Legal Issues Associated with the Study of Sexual Content on the Internet in Australia04 January 2017
Scholarly recognition of the research potentials of the Internet has resulted in a growing interest in using computer-mediated communication to study different aspects of human sexuality. Although there is a growing literature on the ethical issues associated with Internet-based research, little attention has been given to the legal issues associated with conducting scholarly research on Internet sexual content. This lacuna stands in contrast to the growing public debate about the legal issues associated with attempts by authorities to restrict adult access to Internet content through filtering services and age-restricted access technologies. These measures appear to be focused on three issues — controlling access to sexually explicit content in order to protect children from accessing sexually inappropriate material; restricting the production and dissemination of child pornography; and addressing national security concerns by blocking content related to the promotion of terrorism and cybercrime. In Australia, critics of laws designed to restrict Internet content focus their discussion on the dangers of censorship and the associated undermining of freedom of speech. But within the scholarly community there has been little concomitant interest in addressing the impact that Australian Commonwealth and State legislation related to Internet content has on academic research.