While Australia's government pushes for an automated solution to speed up the work of the Classification Board (the government ratings agency in charge of classifying ratings for games and other forms of entertainment) in the country, civil liberties groups and anti-pornography groups in the country are sounding alarm bells.
The government has proposed the development of digital tools’ to speed up the work of the Classification Board. These tools would use data submitted to the Board by game developers and film and television companies (from surveys on a particular submission for a product) to speed up the process. The Board would review whatever the system came up with for a rating and could approve the findings or edit them at their discretion.
But some rights activists such as legal academic Lyria Bennett Moses and her colleagues at the University of NSW’s Cyberspace Law and Policy Community, have expressed concerns that these draft changes to classification law do not place enough restrictions on the use of automated classification tools.
"At worst, there would be no human judgment applied to the necessary human judgment matters central to the classification process,"’ Bennett Moses wrote in a submission to a Senate inquiry.
Meanwhile, Adelaide-based Family Voice Australia said that it did not believe the Government intended to use computer programs to make a classification decision and is deeply concerned that adult film makers will manipulate the system to get by the classification process.
"Given the high rate of breaches of existing rules by the pornography industry, this would not be a prudent approach to protecting the community," the group said.
Justice Minister Michael Keenan, who is at the heart of these proposed changes told Parliament recently that the draft Bill would require any classification tools to be approved by the relevant government minister.
"The Bill also provides the Classification Board with the opportunity to classify material even after it has been considered by an approved tool, if it considers that the decision is problematic," Keenan said. "As a final protection, if there are concerns about the effectiveness of a classification tool, its approval may be suspended or revoked at any time."
The computer games industry in Australia supports the use of automated tools to help speed up the often long delays waiting for material to be classified.