Issue No 25: 14 November 2016
Comms Essentials – Artificial Intelligence
Wednesday 7th December 2016
This Communications Alliance Comms Essentials seminar will focus on the future of Artificial Intelligence and the opportunities and challenges that come with it.
Who should attend:
Communications Alliance members and other stakeholders
"The future of Artificial Intelligence”
“Artificial Intelligence – what does it mean for telecommunications network operators?”
Artificial Intelligence – Legal Implications & Challenges
Wednesday, 7th December 2016, 9:30am to 12:00pm
AMTA, CA Warn on Forcing Telcos to Regulate Electoral Content
Reprinted with the kind permission of Communications Day
Communications Alliance CEO John Stanton and Australian Mobile Telecommunications Association CEO Chris Althaus have spoken out against any attempt to turn telcos into ‘gatekeepers’ of content, specifically regarding electoral communications. They argue any such initiative would be costly, clash with existing legislation, impinge on citizens’ rights and likely be ineffective in any case – particularly given that telcos, as distinct from broadcasters, have almost no control or visibility of the content travelling over their networks.
Stanton and Althaus have both just appeared before the Joint Standing Committee on Electoral Matters, which has been tasked by the federal government to look into the authorisation of voter communications after the ‘Mediscare’ incident in this year’s federal election campaign.
During the campaign, thousands of voters received spoofed messages – purportedly from Medicare – claiming that “Mr Turnbull’s plans to privatise Medicare will take us down the road of no return. Time is running out to save Medicare.” Labor’s Queensland branch was reported as confessing it had sent the messages, though it said it had not intended to make them appear to come from Medicare, and was cleared of having committed any Commonwealth offences by the Australian Federal Police.
As part of its inquiry, the JSCEM has now asked the telecoms bodies whether carriers and service providers “could be made responsible for ensuring that electoral content carried over telecommunications networks is appropriately authorised or whether they might have an obligation to assist authorities if communications are noncompliant.”
Both in an earlier submission and in their latest appearance, AMTA and CA responded that industry would already supply information about the service from which a message originated, if asked by authorised officers or agencies. But they warned that “any proposal that our industry more broadly could or ought to ‘police’ the traffic that it carries over its networks raises fundamental concerns.”
Althaus and Stanton noted that citizens had certain rights to communicate without surveillance from the state or other entities; that mass communications surveillance presented technical difficulties and in any case might be relatively ineffective give the immediacy of communication; and that any moves in this direction would result in high costs and regulatory burdens on all forms of legacy and internet-based communications, including social media.
More fundamentally, they pointed out that the role of telcos was fundamentally different to that of print, TV and radio broadcasters in that carriers had no control over the content of communications carried over their networks. “C/CSPs do not, in the ordinary course of business, pre-approve, authorise or have any similar role in relation to third-party content carried by their networks/services, unlike print, TV or radio broadcasters who broadcast advertisements or community service announcements at the request of communicating parties and determine their content programming schedule,” they said. Indeed, Stanton and Althaus added that the 1997 Telecommunications Act specifically prohibited disclosure of the content or substance of communications by carriers, and that there was no requirement on carriers to inspect or collect such content.
“We are simply the mechanism to carry, we don’t have any influence whatsoever,” Althaus told CommsDay. He also suggested that the Committee had not completely grasped the sheer volume of data involved.
“Particularly when you go into over-the-top messaging applications like Facebook and so on, there’s an enormous amount of activity – but the ability to interrogate that sort of data by carriers is even more complicated,” said the AMTA CEO. “We just basically tried to state the facts that we’ve got all sorts of legislative requirements, the content is the content, and if they want to require someone to say ‘this is a message by X on behalf of Y’ that’s down to the content end of it – not the carriage!”
User Requirements for Future Local, Mobile and 18/13 Number Portability for Australia