Challenge To Existing Australian Censorship Rules Rejected
from the don't-link-to-anything-the-government-doesn't-like dept
While we’ve been covering the ongoing back and forth about proposed new internet censorship rules in Australia we didn’t quite realize that Australia already has internet censorship rules in place. Michael Scott points us to the news of Electronic Frontiers Australia (sort of an EFF for Australia, but with no official relationship between the two) challenging an attempt by Australian officials to censor a blog post EFA put together to highlight Australian censorship:
In May 2009, EFA published this blog post discussing the current censorship regime in the context of the new filtering system soon to be introduced. As part of that discussion, we included a link to a page on American website abortiontv.com that we discovered was on ACMA’s blacklist. Abortion being a sensitive political issue, we felt it illustrated the dangers of internet censorship in general and a secret blacklist in particular. Furthermore, since discussion site Whirlpool had received a notice instructing them to delete the link, we thought it highlighted the serious way in which internet content in Australia is already regulated.
Shortly thereafter, EFA’s web host at the time, Sublime IP, received a “Link Deletion Notice” of their own, for the link contained in the EFA post hosted on their servers. They contacted us, and given the fines involved, EFA complied. (The post in question is still redacted.)
EFA helped its ISP, Sublime, challenge the deletion notice on two counts: (1) that it was a violation of the supposed freedom of political communication, especially since it was a discussion about the “political effects of censorship policy,” and (2) that officials should have sent the notice to EFA directly, rather than its ISP (in fact, EFA had asked for a notice to be sent directly to it, rather than Sublime, so that it could take on the case directly… and officials refused).
Unfortunately, the Australian Administrative Appeals Tribunal (AAT) rejected both challenges, twisting itself into a bit of pretzel logic to explain why this wasn’t a violation of freedom for political communication. Basically, the tribunal claimed that EFA could have hidden the link behind a special “restricted access system” that would block that content for those under 18 (in theory, of course, but not in practice). And, since you have to be 18 to vote, the tribunal reasoned, if such a age verification wall had been in place, the content would not have been blocked from those of voting age… and thus there was no violation of political communication. Yes, that’s quite twisted logic, but if you’re defending internet censorship, sooner or later your logic is going to get twisted into knots…