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.
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Filed Under: australia, censorship, filters

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


    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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