Dark net cast over Rolf Harris case

07-Aug-2014

Law lecturer Felicity Gerry QC says the Rolf Harris case shines light on dark net

Law lecturer Felicity Gerry QC says the Rolf Harris case shines light on dark net


A Charles Darwin University academic said Rolf Harris’ alleged links to child pornography on the internet has renewed debate about internet freedoms and regulations.

Following the disgraced Australian entertainer’s sentencing for indecently assaulting children, Law lecturer Felicity Gerry QC said the case highlighted the importance of introducing what might be called a “bill of rights for the internet”.

It was reported that Harris had entered paedophilic search terms into his computer. Charges alleging Harris made (downloaded) indecent images of children were not pursued.

Miss Gerry said paedophilic activity was often used as an argument to censor the internet, but she warned caution needed to be taken to ensure essential internet freedoms were protected.

“Access to the internet is liberating and educational but, unfortunately and perhaps inevitably, it has also been used a great deal to facilitate cybercrime,” she said.

“This is then used as a justification for intrusive surveillance and over regulation.”

Miss Gerry proposed the introduction of a set of guiding principles for internet rights and responsibilities in her recent presentation, “The Rule of Law Online: You can’t steal cakes that Google haven’t baked”.

She presented the paper at the Defining the Sensor Society Conference at the University of Queensland earlier this year.

The conference explored significant questions about the role of privacy, power and surveillance in the society of the ever-watching, ever-sensing, and always-on interactive devices.

“Perhaps the legacy of Rolf Harris will be the improvement of the law and jurisdiction in relation to global abuse, whether physical and direct or online,” she said.

“What is really needed is something people can connect with, something that can protect openness and freedom and also allow for appropriate and transparent regulation.”

Miss Gerry suggested introducing an enforceable Convention of online rights and responsibilities, involving agreed protocols for the retention and disposal of data.

“A set of basic principles relating to what can or cannot be controlled, together with a system of scrutiny that is independent of the current commercialisation of the internet,” she said.

Miss Gerry expressed these views in an article co-authored with CDU Law Research and Development Officer Nadya Berova entitled: “The rule of law online: Treating data like the sale of goods: Lessons for the internet from OECD and CISG and sacking Google as the regulator”.

The article will be published in the next edition of The Computer Law & Security Review (Elsevier).

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