The Australian Classification Board (ACB) has confirmed to Somebody Think Of The Children that a person’s overall appearance is used by the Board to determine whether someone appears to look under the age of 18 in a film or publication.

A spokesperson for the Board said the overall appearance of persons in publications in conjunction with the context in which they are depicted, including text, props and poses were considered when making their decisions.

Donald McDonald, Director, Australian Classification Board

Donald McDonald, Director, Australian Classification Board

However, the Director of the Australian Classification Board, Donald McDonald, refused to answer repeated questions from this blog about the specifics of breast size in deciding on a person’s apparent age. Asked whether breast size was considered by the Board when determining age, McDonald said he had no further comment to make.

Adult with an I.D? No Dice:

In Australia the National Classification Code dictates that anything that describes or depicts a person who appears to be a child under 18, even if they are an adult, in a way that is likely to cause offence, must be banned. State Criminal Acts are stricter, with for example Victoria’s, South Australia’s and Queensland’s child pornography laws making depictions of adults that appear to be underage illegal.

Last week news broke that the Board was banning publications which contained models who appeared to be underage because of their small breasts. Although these rules are not new, it was not necessarily known what criteria the ACB was using to determine a model’s age.

Because the Board’s guidelines do not specify breast size or what appearance constitutes a person under the age of 18, the process for determining a subject’s age is likely to be subjective and inconsistent.

The ACB said that Barely Legal, Purely 18 and Finally Legal magazine titles were banned because they contained a person that appeared to be under 18, the Board said some of these issues were Refused Classification (RC refers to items banned for sale in Australia) because they contained offensive depictions of someone who was or appeared to be under 18 years. Other issues were classified RC for offensive fantasies involving rape and incest.

Huge public response:

In a press release issued last week by the the Australian Sex Party, and in further detail here, Fiona Patten described how during a Classification Board training session, which she and three adult magazine distributors and one publisher attended, the underdeveloped nature of a model’s breasts was cited as a reason for an image to be Refused Classification numerous times. A massive worldwide response to the story followed, with traffic placing so much stress on this blog that it suffered downtime on multiple occasions.

Colin Jacobs, Vice Chair of Electronic Frontiers Australia, said the Classification Board has a duty to be transparent with the public about what is being censored and why.

“A process as subjective as determining the apparent age of a model is really a very problematic basis for a classification guideline, and this demonstrates it perfectly,” he said. “We don’t blame the Board for enforcing the law, but we do blame them if they aren’t forthcoming on how or why they’re enforcing it in this case. The only reason censorship is compatible with democracy is that it’s transparent.”