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.

Filed Under: australia, censorship, filters

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  1. icon
    Kaotik4266 (profile), 24 Jun 2011 @ 7:35pm

    Nice to see my government representing my interests...

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