Section 313 of the Telecommunications Act 1997 provides that carriers or carriage service providers must, in connection with:
(a) the operation by the carrier or provider of telecommunications networks or facilities; or
(b) the supply by the carrier or provider of carriage services;
give officers and authorities of the Commonwealth and of the States and Territories such help as is reasonably necessary to:
(c) enforce the criminal law and laws imposing pecuniary penalties;
(ca) assist the enforcement of the criminal laws in force in a foreign country;
(d) protect the public revenue; or
(e) safeguard national security.
Section 313 provides Australian government agencies (including state government agencies) with the ability to obtain assistance from the telecommunications industry when upholding Australian laws. The Australian Federal Police (AFP) administers the Access Limitation Scheme which uses section 313 to block domains (websites) which contain the most severe child sexual abuse and exploitation material using the INTERPOL 'Worst of ' child abuse list. When a user seeks to access one of these sites, they are provided a block page that provides certain information, including reasons for the block, and contact details for any dispute about inclusion of the listing on the INTERPOL list. Other Commonwealth agencies have also in the past used section 313 to prevent the continuing operation of online services in breach or potentially in breach of Australian law (e.g. sites seeking to perpetrate financial fraud).
How law enforcement agencies use section 313 to request the disruption of such services is an important public policy question. Section 313 is also used for other purposes, but the Committee will inquire solely into and report on government agency use of section 313 for the purpose of disrupting illegal online services.
The Committee is to consider:
(a) which government agencies should be permitted to make requests pursuant to section 313 to disrupt online services potentially in breach of Australian law from providing these services to Australians
(b) what level of authority should such agencies have in order to make such a request
(c) the characteristics of illegal or potentially illegal online services which should be subject to such requests, and
(d) what are the most appropriate transparency and accountability measures that should accompany such requests, taking into account the nature of the online service being dealt with, and what is the best/appropriate method for implementing such measures:
b. Regulations, or
c. Government policy.