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.

Filed Under: australia, copyright, search, site blocking


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  1. identicon
    skyiye, 19 Oct 2018 @ 5:53am

    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

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