will take them 109+ years to get thru them all. Even at 4 a day it's almost 55 years.

      • by Jaysyn (203771)

        Even if they are only reviewing *games* for the iPhone, that is still over 13000+ & counting. At 4 a day that still a little over a decade to review the existing iPhone games. Then another ~5 years or so each for the future game libraries for the Android, Symbian, Pre & whatever the next big thing is.

      • "The obvious solution is to censor everything, and only allow apps to be released to the public AFTER the government has reviewed them. This is a reasonable and prudent solution." - government manager at the ACB

    • by Shotgun (30919)

      Do you not know what the primary business of any bureaucracy is? It is to GROW.

      Rating mobile apps give his little fiefdom unlimited growth potential.

      • by mrdoogee (1179081)
        I'd mod you insightful if I hadn't already posted.

        If this becomes law, you'll see a tenfold increase in his staffing and funding. This is of course his intention all along.

        Anybody who doesn't get worried when they hear "it's to protect the children" isn't paying attention.
    • by mdwh2 (535323)

      And god knows how many apps for the 2 billion Java phones out there, as well as all the phones that have been around for years before the Iphone. Of course, it's understandable we wouldn't know about them, as Slashdot only gives coverage to one mobile phone, and otherwise ignores the industry.

      (Even censorship stories now have to have the "On Your Iphone" tag, as if to hype it up?)

  • I wonder if they know that there are over 80,000 applications on the iPhone platform alone?"

    Maybe I'll call him on my so-called mobile phone and let him know.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by countach (534280)

      I actually listened to some of the senate committees [aph.gov.au] this week on censorship. Boy does this government LOVE censorship. You should hear the self-righteous prattle they were going on with. The ridiculous thing of course is they are trying to stick their fingers in the dyke while the whole thing is coming down around them.

  • This is bad, how? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by wvmarle (1070040) on Thursday October 22, 2009 @04:36AM (#29833087)

    This is not censorship: this is rating, like done with movies and so already. And this kind of rating can be a great help for parents to rate suitability of some game/movie for their kids. So I don't see this as a bad thing, and it is definitely not censorship as the content in question remains available.

    Now how they are going to process and rate the tens of thousands of games available (tfa talks about games, not all applications) that is another matter. They may need to hire some extra staff.

    Still I think it is basically a good thing, as long as it is just rating, allowing the buyer to get a better idea what they want to buy. Just like going to the movies, the rating gives you an extra clue on the kind of movie you are going to watch, or in this case what application you are going to buy. Or which you may want to pass on.

    • Put it this way: are they going to rate purely functional applications? Should they rate the contents of the ubuntu dpkg repositories?

      • by wvmarle (1070040) on Thursday October 22, 2009 @04:43AM (#29833141)
        According to TFA (which I actually read before commenting, yes unbelievable) this is about computer games. AU already rates console games and movies, they want to extend to online games and with that mobile phone games. Rating functional apps is of course nonsensical.
        • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

          by BorgDrone (64343)

          Rating functional apps is of course nonsensical.

          What is the difference between a 'functional' application and a game ? A game is just as functional as any other app: it's function is to entertain.

          Also, non-game applications can also contain 17+ content, the appstore contains some erotic applications that aren't games, shouldn't they be rated ? Where do you draw the line ?

          • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

            If they become rated they become prone to the "great Australian firewall". Proposals include blocking of "RC" (refused classification) content. There is no R+18 rating for games here. Effectively banned, though not illegal to possess.

    • like hell it isn't (Score:5, Insightful)

      by serps (517783) on Thursday October 22, 2009 @04:42AM (#29833123) Homepage

      This is not censorship: this is rating, like done with movies and so already.

      Yes, but anything that is refused classification is unable to be sold. That's what censorship is. It's ironic that the predecessor to the OFLC was the Film Censorship Board, yet anything they didn't review was available to sell. i.e. they didn't censor.

      • Re: (Score:1, Insightful)

        by Anonymous Coward
        Or in slashdot terms: the OFLC operates a whitelist, while the Film Censorship Board operated a blacklist. Give me a blacklist any day. The OFLC is irrelevant anyway. There's no way they can keep up with the volume of material, and even if they could there is no way the police can monitor every distribution channel. Consequently the OFLC can safely be ignored. Just don't get caught.
        • by Plunky (929104)

          Consequently the OFLC can safely be ignored. Just don't get caught.

          When everybody is a criminal, anybody can be picked up, anytime..

          • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

            I also worry that this sort of shit makes it easier for people to commit real crimes, as I feel that many would fear taking the initial step onto the wrong side of the law. When we pass laws that ensure that all citizens are on the wrong side of the law by default, I feel that we remove a large barrier in the minds of the people. Not only that, but it makes a total farce of law enforcement.
            • by drinkypoo (153816)

              I also worry that this sort of shit makes it easier for people to commit real crimes, as I feel that many would fear taking the initial step onto the wrong side of the law.

              The idea of "gateway crime" is as ridiculous as the idea of "gateway drugs".

              Not only that, but it makes a total farce of law enforcement.

              Now that's the truth.

              • by swb (14022)

                No, the GP poster has a point.

                Gateway drugs are a different phenomenon, and as you point out, one that has been largely refuted. The "Gateway Drug" idea is where use of "soft" drugs leads to the use of "hard" drugs, usually with the idea that the "high" wears off the soft drugs and the user seeks harder drugs to keep getting high.

                The lack-of-respect-for-law argument the poster was making is actually related to drugs as well. In the drug world it's been argued that the continued criminalization of marijuan

    • by srjh (1316705)

      This is not censorship: this is rating

      Unfortunately in Australia, it is. If something is refused a classification, it's banned.

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by copiedright (1357445)
        No its not banned, it just cannot be sold in any state. However the territories do sell unclassified materials. Thats why everyone goes to Canberra for porn. Also with section 92 of the constitution regarding internal free trade. Nothing stops you buying this electronic material from a server in the territories. Except for the cost of classification,
    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by Siridar (85255)

      You fail to understand how the ratings board works in Australia - certainly, the ratings board says they're not "censors" but anything that is "RC" - refused classification - cannot be legally distributed. In that context, it cannot be called anything else *but* censorship.

      • by wvmarle (1070040)

        True I'm not Australian.

        Question. I can imagine and understand that certain material is considered taboo (child porn is an obvious candidate) and is illegal. That is pretty much all over the world, the main difference is what a people think is acceptable and what not, that are cultural differences. Back to Oz, how about material that has not (yet) been submitted for rating? Does it have to be submitted for rating first to become RC and in effect forbidden? Do e.g. movies have to be classified before they a

        • >>>considered taboo (child porn is an obvious candidate)

          Careful. Many people say nudity == porn, such that I can't even take a photo of my own kid at the local nudist beach. You need to be more specific in your definitions. Nudity =/= porn in a sane country. Images of hand-drawn children having sex should also not illegal (nobody's been harmed; no victim == no crime).

    • This is not censorship: this is rating

      And stuff that doesn't get the right rating can't be sold. That IS censorship, bucko.

      as the content in question remains available.

      But it doesn't. This isn't like the US's ESRB (with which I have no problem, incidentally). This is a *government* rating system, and stuff the rating board doesn't like gets legally banned.

      • by wvmarle (1070040)

        But it doesn't. This isn't like the US's ESRB (with which I have no problem, incidentally). This is a *government* rating system, and stuff the rating board doesn't like gets legally banned.

        But then of course Oz is a democracy so if you as a people do not like the current practices you can vote for a different government and have it changed. Censorship to me is still something primarily political, like in China where books are forbidden because they talk about democracy or failings of the current communist system. And that is not a government that can be voted out. Nor is there freedom of expression allowing you to even talk about the censorship in the first place.

        • >>>of course Oz is a democracy so if you as a people do not like the current practices you can vote for a different government

          of course that's just another way of saying Democracy == Tyranny of the majority to control the government & squash the minority underfoot.

        • But then of course Oz is a democracy so if you as a people do not like the current practices you can vote for a different government and have it changed.

          Censorship that got a majority vote is still censorship, and I say to hell with it. The fact that China is indeed worse is not an excuse.

          Censorship to me is still something primarily political, like in China where books are forbidden because they talk about democracy

          "First they came for the games, and I did not speak out because games are not politically i

    • This is not censorship: this is rating, like done with movies and so already. And this kind of rating can be a great help for parents to rate suitability of some game/movie for their kids.

      Apple already rates iphone apps. Actually, the developers rate their own apps, and they get penalized pretty heavily if they miscategorize/misrate their app. It's not a perfect system, for instance somehow the "shaking baby" app still got through (but it was quickly pulled off the market).

      What actual real problem are you trying to solve here?

      This is a digital medium. Apps get updated quickly, but apps can also be removed just as quickly (which is not the case for in-store games). As mobile apps take advanta

    • by mrdoogee (1179081)
      Not if the ratings system is inherently flawed.

      For instance in the US, You can show grisly murders and torture and can safely count on a "R" rating. However numerous comedies and dramas who's only crime is using foul language will have to edit and re-edit just to avoid a NC-17 rating. The NC-17 rating of course is poison because no major chain will show it, even though if the rating were changed to "R" with no edits done, they'd be happy to show it.
      • by Kreigaffe (765218)

        And then it comes out on DVD with the unrated version with all those extras included.

        Meanwhile in Australia, even if there was a theater that would show an NC-17 (equiv.) movie, it would never happen because their government has decided that the Australian people are too big of pussies to handle anything remotely as scary and shocking as profane language and dead bodies. Their words, not mine.. more specifically, their actions, which are LOUDER than words.

        There is a very large difference between "We don't

        • by enoz (1181117)

          Meanwhile in Australia, even if there was a theater that would show an NC-17 (equiv.) movie, it would never happen because their government has decided that the Australian people are too big of pussies to handle anything remotely as scary and shocking as profane language and dead bodies.

          Kill Bill Vol.1 was rated R18+, and it was shown at Australian (mainstream) theatres. There are more examples but I've already proven you wrong.

          • by Kreigaffe (765218)

            And Australians were forbidden Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2 until 2006. You didn't get to see the actual Romero cut of Dawn of the Dead until 1980. 2004 was the first time Australians could watch the 1971 Wes Craven flick, Last House on the Left.
            L4D2 will be / was changed so as to get rated. If they didn't tone down some of the gore, Australia would be SOL.

            All you've really done is point out that the Australian censorship board is, at best, inconsistent.
            And for the record, the Kill Bill you see in Australia

    • by moxley (895517)

      Rating is one thing - but from what I have heard about how australia handles video games, they actually reject them or force them to be changed...THAT is censorship, and if they'll do THAT with something as big budget as a console video game, they'll do it to a little mobile app.

    • by Toonol (1057698)
      My understanding is that in much of the EU, items cannot legally be sold without a rating; and there have been cases of items that are refused a rating. That would make it truly censorship.

      Or am I getting the EU confused with Australia?
  • Wasted sarcasm (Score:4, Insightful)

    by asliarun (636603) on Thursday October 22, 2009 @04:39AM (#29833101)

    I think they're heading in the right direction. They should also review and classify all websites on the internet as they can be downloaded to mobile phones as well. Shockingly, these so-called internet applications can even be downloaded to computers in even higher resolution. I wonder if they know that there are much more than 80,000 internet applications on just the world wide web alone. On top of this, they get regularly updated! Should keep a committee busy for a while, I think.

    • This is absolutely brilliant! Think about the number of jobs that will be created as a result.
      • What's sad is that some people might actually think those would be good jobs and that the economy would be stimulated. Everyone with even a weakling's grasp on Economics is cringing right about now.
    • They should also review and classify all websites on the internet as they can be downloaded to mobile phones as well

      I'm not sure if you are aware, but that is the direction that they are heading with their mandatory internet filtering scheme [dlc.asn.au] at the ISP level. It's a completely dumb and unworkable idea, so therefore the government loves it!

    • SHHH!!!! I know you are being sarcastic but some right wing nutjob might hear you and think it's a great idea!
  • by atomicstrawberry (955148) on Thursday October 22, 2009 @04:42AM (#29833121)

    As far as I know, to release a game on a medium regulated by the Australian classification board, you have to have the game in question classified. This costs a minimum of $1000 AUD.

    This will spell the end of any small-scale iPhone game development by individuals or indie developers in Australia. The only games we'll see will be from big publishers, if we see them at all - even a big-name game is going to struggle to recoup $1000+ from Australian sales alone.

    • Re: (Score:1, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward

      I agree with this, assuming it's something which requires either money or extensive effort from devs.

      Even if that was the case, it isn't the end for the developers - I'd say most Australian developers currently have the US/other countries as their main market, but it will definitely impact their ability to make sales based on local presence.

      However, it would be very bad for the consumers as most developers from around the world will just say meh and not publish here.

    • by Thanshin (1188877)

      indie developers in Australia

      You mean "all indie developers [in the world] when trying to sell in Australia", right?

  • by Rogerborg (306625) on Thursday October 22, 2009 @04:43AM (#29833137) Homepage

    Then I RTFA:

    iTnews has since been informed that Minister McDonald was referring to Commonwealth Censorship Minister Brendan O'Connor.

    Well, how charmingly honest of them. In a more sophisticated regime, that would be "Minister for the Protection of Cute Children's Precious, Precious Innocence."

  • Politicians (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Dorsai65 (804760) <.dkmerriman. .at. .gmail.com.> on Thursday October 22, 2009 @04:47AM (#29833155) Homepage Journal

    I wonder if they know that there are over 80,000 applications on the iPhone platform alone?

    Feh. Politicians typically lose track of numbers once they get past however many fingers and/or toes they happen to have. I pity the poor staffers that are going to have to do the actual work...

    When I visited Oz (ca. 1976), it seemed like a pretty decent country. Too bad the government there has opted to go the way of England.

    • by drinkypoo (153816)

      The whole western world is currently in a downward spiral into fascism. It's not just Australia. It's just really noticeable there. The definition of irony is the US forcing the Swiss banks to open up their records. Or was that the definition of farce? I'm not sure.

  • by MRe_nl (306212) on Thursday October 22, 2009 @04:54AM (#29833185)

    "The Australian Classification Board has written to Government expressing concerns that mobile phone applications are being made available in Australia without being subject to a ratings process."

    Government: magically transforming self-righteous assholes into civil servants.

  • by Ukab the Great (87152) on Thursday October 22, 2009 @05:05AM (#29833233)

    No need to worry yet. Perhaps the categories will be

    1. Boobies
    2. Extra Boobies
    3. Mediocre girl-girl
    4. Wicked Awesome girl-girl
    5. Why would you pay 99 cents for that boring thing, mate?

    • by serps (517783)

      3. Mediocre girl-girl
      4. Wicked Awesome girl-girl

      4.5: Suicide Girl

    • Re: (Score:1, Flamebait)

      by syousef (465911)

      You forgot:
      6. Fuck I'm so dumb I think an application can turn my iPhone into X-ray glasses. Why yes I do give you permission to spam me into oblivion at $5 per message.

  • ...isn't that what they call Ronald in Japan? [wikipedia.org]
  • by AdamInParadise (257888) on Thursday October 22, 2009 @06:35AM (#29833587) Homepage

    1) The South Korea's Games Rating Board is supposed to certify every game.
    2) The Jesus Phone is finally about to be launched in South Korea and it will be widely popular for lots of reasons (you can trust me on this one).

    But because of 1), the South Korean AppStore will not include games... [koreatimes.co.kr]

    Yes, a state can do that.

    [Already posted in a similar story a few days ago.]

  • I can only imagine that Mr. and Mrs. McDonald were forbidden to use contraceptives and were *not* happy to have the baby. What other reason can there be for the cruelty in naming their son Donald?

    This is right up there with the American soccer player in the 1994 World Cup called Tom Dooley ...
    • Or as in the case of Major Major Major Major, mum was out of it when the birth cert got filled out, and dad wasn't very imaginative.

    • by u38cg (607297)
      In parts of the world that don't perceive names in the same fairly narrow way that you do, a name like Donald MacDonald is fairly unremarkable. Slightly remarkable, but not sufficiently so as to incite speculation on the motives of the parents.
    • by Macgrrl (762836)

      Hand on my heart - this is true.

      I used to work at a company that had the following names on the staff directory: Wayne Carr, Wayne Kerr, Wayne King.

      Either their parents never said the full name out aloud beofre the christening, or they were particularly mean spirited.

  • Encourage piracy? The local RIAA should send a few lawyers their way.

  • by sukotto (122876) on Thursday October 22, 2009 @08:13AM (#29834293)

    Why don't we ever hear any GOOD news out of Australia? Is it just the media companies (and here I include /. ) only talking about the shitty stuff they're doing ... or is it really that shitty there now?

    Australia used to be cool.

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by donscarletti (569232)

      The news you get about Australia generally comes from Australians. Australians have a habit of complaining about things, especially their own country. What news you get out of Australia will generally honest, but very much focused on the negative. It does cut down on things like illegal immigration, since any Australian will happily tell the world how prevalent racism is in their society and the shamefully brutal treatment of refugees. But it is important to remember that what you hear about Australia is a

      • majority of australians don't complain, they take the "she'll be right" approach and get on with their lives, the ones that do complain vocally are those who try to stay abreast of current issues and what the govt is doing down here atm... which is essentially trying to convert a secular "democracy" into a theocracy http://www.smh.com.au/articles/2006/10/01/1159641213160.html [smh.com.au]
        I know race issues have been in the news down here recently, especially certain ethnic groups claiming that any crime committed agai
    • Their spiders still are pretty cool. Unfortunately, they don't seem to have planned to take over the country. I would welcome them more, that the current government. ^^

  • [Gilbert Huph]They're penetrating the bureaucracy![/Gilbert Huph]
  • Its about games. And its not just about iPhone or even mobile games, its the fact that there are all sorts of games available to Australians that are currently not being given an OFLC rating (including games for mobile phones).

    The government just wants to close a loophole and require games that are not sold in physical form to Australians (i.e. only available as a digital download) to obtain an OFLC rating in order to continue to be available to Australians.

    More so than mobile phone games, I want to know wh

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