InternetNZ president Keith Davidson says the select committee report into objectionable material contains a sober warning for ISPs: introduce a code of practice now or have one forced upon you by government in the future.
The select committee reviewing the Films, Videos and Publications Act has made a number of recommendations to government (see ISPs should be licensed says report) including the licensing of ISPs to better control their behaviour. It also calls for a voluntary code of practice (COP) for ISPs that will be enforced should ISPs not comply.
Davidson hopes ISPs will take this as a wake-up call and rally round the proposed InternetNZ COP.
"We're pretty hopeful that the outcome from all this might be more people making a real commitment to self regulation rather than seeing some draconian regulation introduced."
Davidson's hopeful the select committee has learned lessons from the Australian model, where ISPs are liable for material held on their networks and must provide end-user filtering software.
"ISPs don't want to be policemen deciding what is and isn't objectionable. We can only hope sensibility prevails."
Davidson says while it is reasonable to expect ISPs to keep logs and to help track users or traffic when presented with a warrant, it is quite another thing to expect ISPs to hold this data for long periods of time.
"I'd expect to see quite a few ISPs going to the wall if they're forced to spend tens of thousands of dollars on servers to store what is a phenomenal amount of data."
Ultimately, Davidson says the internet is like a mirror to society.
"If we don't like what we see in the mirror we have to change what's on this side, it's not that easy to change what's on the other side. Society itself has to change because people who have strange and objectionable ideas in their heads are going to continue with those whether or not the internet exists."