As Predicted, Australian Government Looks To Creep Site Censorship Into Search Censorship

from the creep-creep-creep dept

Earlier this year, we discussed Australia’s Department of Communications asking for feedback on the effectiveness of its site-blocking policy after it had been in place for several years. The copyright industries both local and foreign leapt at the chance, making two divergent claims. Claim one: site-blocking is working really, really well and should be continued. Claim two: site-blocking is being vastly undermined by, you guessed it, Google, and the government should extend site-blocking into search-blocking as a result. We made the point at the time that this type of thing occurs like clockwork: you open the door to some censorship and those cheering it on will attempt to expand it further.

Well, after collecting its feedback, the Australian Department of Communications has come out with proposed amendments to Australian copyright law that would, you guessed it again, force search engines to censor links to so-called “pirate sites.”

The aims of the Copyright Amendment (Online Infringement) Bill 2018 are fairly straightforward.

Where existing legislation compels ISPs to prevent access to sites listed in an injunction, the amendments attempt to deal with sites that “have started to provide access to the online location after the injunction is made”, meaning that subsequently appearing mirrors and proxies can be dealt with much more quickly.

Turning to the perceived problems with search engines, the amendments will allow rightsholders to apply for injunctions that will not only target infringing ‘online locations’ but also their appearance in search results.

Again, this is plainly stupid. Search engines have one goal if they want to be successful: return the most relevant search results to a user’s query. That’s it. The problem in all of this is that the Australian public searches for infringing content. For a company like Google to kneecap its own usefulness in this manner makes no sense and, again, opens the door to force search engines to behave in all kinds of ways that governments may desire. And, yes, that’s a slippery slope argument, except we’re already inching down this particular slippery slope, making it a question of just how far down Australia will slide.

And, because of course, the requirements placed on search companies are both vague and onerous.

Companies including Google will be required to “take such steps as the Court considers reasonable so as not to provide a search result that refers users to the online location.” Search providers will also be compelled to deal with the subsequent appearance of mirrors and proxies by ensuring that these don’t appear in search results either.

In a statement published this morning, the Department of Communications offered the following summary.

“The Copyright Amendment Bill will ensure a broader range of overseas websites and file-hosting services widely used for sharing music and movies are within the scope of the scheme, and provide a means for proxy and mirror pirate sites to be blocked quickly,” the statement reads.

Let’s be clear about what this is. This new legislation is a national government requiring a useful internet tool to be less useful to the average Australian citizen that is searching the internet, simply as a favor to a few big content players in both Australia and, what will be more common, abroad. That’s a clear disservice by the Australian government to its own people.

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Comments on “As Predicted, Australian Government Looks To Creep Site Censorship Into Search Censorship”

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skyiye says:

Re: Government dysfunction

<“The current government here is a bunch of dysfunctional morons.”>

well, same problem here in U.S.

Cynics/Realists might suggest this is the core nature of government itself. Those enamored with big intrusive,arbitrary government rule(s) are unable to explain the huge routine dysfunction and failures of modern democratic governments– but the usual empty excuse proffered is that the ‘wrong people’ have somehow managed to occupy key government positions…. so, “if only our guys ran the government — things would be really great!”

They never discern the basic problem

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Government dysfunction

The issue is the type of people who seek power and can make it past the filter. “Small” government is just as capable of abuse – especially because nobody is watching or able to hold them accountable. Monopolies filled by nongovernments are often abusive with the usual perk of not being able to use physical force against you.

Not tolerating the wrong people is part of the solution. If people find being a lobbyist more offensive than having a n affair there will be fewer former lobbyists as elected officials.

Wendy Cockcroft (user link) says:

Re: Re:

The current government here is a bunch of dysfunctional morons. They want to bust encryption wide open because we are now all terrorist suspects and they are in total thrall of big business. This is just business as usual for these technologically ignorant idiots.

We’ve got the same problem here. Actually it seems to be a Western thing for some mad reason. ::Cough!:: Neoliberalism::Cough cough!::

jaack65 (profile) says:

Technical Idiots Making Laws is Very Bad

Since the lawmakers are in the pockets of copyright industries, we should not expect critical thinking skills from these morons. Legislators are con-men(women). Convincing unsuspecting voters they have the publics best interest at heart is such a lie that voters swallow these lies hook, line, and sinker!
VOTE VOTE VOTE and put in people who will work for the PEOPLE and not big business as is done in the USA currently. Hopefully, minority parties will make more gains and have a bigger impact on laws rather than business owning the government.

ECA (profile) says:

Always amazed..

A few things are always amazing..
The first is that The Gov. cant tell TRUTH from Blatant lies.. If you or I brought this info to the gov. we would be scrutinized all to hell.. It would be like having a HUGE bag of letters on my back as Proof…and they would have a 3rd party go thru it to PROVE it was fake.. Why are they not doing the same to ALL these corps.

Piracy has been around FOREVER.. Then we added Laws that said the first person to do it, has ??? long to use it before others can do ANYTHING with it.. But even with THOSE laws.. it happens.
But PART and PARCEL of something strange. NO MATTER what it is, IF’ its to expensive or restricted by Location, group Age, religion..ANYTHING…some one will make copies and sell it. from 1/2 the price to MORE then the price…BECAUSE the company ISNT fulfilling the idea that they can do it BETTER/CHEAPER/AS YOU WANT IT/WHEN YOU WANT IT/ and as a variety product.(more selection to whats available)
If they WONT/CANT supply it, someone ELSE WILL..
If you cant MAKE it cheap…THEY WILL..
If you are over pricing a Product, THEY WONT..

another part of this idea is…THEY are part of the black market. In a restricted area, OR if they restrict it THEMSELVES.. CORP MENTALITY AT ITS BEST..

ECA (profile) says:

Re: Always amazed..

Proprietary contracts..

Do i have to spell this out??
Contracts that RESTRICT a reseller from selling ANYTHING ELSe but 1 companies product..
RIAA/MPAA restricting resellers from selling Private distribution recordings??
anyone notice Stores not selling ANY other batteries EXCEPT the 2 big corps??

No competition..restricted competition..
If you take this contract you cant sell PEPSI, and we give you a Cut rate..
If you sell OUR BEER, you cant sell ???? beer.

What would happen if we could get RID of all these contracts…HOW much cheaper it would be if there were MORE competition..REAL competition.

Rekrul says:

If only there were some kind of global computer network that would enable Google to run their company in America, where they don’t have to obey the laws of other countries, but still allow people around the world to access their service. Someone should really build something like that. They could call it The Multinet or something catchy like that. Yup, it sure is a shame that something like that doesn’t exist…

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