Australia, Once Again, Seeks To Censor The Internet

from the downunder-fail dept

For about a decade now, we've been talking about attempt after attempt after attempt after attempt by the Australian government to censor the internet.

It looks like they're at it again. After much pressure from the Australian government, the country's two largest ISPs, Telstra and Optus (along with two smaller ISPs, itExtreme and Webshield) have agreed to start censoring the internet, blocking a secret list of websites from view. The government will give them the list, and they'll block. There's no review or accountability, and the government can just put webpages they don't like on the list... and too bad:

The problem with such a plan is multi-layered: First, there is no transparency in the selection of URLs to be blacklisted, and no accountability from the regulatory bodies creating the blacklists. The “reputable international organizations” providing child abuse URLs have not been named, but may include the Internet Watch Foundation, a UK-based organization that in 2008 advised UK ISPs to block a Wikipedia page containing an album cover from the 1970s that they deemed might be illegal.

The ACMA itself has run into problems with its blacklist as well. After Wikileaks published the regulator’s blacklist in 2009, it was discovered that the list contained the website of a Queensland-based dentist, as well as numerous other sites unrelated to child sexual abuse or illegal pornography.

Second, filtering does little to curb the trade of child pornography, much of which is traded across peer to peer networks and VPNs. Filtering it from the world wide web may simply push it further underground.

Third, there appears to be no appeals process in the Australian ISPs’ scheme, thereby making it difficult for sites erroneously caught up in the filter to challenge the block.

Lastly, the introduction of a filter sets precedent for the ISPs to filter more sites in the future at the behest of the ACMA. If the ACMA were to make the decision that sites deemed "indecent" or politically controversial--for example--should be off-limits, would the ISPs comply?

This has all been discussed many times before, and yet the Australian government just can't resist. No matter how many times it's explained to them the clear unintended consequences of blind censorship, and the fact that it won't do any good, they just keep pushing forward with the same plan.


Reader Comments (rss)

(Flattened / Threaded)

  1.  
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    Beta (profile), Jun 24th, 2011 @ 4:35pm

    they can't even get rid of rabbits

    I have to wonder 1) what these ISPs got in exchange, 2) how much of a competitive advantage this gives to uncensored ISPs, and 3) what business models can be built on 1 and 2.

     

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  2.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Jun 24th, 2011 @ 4:49pm

    The two main companies got in return access to the new fiber to the node high speed cables the goverment is about to lay to every house.

    http://www.businessspectator.com.au/bs.nsf/Article/Telstra-seals-NBN-deal-pd20110623-J3UPL?opend ocument&src=rss

    Funny the press conference didnt mention anything described in the article being included in the deal ;)

    Background: TELSTRA is a monopoly, previously owned by all, now by a few, they own all the telecommunication infrastructure, now we are going to buy it all back from them for 11billion over 10years.

    OPTUS is the nearest competitor to testra, they get 1 billion.

    The other two companies ive never heard of, probably owned by goverment stooges.

     

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  3.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Jun 24th, 2011 @ 6:29pm

    The government just needs to adapt. If you can break the law on the internet they just have to accept it and let people break the law.

    That's how things work, right?

     

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  4.  
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    harbingerofdoom (profile), Jun 24th, 2011 @ 6:33pm

    just like any other time you are sitting there watching some group standing in front of a brick wall doing nothing but repeatedly smashing their heads against it over and over...

    people would rather kill themselves by repeatedly smashing their noggin on a brick wall in the vain attempt to prove themselves right than admit they were wrong in the first place.

     

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  5.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Jun 24th, 2011 @ 7:00pm

    Hey, that's a violation of the first amendment... oh, wait..

     

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  6.  
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    Kaotik4266 (profile), Jun 24th, 2011 @ 7:35pm

    Nice to see my government representing my interests...
    /sarcasm

     

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  7.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Jun 24th, 2011 @ 11:26pm

    I have no doubt at all that this list will be leaked regularly by ISP employees and if not, it will be hacked out in short order. It won't take many of those leaks to create a major uproar when it's shown what's really being blocked.

    The politicians pushing it had better look to their careers when that happens.

     

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  8.  
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    btr1701 (profile), Jun 24th, 2011 @ 11:28pm

    Re:

    > The government just needs to adapt. If you can break the law
    > on the internet they just have to accept it and let people
    > break the law.

    Which law was the dentist whose site ended up on the list breaking again?

     

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  9.  
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    RadialSkid (profile), Jun 25th, 2011 @ 1:27am

    Re: they can't even get rid of rabbits

    I suspect the answer to 1 is most likely "browbeating and threats."

     

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  10.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Jun 25th, 2011 @ 1:32am

    Re: Look To Their Careers

    They are looking pretty hard now. The government is the ALP and their vote, according to the latest opinion polls, has fallen to record lows. The next federal election in Australia is going to be a slaughter.

    Censorship is a technique which is too dangerous to allow Australian politicians to get hold of. A rather high proportion of the Australian electorate agree.

     

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  11.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Jun 25th, 2011 @ 2:26am

    Just one more reason to get out of Afghanistan and Libya and invade someone who deserves it. Australia's been stockpiling venomous animals for years. They're clearly up to something.

     

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  12.  
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    anonymous, Jun 25th, 2011 @ 4:09am

    so who is giving the government the list of web sites to block? they dont have the intelligence to make their own list, so it is obviously going to be one the entertainment industries concoct!

     

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  13.  
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    The Devil's Coachman (profile), Jun 25th, 2011 @ 5:13am

    Please don't preach to the moron

    They'll get upset and grind their few remaining horrid and yellowed teeth to stumps. And they they won't be able to find the dentist whose site was blocked. Can't you see the potential harm you're causing?

     

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  14.  
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    darryl, Jun 25th, 2011 @ 5:59am

    that sucks.

    at least you are correct this time, this is about censorship and has nothing to do with copyright.

    This type of blacklist is rife for abuse by governments, and as an optus ISP user, I will not have to consider alternatives.

    Even though I am quite sure none of the blacklisted sites will affect me at all.

    But to have web site blacklisted because they have "teen" in their URL is just plain wrong.

    www.canteen.com.au was one I believe was on the list, which is a web site dedicated to help children with cancer.

    but it was on the blacklist

     

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  15.  
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    darryl, Jun 25th, 2011 @ 6:24am

    Re:

    thats right in australia, we are at least fortunate enough not to have to live under a set of rule that you have to live my 'the laws'. And then be given a list of things you ARE allowed to do, You're beloved constitution.

    Thank goodness for that as well, we are at least smart enough to not have to live by two set's of 'rules' and things you are allowed to do, along with a list of things you are not. (and to have the problem where things can be on both lists !!).

    No, we just have the law, just like you do, but we do not have another thing that tells us what apart from what the laws say you are allowed to do.

    "I am allowed to carry a gun, but I am not allowed to kill people with it!!!!, what the hell".. great system.

     

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  16.  
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    darryl, Jun 25th, 2011 @ 6:32am

    Re:

    "interest groups" and "watchdogs" is who, but they also would have to view (in detail) those sites to determine their blacklist status.

    If so, would they not be guilty of viewing such material ?

    But once again, at least here in Austalia we can simply vote out an unpopular government and we are not bound by a subset of rules that even the Governement is not rightly able to modify.

    Whereas your government is "it's in the constitution that we can do this so bad luck", in Aussie the Gov cannot do that, and if they want to stay in power they have to bend to the majority of the people wishes.

    There will be a big backlash to this, and there will be no "patriot act" or anything that will stop the people making their feelings known, especially at the next elections, which are compulsory here in Australia.

    So everyone has their say..

    and if they really screw up we can have an vote of 'no confidence' in parliment, and call a general election and let the people decide.

    So I still believe our system is far superior to many many other countries, and especially the US.

     

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  17.  
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    Gene Cavanaugh (profile), Jun 25th, 2011 @ 9:59am

    Australian censorship

    Someone should hack into the list and put Aussie government agencies on it.

     

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  18.  
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    RadialSkid (profile), Jun 26th, 2011 @ 1:07am

    Re: Re:

    Given your grammar and spelling, I'm having a bit of difficultly with your post, but from what I can glean from it, you apparently do not understand the purpose of the US Constitution, nor the importance of it.

     

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  19.  
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    Paul Hobbs (profile), Jun 26th, 2011 @ 4:02am

    Re: Re: Re:

    Don't mind Darryl - he's "special". Not to mention "reality challenged".

     

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  20.  
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    Big Al, Jun 26th, 2011 @ 4:17am

    Re:

    You're only jealous because we have kangaroos and 'Coat of Arms' barbecues - seriously, we have the kangaroo and emu on our coat of arms and they're both delicious!

     

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  21.  
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    Slicerwizard, Jun 26th, 2011 @ 12:53pm

    darryl, you twat

    Huh, so the darryl dimwit finally gets onside with Mike when an issue threatens to negatively impact him. That's real classy dude.

     

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  22.  
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    Richard (profile), Jun 26th, 2011 @ 3:38pm

    Honestly the scary thing to me is the fact that this isn't being required by law, and Tel$tra and Optu$ aren't known for their strong beliefs in moral causes, and still they're doing this. I understand when "religious" ISP's block these kind of lists, but when a bog standard corporation does it, the mind boggles.

    And if people think that a change in govt back to the libs will actually change anything, maybe you're just not as cynical as me. Or do you think the democrats will make a showing this time? or worse... the greens...

     

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  23.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Jun 27th, 2011 @ 6:09pm

    Re: Re:

    do your research darryl... the american's political system is founded on far better principles than any other in todays world... but the people are to ignorant to realise they can stand up and take their rights back... yes. they have rights... innate rights which the government cannot take away from them... thats what the constitution is.. a way to limit the power of government... guess what, we don't have a bill of rights... no rights innate to people, this means they are granted by the government, that is most definately a bad thing.

     

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  24.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Jun 27th, 2011 @ 6:24pm

    Re:

    @richard: corporations don't care about morals... they care about profits... they're getting kickbacks from the government and not to mention the fact that the majority of people aren't aware that they are censoring information/dont care bceause they don't think they have anything to worry about... they just see the fancy ads for new fast internet and they'll get it...
    you don't have to be cynical to know that, you just need to look at history, the 2 major parties always fight each other out in public but get the other in power and nothing changes, are most people really that stupid that they don't see that its an illusion of choice and they're both funded by the same sources? vote independant, even if you don't agree with all the policies, at least you'll be voting for a person with a conscience, not a puppet.

     

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  25.  
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    Borris Smith, Jun 28th, 2011 @ 1:16am

    Hax

    They should be putting their time and all this money into SHUTTING DOWN child abuse websites, not ineffectively hiding them and forcing pedophiles to use anonymising services in order to access the blocked content. Interpol even said that it would reduce arrest rates. So in other words, there will still be just as many pedophiles accessing child porn, they just wont be running the risk of paying for their crimes.
    This censorship protects pedophiles and opens the door for future abuse of the blacklist system and the blocking of other things. This is just a ploy to get their foot in the door so that they can later expand the blacklist to encompass everything that they don't want the public to know about.

    They should shut down illegal sites, not protect the people who use them, which is all this filter achieves...Everyone will suffer when the internet is slowed down and when they start blocking youtube and wikipedia pages and random blogs and business websites.
    I'll be switching ISPs, since a boycott is the only way to get a point across.

     

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