The regulation of Internet content has been topical for some time, but no consensus has arisen as to whether or not there should be any such regulation, the extent to which there should be regulation, nor as to the means by which regulation might be achieved. However, in recent years a number of attempts have been made by individual nations to regulate content, or access to content, on the Internet. One such attempt, the Australian Broadcasting Services Amendment (Online Services) Act 1999 (Commonwealth), which was introduced specifically to regulate Internet content, serves as an excellent case study in examining the purposes and mechanisms of regulation. In this chapter I will discuss this attempt in detail, and briefly contrast the Australian example with similar attempts to regulate Internet content in Singapore and China. The very different methods applied in each country, and the differing degrees of regulation, reflect to a great extent each nation's historical, social, legal, and political environment. This environment may, in fact, be a most important indicator of the level of content control achieved, due to the technological difficulties encountered in attempting to control Internet content.
As the Internet grew ever more user-friendly, and became more accessible to people around the world, it was hailed in many quarters as the harbinger of democracy and freedom throughout the globe. The speed of Internet communications, the possibilities for interactivity, the anarchic and non-hierarchical structure, the promise that anyone could be author, publisher, and recipient of an infinite quantity of content, and the ability for communications to route around interruptions, all led to a belief that the Internet would change the world. Many believed that those living under repressive regimes, starved of news and information, and kept out of contact with