Australia Internet Filter: List Leaked

Posted: March 19, 2009 in Australia, News, Politics, Technology
Tags: , , ,

censorship-smallFor those who may have missed it, the Australia Federal Government are currently trying to introduce mandatory internet filters to the entire country.  Ignoring the technical side of things, which in themselves are ludicrous, the ethical and democratic arguments certainly bury the idea for any sort of rationally thinking person.

The following stories have come out over the past day or two, all of which are worthy of close interest:

Internet filter blacklist leaked on web

The communication regulator’s blacklist of banned internet sites has apparently been leaked, prompting an internet advocacy group to accuse the Government of making it easy to access child pornography.

The Government is planning to introduce a mandatory internet filter that will block access to a list of dangerous websites.

The list of sites – managed by the Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA) – is designed to catalogue sites containing child pornography or other criminal content.

Wikileaks, an organisation that aims to reveal secret information, today published what it claims to be the ACMA blacklist.

As well as child pornography, the list of 2,395 pages also includes online gambling sites, YouTube links, regular porn and fetish sites, and websites of a tour operator, Queensland boarding kennel and a Queensland dentist. It also includes the Wikileaks website.

“We now find Australia acting like a democratic backwater,” the Wikileaks site says.

“Apparently without irony, ACMA threatens fines of up to $11,000 a day for linking to sites on its secret, unreviewable, censorship blacklist – a list the Government hopes to expand into a giant national censorship machine.”

ACMA says it is likely to make a comment on the matter later today.

Wikileaks has previously published similar lists from Thailand, Denmark and Norway. The blacklist includes the Wikileaks website itself.

Internet freedom advocacy group Electronic Frontiers Australia (EFA) says the leaking of the list has confirmed their fears that the Government was creating a quick and easy database for dangerous sites.

“This was bound to happen, especially as mandatory filtering would require the list to be distributed to ISPs all around the country,” EFA vice-chair Colin Jacobs said.

“The Government is now in the unenviable business of compiling and distributing a list which includes salacious and illegal material and publicising those very sites to the world.”

Mr Jacobs also said the list revealed how many sites could be unwittingly dragged into the net of censorship.

“Now that we have seen the list, it is clearly not the perfect weapon against child-abuse it has been made out to be,” said Jacobs.

“Many of the sites clearly contain only run-of-the-mill adult material, poker tips, or nothing controversial at all. Even if some of these sites may have been defaced at the time they were added to the list, how would the operators get their sites removed if the list is secret and no appeal is possible?”

The ABC has been unable to contact Broadband and Communications Minister Stephen Conroy, but he is quoted by Fairfax as saying any Australians involved in the leak could face criminal charges.

“No-one interested in cyber safety would condone the leaking of this list,” he said.

Leaked blacklist irresponsible, inaccurate: Conroy

Broadband and Communications Minister Stephen Conroy says a list claiming to be the communication regulator’s blacklist for a proposed internet filtering system is not the real blacklist.

He has condemned Wikileaks, the website that published the list, as “grossly irresponsible”.

This morning Wikileaks published what it says is the Australian Communication and Media Authority’s (ACMA) blacklist of banned websites that is being used in trials of a proposed mandatory internet filtering system.

The filter is designed to protect children from accessing child pornography and other criminal content.

As well as child pornography, the published list of 2,395 pages also includes online gambling sites, YouTube links, regular porn and fetish sites, and websites of a tour operator, Queensland boarding kennel and a Queensland dentist. It also includes the Wikileaks website.

“The leak and publication of prohibited URLs is grossly irresponsible. It undermines efforts to improve cyber-safety and create a safe online environment for children,” Senator Conroy said.

“Under existing laws the ACMA blacklist includes URLs relating to child sexual abuse, rape, incest, bestiality, sexual violence and detailed instruction in crime.

“I am aware of reports that a list of URLs has been placed on a website. This is not the ACMA blacklist.”

He says the published list purports to be current at August 6 2008 and apparently contains approximately 2,400 URLs, whereas the ACMA blacklist for the same date contained 1,061 URLs.

“There are some common URLs to those on the ACMA blacklist. However, ACMA advises that there are URLs on the published list that have never been the subject of a complaint or ACMA investigation, and have never been included on the ACMA blacklist,” he said.

“ACMA is investigating this matter and is considering a range of possible actions it may take including referral to the Australian Federal Police. Any Australian involved in making this content publicly available would be at serious risk of criminal prosecution.”

His comments were backed up by one of the internet service providers (ISPs) involved with the trial of internet filtering.

The managing director of Tech 2U, one of six ISPs involved in a trial of filtering technology, told ABC News Online the list bore little resemblance to the official ACMA version.

“The list released on Wikileaks does not agree with the list which was provided to us earlier this year,” Andrew Robson said.

“I don’t know where this list came from, but our copy is kept very securely and only one person in the organisation has access to it.”

Senator Conroy says his department will continue to work with vendors of filtering software to develop technology to filter out websites that have been deemed prohibited under the Broadcasting Services Act.

Internet freedom advocacy group Electronic Frontiers Association (EFA) earlier said the leaking of the list has confirmed their fears that the Government was creating a quick and easy database for dangerous sites.

“This was bound to happen, especially as mandatory filtering would require the list to be distributed to ISPs all around the country,” EFA vice-chair Colin Jacobs said.

“The Government is now in the unenviable business of compiling and distributing a list which includes salacious and illegal material and publicising those very sites to the world.”

The Wikileaks.org pages in question are:

http://www.wikileaks.org/wiki/Banned_hyperlinks_could_cost_you_11%2C000_dollars_a_day

http://www.wikileaks.org/wiki/Australian_government_secret_ACMA_internet_censorship_blacklist%2C_6_Aug_2008

The second list contains the list itself and, as a read of it reveals, a lot of sites which are perfectly legal (and even ones not controversial in the least) are caught on it already … while the Federal Government has claimed that the final list may very well be up to 10,000 addresses in size so imagine all the innocent sites that will be caught by the list then.

Advertisements
Comments
  1. sunnyskeptic says:

    Mandatory internet filters imposed on an entire country seems, hmmmm, a bit much to me. 🙂

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s