Optus facing boycott over porn sites

Optus facing boycott over porn sites, by Frank Walker - 5th December 2004
(Credit: The Sun Herald)

Family groups are calling for a nationwide boycott of Optus after it was revealed that the communications giant makes up to $100 million a year from international sex lines and internet pornography.

Optus is refusing to give up the trade even though its rival Telstra bowed to public pressure last year and dropped access to computer porn and phone-sex lines.

The extent of Optus's involvement in the porn trade was exposed in an internal memo produced in an obscure court case. The memo, from the Optus accounts department, said such services earned $100 million for the company.

The court case revealed Optus was acting as middleman in the lucrative global porn trade.

Optus was taken to court three years ago by Gibraltar-based porn merchant Gilsan, which claimed the carrier had not passed on up to $40 million owed to it from the trade.

Ruling against Optus, NSW Supreme Court judge Robert McDougall said Optus made a profit of $1 million a month from Gilsan.

The revelation sparked calls for a boycott, led by the Australian Family Association whose NSW spokesman, Damien Tudehope, encouraged the community to "avoid using Optus until they don't run this stuff".

"We will be organising our members and working with other groups to encourage an Optus boycott until it stops," Mr Tudehope said.

He said big corporate involvement in the porn industry encouraged the loss of respect in the community. "We are feeding our kids a diet of this stuff, and as parents we are struggling to instil values in our kids," he said.

Young Media Australia president Jane Roberts said Optus should use its huge profits from the porn trade to make sure children could not access such sites. "Optus does have a corporate responsibility to ensure their services are not promoting harm in the community," she said.

An ethics consultant, Jane Walton, said Optus bore responsibility for what was carried on its services.

"Optus should not be involved in spreading pornography," she said.

"They bear responsibility for what they are making money out of. They can't just say they supply the phone line and wash their hands for what people put on it."

Optus plans to launch an adults-only porn and gambling mobile phone service called Optus Zoo Adult.

An Optus spokesman, Paul Fletcher, said the company had complied with all the regulations in Australia regarding internet content although he admitted that it did not check on what was carried on its international lines.

"It is not for us to make social judgements about the kind of material that should be carried," he said. "Those judgements are made by the regulators in each country, and we comply with those in Australia."

Adult services were only a tiny proportion of Optus business, he said.

"Optus takes its obligations as a provider of services to the Australian community very seriously. We comply scrupulously with regulations [of] internet services. None of this traffic [involving Gilsan] is related to the provision of services to Australian consumers."




The Adult Industry