Australia's Government is attempting to silence critics of its plan to censor the internet, which experts say will break the internet while doing little to stop people from accessing illegal material such as child pornography.
Internet providers and the government's own tests have found that presently available filters are not capable of adequately distinguishing between legal and illegal content and can degrade internet speeds by up to 86%.
Documents obtained by Fairfax Media show the office of the Communications Minister, Stephen Conroy, tried to bully ISP staff into suppressing their criticisms of the plan.
Conroy said that the Government was looking at forcing ISPs to implement a two-tiered filtering system. The first tier, which internet users would not be able to opt out of, would block all illegal material [which includes adult hardcore
porn] . The second tier, which is optional, would filter out content deemed inappropriate for children.
But neither filter tier will be capable of censoring content obtained over peer-to-peer file sharing networks, which account for an estimated 60% of internet traffic.
Colin Jacobs, chair of the online users' lobby group Electronic Frontiers Australia said: I'm not exaggerating when I say that this model involves more technical interference in the internet infrastructure than what is attempted in Iran, one
of the most repressive and regressive censorship regimes in the world.
Mark Newton, an engineer at Australia ISP Internode, has heavily criticized the Government and its filtering policy on popular Australian broadband forum Whirlpool.
The Ministers office wrote to the Internet Industry Association (IIA) board member Carolyn Dalton based on Newton working for Internode, despite his criticism being offered in a personal capacity.
“In your capacity as a board member of the IIA I would like to express my serious concern that a IIA member would be sending out this sort of message. I have also advised [IIA chief executive] Peter Coroneos of my
disappointment in this sort of irresponsible behaviour”
The email was accompanied by a phone call demanding that the message be passed on to senior Internode management.
Although this shouldn't come as a great surprise, it is none the less unacceptable in a democratic country that a Minister would seek to censor critics who are doing nothing more than exercising their rights to publicly disagree.
Enough is enough. I call on the Minister to resign, or should he not do so, I call on the Prime Minister, Kevin Rudd, to sack the Minister at the first available opportunity. This abuse of power has no place in a modern, free and democratic
society in the 21st century.
The System Administrators Guild of Australia has called on the federal government to embrace open discussion of its proposed Internet filtering regime, after allegations of attempted censorship of critics surfaced last week.
The call was made after a SAGE-AU member and Internode engineer, Mark Newton, criticised the government and its Internet filtering policy on the Whirlpool broadband forum.
Subsequently, a policy advisor for Senator Conroy is reported to have expressed serious concern about Newton's comments to a board member of the Internet Industry Association (IIA) and requested that this concern be passed to his employer,
an IIA member.
SAGE-AU president Donna Ashelford defended Newton's right to criticise the government's plans, saying that SAGE-AU's code of ethics required its members to communicate with users about computing matters that may affect them:
It's reasonable to state that the issue of Internet filtering is one of substantial impact on all Internet users
The Government's own figures indicate that all of the filtering systems trialled would impact Internet performance, as well as availability of legitimate services to varying degrees. To this end, Newton has undertaken his duties under the code to
the fullest, and receives the full support for his position from the organisation.
We remain concerned that the filters tested are unable to provide an effective, reliable filtering solution with the performance required for modern broadband connections.
The filters tested have demonstrated an excessively high exclusion rate of legitimate Internet content. To this end, we remain opposed to the implementation of Internet filtering in its current form and concerned about any attempts to silence
legitimate discussion of Internet filtering plans.
Family First Nutter Senator Steve Fielding wants X18+ hardcore pornography and fetish material blocked under the Government's plans to filter the internet, sparking renewed fears the censorship could be expanded well beyond illegal material.
The Opposition said it would take a lot of convincing for it to support the controversial mandatory ISP filtering policy, so the Government would need the support of Senator Fielding as well as the Greens and Senator Nick Xenophon to pass
Industry sources said Senator Fielding's sentiments validated ISPs' concerns that the categories of blocked content could be broadened significantly at the whim of the Government, which is under pressure to appease vocal minorities.
A spokesman for Senator Xenophon said, should the filtering plan go ahead, he would look to use it to block Australians from accessing overseas online casino sites, which are illegal to run in Australia.
The online users' lobby group Electronic Frontiers Australia expressed fears that the internet filters could be used as a bargaining chip every time the Government needed to pass a piece of important legislation. Any group with an axe to grind
and political clout will be lobbying the Government to blacklist websites which they object to, EFA spokesman Dale Clapperton said: Having all Australians' internet access subject to a secret and unaccountable government blacklist is
completely unacceptable in a liberal democracy such as Australia.
Clapperton said most adult pornography on the internet was already prohibited content under the Act, and pro-euthanasia, pro-anorexia and pro-piracy websites could easily be caught by the system.
John Lindsay, carrier relations manager at Internode, said: I don't see that what Fielding has just described to you is necessarily any different to what the public should expect from the Government's as yet unstated filtering regime, because
we haven't got a clear explanation as to what the Government's actual mandatory blacklist looks like.
Wowser Stephen Conroy: I am not a wowser
some material online,
[such as hardcore porn]
The government election promise to censor the internet looks to be in trouble as Senate opposition grows.
The Rudd Government promised families far-reaching measures to block prohibited content at the internet server level. However Communication Minister Wowser Stephen Conroy extended the idea to censoring adults.
The idea now faces a concerted backlash against the proposal by the internet industry.
If the Liberals oppose legislation imposing server-level filtering, the Government will need the support of the Greens, Family First senator Steve Fielding and South Australian senator Nick Xenophon.
But the Greens have added their voice to Coalition concerns about the plan, with the Greens' communications spokesman calling the proposal daft.
Greens communications spokesman Scott Ludlam told The Age yesterday that he was concerned the Government was trying to implement a policy that was technically difficult and very expensive for taxpayers. Senator Ludlam said server-level filtering
imposed a kind of censorship that runs counter to what the internet is all about. The Government would be better investing the filtering money in law enforcement and education: I think it's really quite misguided .
The industry says mandatory filtering by internet service providers - as distinct from a net nanny that families can put on their own computers - will slow internet speeds significantly.
Nutter Senator Fielding has signalled he wants a range of material blocked, including hard-core pornography and fetish material. Senator Xenophon has indicated he wants access to offshore gaming sites restricted.
The Government is still a way from producing legislation to effect its policy, but indications are that it will be difficult to achieve consensus in the Senate.
Communications Minister Wowser Stephen Conroy has launched a defence of the policy, hitting back at claims by the internet industry that the Government wants a sweeping ban on controversial content: I will accept some debate around what should
and should not be on the internet - I am not a wowser [...BUT...] I am not looking to blanket-ban some of the material that it is being claimed I want to blanket-ban, but some material online, such as child pornography, is illegal.
[Hardcore porn is also illegal on the internet in Australian but somehow Conroy doesn't say anything to counter the idea that it should therefore be blocked]
In response to arguments that the proposal would affect basic civil liberties and the principle that households should be able to be their own internet policeman, he said: We are not trying to build the Great Wall of China. We are not trying
to be Saudi Arabia, and to say that is to simply misrepresent the Government's position.
If you're concerned about the government's plans for filtering the internet, it's time to speak up before it's too late. Visit NoCleenFeed.com , run by Electronic Frontiers Australia, for information on how to voice your concern. Do it quickly,
before some holier-than-thou git decides you're not allowed to see it.
Wowser Stephen Conroy: I am not a wowser
I will ban hardcore porn
Online pornography will be caught in the Rudd Government's compulsory blacklist internet filter, the Australian Media and Communications Authority (ACMA) has confirmed.
Any website that is subject to a complaint and classified RC or X18+ will be added to the blacklist, an ACMA spokesman said: This includes real depictions of actual sexual activity
Legal X18+ pornography in the territories will not be immune, the ACMA spokesman added.
Communications Minister Stephen Conroy: This is not an argument about free speech. As I have already said, [...BUT...] we have laws about the sort of material that is acceptable across all mediums and the internet is no different.
Currently, some material is banned and we are simply seeking to use technology to ensure those bans are working. The National Classification Code determines content against the standards of morality, decency and propriety generally accepted by
ACMA received 1122 complaints about online content in 2007/08 resulting in 15 take-down orders and 781 recommendations to makers of online filters.
A third of those 796 blocked websites were classified X18+ for actual sexual activity between consenting adults, with the remainder refused classification for depiction of a sexual fetish or fantasy, violence, or a child.
A separate filter, dubbed the Clean Feed, will further block a range of material unsuitable for children. Adults will be able to opt out of the Clean Feed, but not the illegal content filter.
The battle is now on for the soul of the Australian internet. The outcome could have enormous repercussions for the future of the internet in the UK.
Regular readers will be aware of the Australian Government's plans to clamp down on the internet down under. These, the brainchild of Communications Minister Stephen Conroy, have been bubbling away since last year, and began, as so many
half-baked government schemes do, with the plea that someone think of the children.
The scheme would put in place a server-level content filtering system, to block material unsuitable for children. The cat was put well and truly amongst the pigeons with the recent claim by Internode network engineer Mark Newton that there will
be no opt-out from filtering for parents. Rather, there will be a blacklist that parents can opt into to protect their children.
But failing to opt into that list would merely switch users to an alternative filtering system, trapping content deemed unsuitable for adults.
According to Newton: That is the way the testing was formulated, the way the upcoming live trials will run, and the way the policy is framed; to believe otherwise is to believe that a government department would go to the lengths of declaring
that some kind of internet content is illegal, then allow an opt-out.
Before this year's Beijing Olympic Games, Prime Minister Kevin Rudd chastised the Chinese authorities for blocking full access to the internet for the assembled world media: My attitude to our friends in China is very simple. They should have
nothing to fear by open digital links with the rest of the world during this important international celebration of sport.
Although Rudd expressed no concern for the average Chinese web user being unable to view tens of thousands of banned websites, his intervention was nevertheless a welcome call for transparency and greater democracy.
But now the Rudd government is working towards implementing an unworkable filtering process in Australia that suggests a misguided understanding of the internet and worrying tendency to censor an inherently anarchic system.
A lobby group set up by internet auction house eBay and other online merchants in the US and Europe plans to open a chapter in Australia as the Federal Government is poised to reveal details of its contentious cyber safety plan.
Labor promised before last year's election to censor 'objectionable' content on the internet and set aside $128.5 million in the May budget to deal with cyber censorship and law enforcement.
The Australian Communications and Media Authority and the Government has hired Melbourne company Enex TestLab to design a live pilot test on a real network.
This filtering plan has been widely criticised and now international lobby group Netchoice wants to weigh into the debate. Netchoice is backed by members including eBay, publisher AOL Time Warner, some heavyweight trade associations in the US and
software house Oracle. Netchoice said it would recruit Australian online retailers and internet players to its cause. The group's executive director, Steve DelBianco, is currently visiting Sydney.
Last week the System Administrators Guild of Australia criticised plans to introduce a filter system. The guild, while acknowledging efforts to protect children from objectionable content, said the proposals could slow down the internet for
everybody. Guild president Donna Ashelford said those who created objectionable material already used encryption methods that would not be stopped by filtering.
The worst Comms
Minister in 15 years
As opposition grows against the Government's controversial plan to censor the internet, the head of one of Australia's largest ISPs has labelled the Communications Minister the worst we've had in the past 15 years.
Separately, in Senate question time today, Greens senator Scott Ludlam accused the Communications Minister, Stephen Conroy, of misleading the public by falsely claiming his mandatory censorship plan was similar to that already in place in Sweden,
Britain, Canada and New Zealand.
Despite significant opposition from internet providers, consumers, engineers, network administrators and online rights activists, the Government is pressing ahead, this week calling for expressions of interests from ISPs keen to participate in
live trials of the proposed internet filtering system.
Michael Malone, managing director iiNet, said he would sign up to be involved in the ridiculous trials, which are scheduled to commence by December 24 this year.
Optus and Telstra both said they were reviewing the Government's documentation and would then decide whether to take part.
But Malone's main purpose was to provide the Government with hard numbers demonstrating how stupid it is - specifically that the filtering system would not work, would be patently simple to bypass, would not filter peer-to-peer
traffic and would significantly degrade network speeds.
They're not listening to the experts, they're not listening to the industry, they're not listening to consumers, so perhaps some hard numbers will actually help, he said.
Every time a kid manages to get through this filter, we'll be publicising it and every time it blocks legitimate content, we'll be publicising it.
Malone concluded: This is the worst Communications Minister we've had in the 15 years since the [internet] industry has existed.
The federal Government has been urged to come clean over grey areas in its internet filtering plan after Broadband and Communications Minister Stephen Conroy pointed to unwanted content being censored.
During question time yesterday, Senator Conroy was unclear on the exact type of content that would be blocked during the trials.
The pilot will test filtering specifically against the ACMA blacklist of internet prohibited content, which is mostly child pornography, as well as filtering of other unwanted content, he said in response to a question by Greens Senator
There were 1000 pages on the current ACMA blacklist at the beginning of the year and has since increased by 300 URLs. The list is compiled based on complaints from the public.
Senator Ludlum urged Senator Conroy to specify what he meant by unwanted conten: Will the minister provide a definition of unwanted content and where we might find a definition of unwanted?
Will the minister acknowledge the legitimate concerns that have been raised by commentators and members of the public that such a system will degrade internet performance, prove costly and inefficient and do very little to achieve the
Government's policy objectives?
Furthermore, the Government's proposal for dynamic filtering is equivalent to the Post Office being required to open every single piece of mail.
Senator Conroy said he couldn't answer all the questions in under a minute. I will happily get you some further information on that very long list of questions, he told Senator Ludlum, who is the Greens Communications spokesperson.
Senator Conroy's lack of clarity during question time adds more confusion to the discussion -- as ACMA blacklist's comprises illegal websites containing child pornography, X-rated and violent material, among others, it is unclear if he was
referring to these sites specifically.
While the ACMA blacklist contains around 1300 URLs, the pilot will test filtering for a range of URLs up to around 10,000, Senator Conroy said. This is so that the impact on network performance of a larger blacklist can be examined.
Senator Conroy acknowledged expert technical advice that such a filter was not feasible, and would slow down internet access speeds, but said that was the reason for conducting a pilot
State filter may allow X18+ hardcore currently considered illegal on the internet
Australian politicians could get in a spot of bother here. It is proving simply unacceptable to filter the web to the current legal standards of banned hardcore and softcore only allowed with age verification. They will either have to impose
unpopular censorship or else accept that the legal limits are unrealistic/unenforceable and hence wind up the nutters.
The Australian Greens won't be supporting plans to introduce compulsory internet filters.
The Federal Government wants to stop Australians accessing x-rated material, child pornography and inappropriate material.
The plan is being opposed by the internet industry which says it opens the door to censorship of other material, including political views.
We're very, very concerned that there's going to be a unnecessary clamp down on the internet and it has to be watched, Greens leader Bob Brown told ABC Television on Tuesday. Brown's colleague Scott Ludlam has been lobbying against the
The Government needs the support of all seven crossbench senators - including the five Greens - to have draft laws pass parliament against coalition opposition.
Support for the Government's plan to censor the Australian internet has hit rock bottom, with even some children's welfare groups now saying that that the mandatory filters are ineffective and a waste of money.
Live trials of the filters, which will block illegal content for all Australian internet users and inappropriate adult content on an opt-in basis, are slated to begin by Christmas, despite harsh opposition from the Greens,
Opposition, the internet industry, consumers and online rights groups.
Holly Doel-Mackaway, adviser with Save the Children, the largest independent children's rights agency in the world, said educating kids and parents was the way to empower young people to be safe internet users.
She said the filter scheme was fundamentally flawed because it failed to tackle the problem at the source and would inadvertently block legitimate resources.
Furthermore there was no evidence to suggest that children were stumbling across child pornography when browsing the web. Doel-Mackaway believes the millions of dollars earmarked to implement the filters would be far better spent on teaching
children how to use the internet safely and on law enforcement.
The constant change of cyberspace means that a filter is going to be able to be circumvented and it's going to throw up false positives - many innocent websites, maybe even our own, will be blacklisted because we reference a lot of our work
that we do with children in fighting commercial sexual exploitation, she said.
James McDougall, director of the National Children's and Youth Law Centre, expressed similar views to Save the Children.
He said the mandatory filters simply would not work and children should be able to make decisions for themselves. Concerned parents could easily install PC-based filters on their computers if they desired, or ask their internet providers to
switch on voluntary filtering: I take issue with the minister's perspective that children are themselves the danger in a sense that we have to make this decision for them because they are not capable of making it for themselves - I think
there's very little evidence to support that and plenty of evidence to show that children are responsible decision makers given the skills and information.
Other childrens' welfare organisations, such as Child Wise and Bravehearts, continue to support the filters, saying the flaws are acceptable as long as they help block some child pornography.
It's tough being a government these days; who has the energy to clean up the Internet after a hard day's work bailing out the financial sector? Not the Australian government, it seems. Rather than actually doing something about illegal content,
they just make a list of it and tell ISPs to filter everything that's on the list. Sidestepping the murky political details and—for the moment—the civil liberties problems inherent in this approach, let's take a closer look at the technical
aspects of such a plan.
My conclusion: this isn't going to work. There's no way to build a filter box that can filter all the URLs where porn is hosted throughout the Internet. A DNS-based filter that helps naive users avoid being confronted with explicit content would
probably work to a certain degree. An IP-based filter for a small amount of very illegal content—that would be the stuff that even the spam hosters in China don't want on their servers—may also work. But anything more ambitious than that is
certain to fail; either it won't work very well, or it will bankrupt the ISPs.
Members of Senator Conroy's own political party have called on him to change his policy, Ban This URL has learned. We want an opt-in system, Janai Tabbernor, president of New South Wales Young Labor, told Ban This URL.
The junior political party unanimously passed a motion at last weekend's conference, calling on Senator Conroy to switch to an opt-in system instead of a clean feed, and to redirect the funds to the national broadband network.
Motion 42 read:
The Internet is a free medium for the open communication of ideas and opinions without hindrance, and thus, should not be censored.
NSW Young Labor supports individual discretion and choice with respect to the internet, rather than censoring the world wide web and its content.
The point is that we don't condemn the Minister or the government, said Tabbernor: We generally support what the government and the Minister are trying to achieve, and we agree with his objective: we want the internet to be a safe
The original proposal put to the electorate at the 2007 Federal Election was an opt-in system, pointed out Tabbernor.
It has been revealed that one of the most important elements of the live ISP filtering pilot, testing the impact filtering a blacklist of 10,000 URLs has on network performance, will be a closed network test and will not involve actual customers.
Here's an extract from a letter sent by Senator Conroy to an Australian Whirlpool member:
In consultations with ISPs, concerns have been raised that filtering a blacklist beyond 10 000 URLs may raise network performance issues, depending on the configuration of the filter. The pilot will therefore seek to also
test network performance against a test list of 10 000 URLs.
This will be a closed network test and will not involve actual customers. The list of 10 000 sites will be developed by the technical organisation assisting the Department on the pilot, which has access to lists of this size. As this test is
only being performed to test the impact on network performance against a list of this size, and actual customers are not involved, the make-up of the list is not an issue.
It's certainly worth the cynical note that simulated users also do not publicly complain that their Internet performance is degraded under the system.
24 hours since its launch, hundreds of people have used Senator Conroy's new blog as a place to protest against his proposed net filtering scheme.
The Digital Economy Future Directions blog was launched by Senator Conroy yesterday as a place for people to comment on various areas of digital policy.
Conroy noted that an upcoming blog post, How do we maintain the same civil society we enjoy offline in an online world?, would touch on the issue of filtering. We welcome your feedback about the [filtering] issue in response to this
But readers didn't wait for that post to go live, instead flooding Minister Tanner's welcome post with over 400 posts in less than 24 hours.
Commenters attacked the filters as technically unfeasible. Many comments spoke passionately about freedom and censorship. Commenters even got political, with threats to campaign against the Rudd Government if the filters are implemented.
There was one lone voice that supported the filters.
Government's plan to censor the internet is in tatters
The Government's plan to censor the internet is in tatters, with Australia's largest ISP saying it will not take part in live trials of the system and the second largest committing only to a scaled-back trial.
The live trials, scheduled to kick off before Christmas, were supposed to provide a definitive picture of whether the filters could work in the real world, after lab tests released by the Australian Communications and Media Authority in June
found available ISP filters frequently let through content that should be blocked, incorrectly blocked harmless content and slowed down network speeds by up to 87 per cent.
But now Telstra and Internode have said they would not take part in the trials. iiNet has said it would take part only to prove to the Government that its plan would not work, while Optus will test a heavily cut-down filtering model.
Even the ultra-conservative politician known for his attempts to censor television has strongly opposed the Government's plans to introduce mandatory internet censorship, highlighting the policy's lack of support across the political
The proposed filters would not have blocked any of the 15,000 child porn videos and half a million child abuse images uncovered by police in a major sting this week as they cannot filter traffic on peer-to-peer networks - only websites.
In a post on his blog, South Australian Liberal Senator Cory Bernardi expressed concern that the filters would inadvertently block legitimate content and be expanded to cover other controversial material opposed by the Government of the day, such
as regular pornography.
Already we have a filter on the internet for all parliament house computers. It blocks some political sites, alternative lifestyle sites and other sites that, while not to my personal taste, are hardly grounds for censorship, he wrote: Imagine if such censorship was extended to every computer in the country through mandatory ISP filtering. Who would be the ultimate arbiter of what is permissible content?
In his blog post, Bernardi acknowledged that his position on the web censorship issue would surprise many and said a big part of me wants to support it . However, Communications Minister Stephen Conroy's plan was so devoid of
detail that it was impossible to form a considered opinion.
Protestors across Australia rallied against the Federal Government's plan to censor the internet yesterday.
About 300 protestors gathered in Perth to voice their concerns for the Government's planned internet filter aimed at increasing child safety in cyberspace.
Greens Senator Scott Ludlam likened the Government's plan to post office workers checking every letter to see if anything was dodgy and getting rid of that mail. He said the internet reflected human culture and the Government's proposed
censorship would not fix violence issues facing the nation.
The Federal Government suggested this mistargeted, misdirected and flawed proposal to censor the internet ... it will potentially make things worse.
He questioned who would monitor the blacklist of banned websites and who would be the decision makers determining what Australians were allowed to access.
Ludlam urged protestors to continue voicing their concerns to Government through rallies, emails and online: These kinds of rallies will bring these things down and get us back to issues of violence in the community. I believe this is
winnable, what we're doing is working.
Hundreds of people attended rallies in Australian capital cities yesterday to voice their opposition to the Rudd Government's planned internet filtering scheme.
The rallies, held in seven cities including Brisbane, Melbourne and Sydney, were the first in a series of demonstrations organised by anti-censorship group Digital Liberty Coalition (DLC).
In Sydney a crowd of up to 300 mostly young and tech-savvy protestors gathered at Town Hall to hear guest speakers including bloggers and musicians criticise the web filtering scheme.
DLC Sydney rally coordinator Jerry Hutchinson said the low take-up of existing free web filtering software, introduced by the previous government, showed that parents were not interested in the concept: Why? Because people can monitor their
own children – they don't need censorship in their home.
DLC plans to hold anti-filter demonstrations in capital cities once a month until March, when it will promote a national protest in Canberra called March in March
Fiona Pattern points out that less internet porn means more sex shops
A rather lame connection but it may be interesting to consider how the anti sex entertainment push will effect society. You only have to look at the example of catholic priests who are denied sex to see the dangers of not allowing people a sexual
Fiona Patten, chief executive officer of adult industry group Eros Association, said people who could not access adult material online would buy it from sex shops.
Queensland already had at least 116 sex shops - more per capita than any other Australian state. If the filtering goes ahead, Queensland will see an explosion of adult shops because, if people can't access adult material online, they'll go to
retail outlets instead, she said: Increased demand will lead to more shops.
Keith Boswell, who runs three BeDaring Adult Shops in south-east Queensland, said some traders had complained of a downturn in business since the economic slump, while others reported business as usual.
There is enormous demand for non-violent erotica in Queensland, so I think adult stores are probably more resilient when it comes to discretionary spending. If the filtering goes ahead, I think some people who prefer to look online will be
embarrassed to go into stores.
The Australian Catholic Bishops Conference delegate for media issues, Bishop Peter Ingham, said other countries were miles ahead of Australia when it came to keeping the internet as safe as possible for children.
Comparable western countries, such as the UK, Canada, Sweden, Norway, Denmark and Finland already have ISP filtering in operation, Bishop Ingham claimed.
In many of these countries, the ISPs themselves have initiated the filtering in order to live up to the community's expectations that illegal material or material that is harmful to children should not be available on the Internet.
It is disappointing to read reports that Australia's largest Internet provider, Telstra has said it will not participate in trials of the federal government's national internet filter.
Bishop Ingham said the ACBC held the position that whatever could reasonably be done to filter out illegal sites at ISP level, should be done: Arguments that civil liberties will be infringed by internet filtering are absolutely spurious, as
the government's proposal simply aims to ensure that the material accessible on the internet is in line with the restrictions already in place in regard to DVDs or publications .
Pornography of any kind is harmful to human dignity and often degrading to women. Research shows that internet pornography is also becoming more and more harmful to marriages and relationships. In particular, every parent knows that much of
the pornographic material that can be found on the internet ought not to be accessible to children.
We call on the community to get behind the federal government on this important issue and support its attempts to keep pace with the rest of the world when it comes to cleaning up the Net in a fair and reasonable way.
Ministry of Broadband,
the Digital Economy
Trials of mandatory internet censorship are due soon despite a secret high-level report to the Federal Government that found the technology does not work, will significantly slow internet speeds and will block access to legitimate sites.
Commissioned by the Howard government and prepared by the Internet Industry Association, the report said schemes for blocking inappropriate content were fundamentally flawed.
The report says the filters would slow the internet (as much as 87% by some measures), be easily bypassed, and would not come close to capturing all of the government unwanted content available online. They would also struggle to distinguish
between wanted and unwanted content, leading to legitimate sites being blocked. Entire user-generated content sites, such as YouTube and Wikipedia, could be censored over a single suspect posting.
It raises serious freedom-of-speech questions, such as who will be held accountable for blocked sites and whether the Government will be pressured to expand the blacklist to cover lawful content, including pornography, gambling sites and
The report, based on comprehensive interviews with many parties with a stake in the internet, was written by several independent technical experts, including the University of Sydney's Associate Professor Bjorn Landfeldt. It was handed to the
Government in February but has been kept secret.
I definitely think that what the Government is showing publicly … is such a small part of what they need to do in order to get this right, Professor Landfeldt said. He said he believed the Government had not released his report because its
conclusions were too damaging: It's definitely not going to be workable to get a very significant reduction in access to this (unwanted) content that is available out there, it's fundamentally just not viable.
Senator Conroy refused to comment directly on why the report has not been released or why the trials are going ahead given its findings. The proposed censorship is more restrictive than in any liberal democracy, says the online users lobby group,
Electronic Frontiers Australia.
Professor Landfeldt, one of Australia's leading telecommunications experts, says some of the fundamental flaws include:
All filtering systems will be easily circumvented.
Censors maintaining the blacklist will never be able to keep up with the amount of new content published on the web every second.
Filters using real-time analysis of sites to determine whether content is inappropriate are not effective, capture wanted content, are easy to bypass and slow network speeds exponentially as accuracy increases.
Entire user-generated content sites such as YouTube and Wikipedia could be blocked over a single video or article.
Filters would be costly and difficult to implement for ISPs and put many smaller ISPs out of business.
While the communications authority's blacklist will be withheld from internet users, all 700 ISPs will have access to it so it could easily be leaked.
The filters will not censor content on peer-to-peer file sharing networks such as Limewire, online chat rooms, email and instant messaging.
Filtering Trial Extended to Peer to Peer
THE Federal Government's controversial internet censorship plan may extend to filter more web activity than first thought, Broadband Minister Stephen Conroy said technology that could filter data sent directly between computers would be tested as
part of the upcoming live filtering trial.
Technology that filters peer-to-peer and BitTorrent traffic does exist and it is anticipated that the effectiveness of this will be tested in the live pilot trial, Conroy said.
Ministry of Broadband,
the Digital Economy
Stephen Conroy has responded to an article published on the front page of The Sydney Morning Herald which revealed that the Government has sat on a report that labelled mandatory ISP filtering as being fundamentally flawed since February.
Senator Conroy also has announced the live trial has been delayed until mid-January.
From his press release:
The Howard Government, at the instigation of the Internet Industry Association (IIA), commissioned a report to be conducted by Mr Peter Coroneos, IIA's CEO. The previous government provided funding for the research and it
was based on terms of reference agreed to by the IIA and the previous government. The report was to inform the previous government of the IIA's and other stakeholders' views, and international experience.
The report methodology was a literature review of existing studies as well as interviews and surveys. It involved no empirical testing of filtering technology.
The report highlighted a number of concerns the industry had previously raised with the current and previous governments, such as the potential for dynamic filtering to result in network performance impact and over-blocking and under-blocking
content. It was not an analysis of the ALP's policy.
The Government is aware of technical concerns raised in the report, and that is why we are conducting a pilot to put these claims to the test, Senator Conroy, Minister for Broadband, Communications and the Digital Economy, said.
Ministry of Broadband,
the Digital Economy
As the debate around the proposed Great Firewall of Australia censorship scheme in Australia continues, the Government’s long awaited censorship trial is due to begin shortly.
While some ISP’s are participating only to prove that the filter is flawed, it’s the testing procedure itself where things are completely wrong. The number of sites to be filtered in the trial: 10,000.
While 10,000 may be 10,000 too many, it’s also no where near close to how many sites the filter will have to block to comply with the Government’s guidelines.
We know that among other unwanted things, the following falls into the censorship regime: porn, R rated games, certain types of political speech (for example discussion of methods of euthanasia) and possibly copyrighted content.
We can’t count every category, in part because we simply don’t know exactly how the Government will define what stays and what gets blocked, but we can estimate block rates for porn, because we know R rated softcore and X rated
hardcore (R Rated stays only with strict age verification, which 99.99% of sites won’t meet) is out.
According to Netcraft, there are 73.6 million active websites. Estimates of the number of porn sites online vary from 1% through to a massive 35% of all sites online. The most common figure used is 12%. 12% of pages to be blocked by the Great
Firewall of Australia would total 9.12 million sites. Even if we take the minimum figure of 1%, 736,000 sites would require blocking.
Do any of these figures sounding anything close to 10,000 sites? I’m told that the more sites listed on a blacklist, the slower the filter becomes because each website requested must be checked against the list. 10,000 sites vs 9.12
million: there is no way the trials can give a representative result of what the implementation of the Great Firewall will do for internet speeds in Australia.
The Government may well say in response that they will not be filtering that many sites, and that may be the case. But if true, how will the firewall be effective if some sites are blacklisted, and others aren’t?
Ministry of Broadband,
the Digital Economy
A growing mountain of criticism rightly targets the policy's cost, its likely performance impact, the impossibility of its meeting required reliability standards, its expense, and the fact that its compulsory nature violates a Labor Party
But further gems of controversy have attracted little attention, and deserve to be brought to light. None are particularly complicated; all are damning.
If you don't like the new censorship regime and want to get around it, you can. If internet users avail themselves of free access to what those in the networking game call an open VPN (virtual private network), their traffic would become opaque
to the Government and immune from the effects of the censorship system. Accessing a VPN is as simple as installing a free browser plugin, and requires no technical knowledge.
So, where would that leave us?
To begin with, it would leave us in the same situation we were in before - with uncensored, unfiltered internet access - only several hundred million dollars poorer. All we would have to show for the money spent on the censorship system would be
the inevitable slowdown it would cause.
However, the effects of widespread VPN use run deeper than this.
Subscribers who intended to violate copyright would flock to VPN technology as the new censorship regime drew more attention to VPNs' ability to provide anonymity. In addition to "relocating" internet users - mainly to a new U.S.
jurisdiction - VPNs also encrypt network traffic.
Once they were encrypting their traffic, the telecommunications interception warrants used by law enforcement would be useless. A police officer cannot do anything productive with an encrypted data stream - it holds no value as evidence. It is
virtually inevitable some criminals would go free for lack of evidence against them once the government firewall was in place.
The rest of the world has been smirking at Stephen Conroy's ill-conceived plan to censor Australia's Internet for a while now, but a new study published by Brooklyn Law School entitled Filtering in Oz: Australia's Foray Into Internet
Censorship is a serious embarrassment.
This report is important. Not only is it authored by a reputable and neutral foreign observer but it also focuses more on the legitimacy of the scheme than the technical concerns, and it finds some serious problems.
The study's author applies a process-based methodology to determining censorship’s legitimacy by asking four questions. Is the country open about its censorship plans and the reason behind them? Is it transparent about what is to be
restricted? How narrow is the filtering? And finally, are the processes and decision makers behind the scheme accountable? While the Government earns praise for openness (Internet filtering was a central campaign promise), serious issues are
highlighted in the other three areas.
Commentators, industry groups like Electronic Frontiers Australia and opposition political parties have consistently called for clarity on both the aims of the censorship scheme and the range of material to be targeted. Yet phrases like other
unwanted material still represent the best information we have received from the Government. Whether or not this is a deliberate attempt to hobble debate we cannot say, but the situation was not lost on Bambauer:
To date, Australia’s transparency regarding its filtering has been poor. The country has vacillated on what material it will target for blocking. This uncertainty makes it difficult for citizens to assess whether the
scope of material blocked is appropriate, and whether the set of targeted sites comports with the underlying rationales for censorship. The Labor government is opaque about the types of sites that will be blocked, how a site will be evaluated
for filtering, and how those decisions map to larger social and political goals.
The Australian Government has closed the programme established by the previous Coalition Government which gave all Australian families access to a free PC-based Internet content filter under its NetAlert initiative.
The filters were available through the NetAlert web site. The site now says simply that The free availability of internet content filters from this website under the National Filter Scheme ended on 31 December 2008.
Shadow minister, Nick Minchin claimed that the Rudd Government had quietly closed the programme...under the cover of the festive season on 31 December. However, a spokesman for communications minister, Stephen Conroy, told iTWire that
plans to close the scheme had been revealed in the May 2008 budget. He said that free filters were now widely available from ISPs so provision by the Government was unnecessary.
The free filter scheme was announced with great fanfare by the Coalition's communications minister, Helen Coonan, in June 2006 as part of a $116.6 million comprehensive package of measures to crack down on the scourge of Internet pornography.
The newly-formed Australian Sex Party has come out and blasted the idea of Internet filtering, putting itself on the same side as the entire tech industry — from networking vendors to ISPs.
Sex Party leader Fiona Patten believes the government is already backing down on its original promises and is shifting the focus of what type of content will be filtered — a significant concern for all who are seeking more transparency.
In meetings I had with Senator Conroy last year he indicated that they had no intention of banning non-violent erotica or X-rated material, Patten said: But that is not the case — the ACMA Web site lists the types of material that
will 'qualify' for the blacklist. This includes material that would be rated X (18+).
According to the Sex Party, there is a clear distinction between X-rated (18+) content, which can be legally traded on DVDs, and child pornography and sexual violence, and the government should not attempt to lump them together in one blacklist.
They also state that the blacklist will only contain 10,000 sites. One wonders how they will choose from the millions of sexually explicit sites out there, Patten said.
So great is the opposition to the idea of content filtering that organised street protests have already popped up around the country, uniting unlikely groups of people for a common cause. The initial Sydney protest attracted a wide range of
people , including those from the gay and lesbian community, the Scarlet Alliance (the national sex worker alliance) and organisations like the EFA.A number of political organisations were also involved — including the Greens, the
Democrats and the Liberty and Democracy Party.
Another organization that has been invigorated by the Clean Feed project is the national Digital Liberty Coalition. Whether or not the filter goes ahead, the DLC will be looking to use its groundswell of support to push for a specific Bill of
Rights in Australia.
DLC executive Jeremiah Hutchinson said having explicit freedoms, as opposed to simply implied ones Australians currently have, is the only way to stop politicians continuously returning to the absurd notion that censorship is wise course
In terms of uniting disparate groups, Hutchinson said nationalists turned up at the Melbourne protest and were happily protesting alongside socialists: The issue of Internet censorship is one that effects every person in the country, so it
isn't surprising to see people come together on this issue, despite political or historical differences.
Shadow minister lays into Conroy's mandatory internet filtering plan
smh.com.au by Nick Minchin, the shadow minister for broadband, communications and the digital economy.
Underlying the Rudd Government's plan to screen the internet is an offensive message: that parents cannot be trusted to mind their children online.
Adult supervision should be front and centre of the effort to improve online safety, a responsibility accepted by most parents, grandparents, teachers and carers. But the Communications Minister, Stephen Conroy, seems to think differently:
filtering content at internet service provider level is "central to the Government's plan to make the internet a safer place for children".
There is no technological substitute for adult supervision and it's irresponsible and misleading to infer otherwise. Mandating a so-called "clean feed" has the potential to create a dangerous false sense of security, leading parents to
believe ongoing supervision and vigilance is no longer needed.
In response to a complaint about an anti-abortion web page showing photographs of what appears to be aborted fetuses, ACMA has declared the page prohibited or potential prohibited content. The Whirlpool member who made the complaint,
presumably to gauge ACMA’s response to such content, has published the department’s email:
Following investigation of your complaint, ACMA is satisfied that the internet content is hosted outside Australia, and that the content is prohibited or potential prohibited content.
The Internet Industry Association (IIA) has a code of practice for Internet Service Providers (ISPs) which, among other things, set out arrangements for dealing with such content. In accordance with the code, ACMA has notified the above content
to the makers of IIA approved filters, for their attention and appropriate action. The code requires ISPs to make available to customers an IIA approved filter.
Thank you for bringing this matter to ACMA’s attention.
Perhaps someone should complain about a vanilla hardcore porn website and tie down whether the Government will set their filters to block it or not. After all, this is the question everybody wants to know.
A survey on mandatory ISP filtering conducted by one of Australia’s major ISPs, Netspace, has received responses from nearly 10,000 customers.
Asked whether they agree with the Federal Government’s policy to make ISP level filtering mandatory for all Australians, 62% of respondents strongly disagreed and 17% disagreed.
Over 70% of respondents also strongly disagreed with having to pay more or suffer reduced Internet speeds to facilitate mandatory ISP level filtering.
When asked if they agreed if it is reasonable for consumers to experience “innocent” websites being blocked from viewing in order to facilitate mandatory ISP level filtering, 70.1% of respondents strongly disagreed and 16.6%
In response to whether customers would purchase a filtering service or “Clean Feed” from their ISP if it was available, 64.9% of respondents answered no.
Offsite: So Where does Conroy's support come from?
Senator Conroy tries to portray the filter-fighters as "extreme libertarians". But with GetUp!'s "Save The Net" campaign having already gathered 95,000 signatures and $50,000, it's starting to look pretty mainstream. That,
plus a new survey by middle-rank ISP Netspace, starts to paint the supporters of compulsory filtering as the minority.
In 2006, Senator Conroy presented the key petition supporting the current policy, with 20,646 signatures, the bulk of which were gathered through churches.
The Christian Right continues to be Conroy's main supporter. Only last weekend the Fairfax news sites carried the Australian Christian Lobby's Jim Wallace's argument for compulsory filtering, which I have deconstructed elsewhere.
Stephen Conroy yesterday confirmed that the Government would consider the possibility of adult consensual porn being blocked by its mandatory internet censorship scheme.
At Estimates hearings conducted by the Environment, Communications and the Arts committee, the Minister repeatedly confirmed that the censorship trial announced on 11 February, to be conducted in association with ISPs Primus, Tech 2U, Webshield,
OMNIconnect, Netforce and Highway 1 and others, would be based on illegal sites under the Broadcasting Services Act, but that the censorship of other content would also be determined after the trial.
Conroy's statement -- which he reinforced when he said that censorship of other (i.e. non-illegal) content would be determined on the basis of the trial -- establishes the basis for using the results of the censorship trial to extend
mandatory filtering to content that is currently legal.
The Broadcasting Services Act currently prohibits both Refused Classification material and X18+ material, meaning content depicting actual sex is treated in a manner similar to criminal content such as child pornography. The BSA also bans R18+
material (including simulated sex) if there is no age-based restriction. This clumsy regime means material that is available in your average newsagent, let alone the local adult shop, is banned online and will technically be blocked under the ALP
The Australian Communications and Media Authority maintains a secret blacklist which it describes as the worst of the worst in terms of child pornography and other criminal material. It is this list that will be used in the trial, although
it will extended beyond that to other filtering techniques such as key-word-based blocking. Given that the current regime also prohibits much of the petabytes of porn freely available on the internet, the idea of effectively filtering via a list
The ban also perpetuates the Ruddock-era ban on alleged terrorist books imposed by the Howard Government as part of its national security-based attack on civil liberties. Academics using the internet to research terrorism-related materials may be
blocked if filtering is imposed.
The results of the trial will not be known until at least mid-year.
The Australian Government's plan to introduce mandatory internet censorship has effectively been scuttled, following an independent senator's decision to join the Greens and Opposition in blocking any legislation required to get the scheme
The Opposition's communications spokesman Nick Minchin has this week obtained independent legal advice saying that if the Government is to pursue a mandatory filtering regime legislation of some sort will almost certainly be required.
Senator Nick Xenophon previously indicated he may support a filter that blocks online gambling websites but in a phone interview he withdrew all support, saying the more evidence that's come out, the more questions there are on this.
The Communications Minister, Stephen Conroy, has consistently ignored advice from a host of technical experts saying the filters would slow the internet, block legitimate sites, be easily bypassed and fall short of capturing all of the nasty
content available online.
Despite this, he is pushing ahead with trials of the scheme using six ISPs - Primus, Tech 2U, Webshield, OMNIconnect, Netforce and Highway 1. But even the trials have been heavily discredited, with experts saying the lack of involvement from the
three largest ISPs, Telstra, Optus and iiNet, means the trials will not provide much useful data on the effects of internet filtering in the real-world.
Senator Conroy originally pitched the filters as a way to block child porn but - as ISPs, technical experts and many web users feared - the targets have been broadened significantly since then. ACMA's secret blacklist, which will form the basis
of the mandatory censorship regime, contains 1370 sites, only 674 of which relate to depictions of children under 18. A significant portion - 506 sites - would be classified R18+ and X18+, which is legal to view but would be blocked for everyone
under the proposal.
Have faith in us to
ban all pleasures
known to man
Communications Minister Stephen Conroy has urged detractors of the Government's proposed Internet filtering plot to have faith in elected politicians after a row blew up over threats to an ISP whose client unknowingly published a banned
political URL campaigning against abortion.
Immediately the blogosphere flooded with quips on whether Conroy means political or religious faith. Most said they had none of either.
Speaking at the annual Australian Telecommunications User Group conference, Conroy described some of this opposition as "conspiracy theories. He ridiculed suggestions the filtering trial is the thin edge of the wedge the
beginnings of a government cracking down on political dissent.
Conroy also reiterated that the Government is clear on which content is to be filtered and how. It will attack RC (Refused Classification) content, he said, using the same rationale under which the Australia Communications and Media Authority
(ACMA) already classifies content under the Broadcasting Services Act. But he continually avoids admitting that standard adult consensual hardcore is to be banned.
But despite this public stance, the mechanism of Internet filtering of Australian ISPs looked like a loose cannon of censorship, more likely to damage the Government than protect children.
It has been revealed that Australia's internet censor, ACMA, has blacklisted a page on the whistle-blower website WikiLeaks.org that contains a leaked copy of the Danish blacklist of banned websites.
Like the anti-abortion page recently blacklisted by ACMA, this page was also submitted to the media authority for investigation by a Whirlpool user. The complainant, ‘Tardis42', believes there may be possible repercussions for publishing the link
to the now-blacklisted page on Whirlpool.
The accountability of the Australian federal government's Internet content filter has been called into question following revelations that the decision to ban Web sites lacks consultation and can be made by a single staffer.
Privacy advocacy groups have expressed concerns that the looming Internet content filter could become authoritarian unless adequate accountability and review is included into how the communications watchdog bans Web sites.
The Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA) was left red-faced after it was attacked in a recent Senate Estimates hearing by Senator Scott Ludlam for banning an anti-abortionist Web site without consulting the classification board.
The embarrassment follows a heavy-handed redress by the watchdog in which online hosting company BulletProof Networks was threatened with an $11,000 a day fine for allowing the publication of a Web address to a banned anti-abortion Web site.
The infringing Web address — contained in a response from the ACMA's own public relations department — was published in online forum Whirlpool, after a user requested the watchdog in January to ban the Web site.
Users are goading the internet censor to ban its own Wikipedia page by including the link to the blacklisted Web site. User edits have removed the details of the site at the time of publication and further edits have been locked by the site.
The Australian government secret ACMA internet censorship blacklist from 6 Aug 2008 has been leaked to
This list contains 2395 webpages or site variations derived from the those secretly banned by the Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA) and used by a government approved censorship software maker in its "ACMA only"
censorship mode. The last update to the ACMA list is August 6, 2008.
While Wikileaks is used to exposing secret government censorship in developing countries, we now find Australia acting like a democratic backwater. Apparently without irony, ACMA threatens fines of up to $11,000 a day for linking to sites on its
secret, unreviewable, censorship blacklist -- a list the government hopes to expand into a giant national censorship machine.
This week saw Australia joining China and the United Arab Emirates as the only countries censoring Wikileaks. We were not notified by ACMA.
Most of the sites on the Australian list have no obvious connection to child pornography. Some have changed owners while others were clearly always about other subjects.
One of Australia's largest owned and operated adult websites, AbbyWinters.com, is included on the ACMA blacklist of prohibited websites. Also banned is the TheHun.com, one of the web's longest running and most visited free adult link directories.
AbbyWinters, which is owned by Victorian company GMBill, complies with 18 U.S.C. 2257 Record-Keeping Requirements, meaning all models are over 18 years of age. Most of the material on the site would be rated no higher than X18+, which is legal to
purchase and view in Australia.
Gambling sites such as PartyPoker.com are also included in the block list.
The publication of a leaked list of prohibited URLs which are allegedly part of the Australian Media and Communications Authority's secret list of 2,395 banned websites, has been slammed by Communications minister Senator Stephen Conroy as grossly irresponsible.
The list which was leaked this week by global whistle-blower site Wikileaks claims to be derived from ACMA's censorship list. The Australian government plans to use this list as a basis for its mandatory ISP filtering scheme and under the ACMA
guidelines linking sites contained to the list can attract fines of up to $11,000 a day.
The list leak, which includes Telstra's Yellow Pages and YouTube as offending sites, is a further blow to the Minister for Broadband, Communications and the Digital Economy, Senator Stephen Conroy's plans to block ISP content. Conroy denied the
authenticity of the list .
The leak and publication of prohibited URLs is grossly irresponsible. It undermines efforts to improve cyber-safety and create a safe online environment for children. No-one interested in cyber-safety would condone the leaking of these
addresses. I am aware of reports that a list of URLs has been placed on a web site. This is not the ACMA blacklist, Conroy said.
He admitted however that there are some common URLs to those on the ACMA blacklist. ACMA is currently investigating the incident and considering a range of possible actions it may take including referral to the Australian Federal Police. Conroy
warned in a statement that any Australian involved in making this content publicly available would be at serious risk of criminal prosecution.
Wikileaks has upped the ante in its skirmish with the Australia Government, warning that any attempts to find the source of the leaked censorship list would cause an international incident, and could see Australian Minister for censorship
Stephen Conroy indicted on criminal charges in Sweden.
Wikileaks issued a press release:
The Stockholm based publisher of Wikileaks today issued a warning to the Australian Minister for Broadband, Communications and the Digital Economy, Senator Steven Conroy, who is responsible for Australian internet
Senator Conroy issued an official media release yesterday in response to Wikileaks' release of last year's confidential Australian internet censorship blacklist. The Senator said that his department, is investigating this matter and is
considering a range of possible actions it may take including referral to the Australian Federal Police. Any Australian involved in making this content publicly available would be at serious risk of criminal prosecution.
The Senator is perhaps unaware of the legal and diplomatic risks associated with the statement.
Sunshine Press Legal Adviser Jay Lim stated: Under the Swedish Constitution's Press Freedom Act, the right of a confidential press source to anonymity is protected, and criminal penalties apply to anyone acting to breach
Wikileaks source documents are received in Sweden and published from Sweden so as to derive maximum benefit from this legal protection. Should the Senator or anyone else attempt to discover our source we will refer the matter to the
Constitutional Police for prosecution, and, if necessary, ask that the Senator and anyone else involved be extradited to face justice for breaching fundamental rights.
They explained that they have the remit to irresponsibly add adult hardcore and betting sites etc to the censorship list.
The Australian Communications and Media Authority is aware that a list purporting to be the ‘ACMA blacklist' has been posted on an overseas website. ACMA does not consider that the release and promotion of URLs relating to illegal and highly
offensive material is responsible.
The regulatory scheme for online content that has been administered by ACMA since 2000. ACMA's role is to investigate complaints and take such actions as prescribed by the legislation on materials assessed to be prohibited or potentially
The ACMA blacklist has at no stage been 2300 URLs in length and at August 2008 consisted of 1061 URLs. It is therefore completely inaccurate to say that the list of 2300 URLs constitutes an ACMA blacklist.
ACMA considers that any publication of the ACMA blacklist would have a substantial adverse effect on the effective administration of the regulatory scheme which aims to prevent access to harmful and offensive online material. Such publication
would undermine the public interest outcomes which the current legislation aims to achieve.
The following categories of online content are the categories that are prohibited:
Online content that is classified RC or X 18+. This includes real depictions of actual sexual activity, child pornography, depictions of bestiality, material containing excessive violence or sexual violence, detailed instruction in crime,
violence or drug use, and/or material that advocates the doing of a terrorist act.
Content which is classified R 18+ and not subject to a restricted access system. This includes depictions of simulated sexual activity, material containing strong, realistic violence and other material dealing with intense adult themes.
Content which is classified MA 15+, provided by a mobile premium service or a service that provides audio or video content upon payment of a fee, and not subject to a restricted access system. This includes material containing strong depictions
of nudity, implied sexual activity, drug use or violence, very frequent or very strong coarse language, and other material that is strong in impact.
ACMA's current list of approximately 1100 URLs relating to prohibited content and potential prohibited content hosted outside Australia includes material in the following categories:
depictions of child sexual abuse
depictions of bestiality
material containing excessive violence or sexual violence
material containing detailed instruction in crime, violence or drug use
real depictions of actual sexual activity
depictions of simulated sexual activity which are not subject to a restricted access system.
Schedule 7 to the BSA also requires ACMA to investigate complaints about ‘links services' which are hosted in Australia and which lead to prohibited content. If as a result of investigating such a complaint ACMA determines that a link relates to
potential prohibited content, ACMA is required to direct the provider of the links service to remove the link, pending classification of the content concerned by the Classification Board.
The Interactive Gambling Act 2001 makes it an offence to provide, or advertise, certain interactive gambling services.
Prohibited internet gambling content is content that can be accessed, or is available for access, by customers of a prohibited internet gambling service.
A prohibited internet gambling service is a gambling service provided in the course of carrying on a business to customers using an internet carriage service, and an individual physically present in Australia is capable of becoming a customer of
If ACMA receives a complaint about prohibited internet gambling content that is hosted in Australia, ACMA will refer the matter to the Australian Federal Police.
If prohibited internet gambling content is hosted outside Australia, ACMA will notify the content to makers of the approved Family Friendly Filters listed in Schedule 1 to the Interactive Gambling Act Industry code.
Recent action by the Australian Government may see Google and many other popular websites banned in Australia under existing censorship laws.
Under the Communications Legislation Amendment (Content Services) Act 2007 sites that link to content that is Refused Classification (RC) are considered themselves to be RC, and if hosted in Australia, site owners can be ordered to remove the
link(s), or fined AU$11,000 a day.
If I was linking to XYZ blog, and XYZ blog was linking to ABC blog who had linked to the leaked ACMA list, all the pages in the chain are illegal, because each one links to prohibited content. Any site linking to me then becomes illegal, and so
WikiLeaks has released a copy of what is alleged to be the current ACMA blacklist. This list is dated March 18 and includes 1170 URLs, including the now high-profile AbortionTV page and the Wikileaks page containing the Danish blacklist.
URLs belonging to Betfair, The Peaceful Pill Handbook, Redtube, AbbyWinters, IShotMyself, TheHun and xTube are present on the list.
Activist group GetUp is set to launch a television advertising campaign against the government's proposed internet censorship regime after a blacklist of banned websites was leaked online.
GetUp has invited members to submit their creative ideas for an ad to be screened nationally next month.
GetUp said the ACMA blacklist included a Queensland dentist, a tuckshop management consultant, animal carers and a tour operator.
This time it was a dentist from Queensland. The next time it might be a website that criticises internet censorship, or a rival political party, GetUp national director Simon Sheikh said in a statement: The government is asking us to
trust them that a flawed system won't be abused. Australians know and demand better.
Sheikh said Australians would not stand by and let potentially innocent people get caught up in the federal government's internet censorship.
He said that was why GetUp had decided to step up the campaign against the government's ludicrous internet censorship plans.
People have been invited to submit script ideas, music, images and personal anecdotes to collaborate in creating a national TV ad to be screened next month.
Sheikh said GetUp's Save The Net campaign had already attracted the support of more than 98,000 Australians and has included an online petition and an online advertising blitz viewed more than 3.5 million times.
The campaign has been funded by thousands of small donations from members.
iiNet has pulled out of the federal Government's internet filtering trials.
iiNet only agreed to participate in the trial to demonstrate that the filter was flawed and a waste of taxpayers' money, iiNet managing director Michael Malone said.
Malone cited drawn-out negotiations with the Department of Broadband, Communications and the Digital Economy, constant changes in policy, and last week's leak of a secret internet blacklist as reasons for pulling out.
It became increasingly clear that the trial was not simply about restricting child pornography or other such illegal material, but a much wider range of issues including what the Government simply describes as ‘unwanted material' without an
explanation of what that includes, Malone said.
iiNet's withdrawal from the ISP filter trials is another blow for the controversial project. Last week the federal Government's plans for the nationwide internet filter were put in jeopardy when its top-secret blacklist of banned web pages was
Not only is the list published by whistleblower website Wikileaks over the weekend definitely the ACMA blacklist of banned internet content, it's also rubbish , according to an industry source.
Senator Stephen Conroy finally admitted that the Wikileaked material seemed to be close to ACMA's current blacklist of banned internet content.
ACMA's blacklist is compiled from complaints received from the public. Manufacturers of internet filters pay $15,000 for the list, which must be included in their products to be eligible to participate in the government's current field tests of
ISP-level internet filtering.
Our contact in the internet filtering industry is highly critical of the ACMA blacklist's quality. I've had a look at the list and it's rubbish, they told Crikey this morning: I wouldn't pay $100 for it, let alone $15,000. That list
would make my filtering look really bad.
The leaked ACMA blacklist dated 18 March 2009 contains 1168 URLs, of which roughly half relate to child-abuse material. The rest is material Refused Classification (RC) for other reasons, or adult hardcore rayed X18+ or is rated MA15+ or higher
without an age-verification mechanism in place. Or potentially so on the secret say-so of an unaccountable ACMA staffer.
Our source says around two-thirds of the URLs in the ACMA blacklist don't go anywhere or are otherwise out of date. By comparison, their own company's list contains around quarter of a million URLs covering child-related activity alone, checked
every three months to remove out of date or inactive entries.
The website of the Australian Film Classification Board has been hacked.
The front page was defaced to reads
Welcome to the Classification Website
This site contains information about the boards that have the right to CONTROL YOUR FREEDOMZ. The Classification Board has the right to not just classify content (the name is an ELABORATE TRICK), but also the right to DECIDE WHAT IS AND ISNT
APPROPRIATE and BAN CONTENT FROM THE PUBLIC. We are part of an ELABORATE DECEPTION from CHINA to CONTROL AND SHEEPIFY the NATION, to PROTECT THE CHILDREN. All opposers must HATE CHILDREN, and therefore must be KILLED WITH A LARGE MELONS during
the PROSECUTION PARTIES IN SEPTEMBER. Come join our ALIEN SPACE PARTY.
The Communications Minister, Stephen Conroy, has admitted that Bill Henson images were added to the communications regulator's list of prohibited websites in error, while blaming the addition of a dentist's site to the blacklist on hacking by the
The admission by Senator Conroy on ABC television's Q&A program last night casts significant doubt on the Government's ability to filter the internet without inadvertently blocking legitimate websites.
Q&A was inundated with 2000 questions from the public about the Government's hugely unpopular policy, and the audience last night ridiculed Senator Conroy by laughing at a number of his responses.
Senator Conroy, under siege after this website's report yesterday afternoon that an innocuous link containing Henson's artistic photographs of young boys had been added to the blacklist, said the classification board looked at this website and
actually said it's PG.
A technical error inside ACMA I'm advised included it ... but it was actually cleared by the Classification Board so it shouldn't be on the list, Senator Conroy said: I've asked ACMA in the last few hours to go through their entire list
again to see if there are any other examples of this.
But the presence of innocuous sites on the blacklist, such as that of a Queensland dentist, a school canteen consultancy and an animal carer, and euthanasia sites, abortion sites, fetish sites, gambling sites, regular porn sites and a site
containing harmless Henson photographs, were only revealed after the list was leaked by the Wikileaks website this month.
The Opposition's communications spokesman, Nick Minchin, said: This error only came to light because content from the secret blacklist had been publicly leaked. Under Senator Conroy's regime how many similar errors will result in the wrongful
filtering of legal sites and content?
Greens Senator Scott Ludlam said: If the whole net censorship debate has done one good thing, it's shown us just how flawed the existing system is, let alone the Minister's proposed radical expansion of it.
The Minister continued to claim last night that his proposed censorship regime was sound because it targeted only "refused classification" content, however, the RC classification includes sites that are perfectly legal to view, such as
regular porn sites and fetish sites.
Australia's internet censorship Minister, Stephen Conroy, has begun distancing himself from his controversial internet censorship policy in what one internet industry engineer has dubbed the great walkback of 2009.
Last night he said the mandatory filters would be restricted to content that has been "refused classification" (RC).
When the ACMA blacklist was leaked last month, it caused great controversy, partly because it included a slew of R18+ and X18+ sites, including regular gay and straight pornography and other legal content.
But on SBS' Insight program last night, Conroy said it's mandatory refused classification, and then parents - if the trial says that it is possible to go down this path ... have the option to block other material.
This about-turn has done little to assuage the concerns of online rights groups, the Federal Opposition and the internet industry, as the RC category includes not just child pornography but anti-abortion sites, fetish sites and sites containing
pro-euthanasia material such as The Peaceful Pill Handbook by Dr Philip Nitschke.
Sites added to the blacklist in error were also classified as RC, such as one containing PG-rated photographs by Bill Henson. And the websites of several Australian businesses - such as those of a Queensland dentist - were classified RC and
blacklisted after they were hacked by, as Senator Conroy described, the Russian mob. They were on the blacklist even though they changed hosting providers and cleaned up their sites several years ago.
Senator Conroy conceded many of the decisions regarding what sites appeared on the blacklist were made by faceless bureaucrats . He said he was working to build in further safeguards , but would not abolish the policy because some
sites were found to be put on the blacklist in error.
Others sites confirmed by ACMA as being included on the blacklist include a YouTube clip showing an excerpt from a horror movie and an astrology website.
ACMA said the horror movie clip was added because it is classified as R18+ but not subject to a restricted access system that prevents access by children.
At the time of investigation, access to the YouTube content required only a declaration of an age of 18 years or older which was not verified by evidence of proof of age, ACMA spokesman Donald Robertson said.
On the astrology website, ACMA said it was blacklisted because, at the time it was being investigated, it had been defaced with an image which depicted an adult female posed naked and implicitly defecating on herself. This image has since
been removed and ACMA said it was in the process of removing the astrology site from the blacklist.
ACMA conceded innocent sites could be blacklisted if they are defaced with content not usually associated with the site. Robertson acknowledged this material was often only visible for a short period before being removed by the site owner.
Stephen Conroy's watch as Communications Minister seems to be going from bad to worse after publicly making comments that could land him legal hot water. The comments at a public telecoms conference about a high profile court case involving ISP
iiNet have been deemed by a number of sources as inappropriate, defamatory and potentially prejudicial to the case.
iiNet, Australia's third largest ISP, is doing battle in the Federal Court of NSW with a consortium of movie studios and a TV network that have accused it of allowing its network to be used to illegally download copyright entertainment.
The public slanging between the Communications Minister and iiNet is hard to find a precedent for in the ICT industry. The CEO of iiNet, Michael Malone, has told iTWire and a number of other media sources quite openly that he believes Senator
Conroy is the worst Communications Minister ever and described him as incompetent.
Senator Conroy stunned the bemused audience at a telecoms conference this week by making sarcastic and denigrating remarks about the iiNet defence strategy for its court case.
He described iiNet's claim that it didn't know what material its customers were downloading as stunning and he likened iiNet's defence strategy to a Yes Minister episode.
Both remarks made by a Federal Government Minister about an ongoing court case have raised the ire of not only iiNet but members of the legal community as well as the opposition. It has been suggested that iiNet could have a case for pursuing
Senator Conroy for defamation but even worse for the Minister there is a possibility his remarks could be deemed as contempt of court.
Australia's internet censor, ACMA, has issued Electronic Frontiers Australia (EFA)’s webhost a Link Deletion Notice because of an article EFA published on their own website containing a link to an anti-abortion webpage declared prohibited content
by the media regulator in January this year.
To be clear, EFA published only a link to a page that is hosted overseas and is on ACMA’s prohibited list. Viewing the potentially R-rated page itself is not in any way illegal, and no system is yet in place to enforce the
blocking of such web pages. One may well wonder why a link to a legally viewable page should draw the threat of legal sanction while the content itself remains visible. Because the link was on a web page hosted in Australia, the hosting provider
- not EFA ourselves, who have more control over the content - falls under Australian legal jurisdiction and could be so served. What this accomplishes is uncertain.
EFA has complied with the notice and have removed the link to AbortionTV in this post. They add:
This is a textbook case that demonstrates that there is no sharp dividing line between “political” speech and other content. At the edges of public policy are issues which will inflame passions and lead to images, video and
words that are offensive to many people. Trying to stamp these out, especially on the Internet, not only diminishes our democracy but is pointless and paternalistic to boot.
EFA helped its ISP, Sublime, challenge the deletion notice on two counts: (1) that it was a violation of the supposed freedom of political communication, especially since it was a discussion about the political effects of censorship policy,
and (2) that officials should have sent the notice to EFA directly, rather than its ISP (in fact, EFA had asked for a notice to be sent directly to it, rather than Sublime, so that it could take on the case directly... and officials refused).
Unfortunately, the Australian Administrative Appeals Tribunal (AAT) rejected both challenges, twisting itself into a bit of pretzel logic to explain why this wasn't a violation of freedom for political communication. Basically, the tribunal
claimed that EFA could have hidden the link behind a special restricted access system that would block that content for those under 18 (in theory, of course, but not in practice). And, since you have to be 18 to vote, the tribunal
reasoned, if such a age verification wall had been in place, the content would not have been blocked from those of voting age... and thus there was no violation of political communication. Yes, that's quite twisted logic, but if you're defending
internet censorship, sooner or later your logic is going to get twisted into knots...
The Australian Democrats Party have launched a new site:
www.nointernetcensorship.com to mobilise supporters opposed to the government’s proposed internet censorship scheme and invite them to suggest and discuss what the policy should be.
No shadowy government-run blacklist of sites will protect our children, said Julia Melland, Australian Democrats National President. It’s a waste of resources and it’s not going to prevent children being exposed to the vast majority of
material parents would want to block.
The Australian Democrats list the secrecy and lack of transparency, as well as the excessive cost, among its list of reasons for opposing the government’s approach to cyber safety.
The Australian Democrats are working on developing a sound, sensible cyber safety policy that provides parents real tools and resources to protect their children, and at the same time protects the freedoms of other Australians, Melland
In response to Senate questions, ACMA admitted this evening that their current blacklist contains only 32% child abuse material.
During a Senate Standing Legislation Committee for Environment, Communications & the Arts, they revealed that the list contains 51% refused classification material (which includes child abuse material), meaning the other 49% is rated X18+ or
Given these numbers, 68% of the current list is almost definitely legal content.
Senator Conroy stated that the Government is also considering the possibility of greater transparency, but it cannot publish the list. He said this could include regular panel reviews or a review of all URLs by the Australian Classification
Conroy rephrases his mandatory filter as a voluntary filter all ISPs agree to.
IThe Rudd Government has indicated that it may back away from its mandatory internet filtering plan.
Communications Minister Stephen Conroy told a Senate estimates committee that the filtering scheme could be implemented by a voluntary industry code.
Senator Conroy’s statement is a departure from the internet filtering policy Labor took into the October 2007 election to make it mandatory for ISPs to block offensive and illegal content.
Responding to questions from shadow communications minister Nick Minchin on how the government may go about imposing the internet filtering scheme, Senator Conroy said that legislation may not be required and ISPs may adopt an industry consensus
to block restricted content on a voluntary basis.
Mandatory ISP filtering would conceivably involve legislation … voluntary is available currently to ISPs, Senator Conroy said: One option is potentially legislation. One other option is that it could be (on a) voluntary basis that they (ISPs)
could voluntarily agree to introduce it.”
In response Senator Minchin said he had never heard of a voluntary mandatory system.
Senator Conroy responded with: well they could agree to all introduce it.
Whinging about backtracking from a mandatory ban on adult internet porn
Of course Christians are welcome to base their lives on nonsense, but what gives them the right to inflict their nonsense on more rational people? And when non-religious people fight back, the nutters yell foul, claiming that society is somehow
being undermined by aggressive secularists.
The Australian Christian Lobby has accused the Federal Government of breaking its election promise to censor the internet after the policy was softened in the face of relentless criticism.
The lobby's managing director, Jim Wallace, wants the Government to introduce legislation forcing internet providers to block hardcore porn (X18+) on a mandatory basis, in addition to illegal content. Australians would then have to opt in to
receive legal softcore (R18+) adult material.
Communications Minister Stephen Conroy has long said his policy would introduce compulsory ISP-level filters of the Australian Communications and Media Authority's blacklist of prohibited websites.
But he has since backtracked, saying the mandatory filters would only block content that has been refused classification (RC) - a subset of the ACMA blacklist - amid widespread concerns that ACMA's list contains a slew of R18+ and X18+
sites, such as regular gay and straight pornography and other legal content.
"That doesn't meet the election promise as far as we're concerned at all," Wallace said in a phone interview: The promise was clearly about providing a safer internet environment for children and to do that you need to
mandatorily block in the first instance pornography and R18+, and then provide an opt-in system for those adults who want to access it.
After being as indecisive as a teenage girl choosing what to wear on prom night, Senator Conroy has settled on what classification category will be banned by under the mandatory filter (the one you can't opt out of). According to IT News,
Conroy's office stated that mandatory ISP-level filtering will only apply to RC [banned: Refused Classification] content drawn from complaints made to the ACMA.
In particular this means that adult consensual hardcore porn [rated X18+] will be available to Australian adults who opt out of the family filter.
The Australian Federal Government has now set its sights on gamers, promising to use its internet censorship regime to block websites hosting and selling video games that are not suitable for 15 year olds.
Separately, the Communications Minister, Stephen Conroy, has been nominated by the British ISP industry for its annual internet villain award, competing alongside the European Parliament and French President Nicolas Sarkozy.
Australia is the only developed country without an R18+ classification for games, meaning any titles that do not meet the MA15+ standard - such as those with excessive violence or sexual content - are simply banned from sale by the Classification
Board, unless they are modified to remove the offending content.
So far, this has only applied to local bricks-and-mortar stores selling physical copies of games, but a spokesman for Senator Conroy confirmed that under the filtering plan, it will be extended to downloadable games, flash-based web games and
sites which sell physical copies of games that do not meet the MA15+ standard.
This means that even Australians who are aged above 15 and want to obtain the adult-level games online will be unable to do so. It will undoubtedly raise the ire of gamers, the average age of which is 30 in Australia, according to research
commissioned by the Interactive Entertainment Association of Australia.
Colin Jacobs, spokesman for the online users' lobby group Electronic Frontiers Australia, said the Government clearly went far beyond any mandate it had from the public to help parents deal with cyber-safety. He said Australians would soon learn
this the hard way when they find web pages mysteriously blocked: This is confirmation that the scope of the mandatory censorship scheme will keep on creeping . Far from being the ultimate weapon against child abuse, it now will
officially censor content deemed too controversial for a 15-year-old. In a free country like ours, do we really need the government to step in and save us from racy web games?
Senator Conroy's spokesman said the filter would cover computer games such as web-based flash games and downloadable games, if a complaint is received and the content is determined by ACMA to be Refused Classification. All games that
exceed MA15+ are deemed to be RC.
The filtering could also block the importation of physical copies of computer games sold over the internet which have been classified RC , the spokesman said.
The Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) chief has said the Australian government will embarrass itself if it pushes ahead with plans to install a national Internet content filter.
The group is a non-profit corporation that oversees management of domain names and IP addresses, Internet Protocol address space allocation and generic Top Level Domains.
ICANN board chair Peter Dengate Thrush said national Internet content filters are ineffective at law enforcement. The plan was introduced by federal Communications Minister Stephen Conroy.
The government has set itself up for embarrassment, Thrush said: I have no problems with the principle behind it [but] censoring material outside the country is difficult and the tools to do it cost a lot.
GetUp! has officially launched Censordyne, an ad and website campaign combo to help stop the Government from introducing Internet censorship in Australia. The group hopes to show the ad on Qantas flights in August when politicians are on
flights to Canberra as Parliament resumes.
Children's welfare groups Save the Children and the National Children's & Youth Law Centre joined GetUp! in the campaign, issuing a joint statement:
We argue that the tens of millions of dollars that such a scheme will cost should instead be diverted to appropriate child protection authorities and police to prevent the abuse of children, and towards effective
community-based education strategies that give children and parents the skills to protect themselves.
Further, PC-level filtering software should be promoted to and provided to parents that wish to protect their children from inappropriate internet content.
The Australian Library and Information Association, Civil Liberties Australia, Liberty Victoria, National Association for the Visual Arts, NSW Council for Civil Liberties, QLD Council for Civil Liberties and Dr Alex Byrne FALIA, University
Librarian, UTS, also signed the statement.
Senator Conroy's office responded, claiming GetUp's campaign misrepresents the Government's position: For its last campaign on the issue, GetUp! falsely claimed that any form of filtering would slow internet speeds by 87%, the statement
said: Now it resorts to spurious claims about the future expansion of the list of content that may be filtered. The Government regards freedom of speech as very important and the Government's cyber-safety policy is in no way designed to
Qantas has put the kybosh on online activist group GetUp's latest anti-censorship campaign, refusing to run the Censordyne ad on its flights.
Simon Sheikh, chief executive of GetUp, said the group had planned to run the parody ad on all Qantas domestic flights into Canberra next month to ensure it was seen by politicians and their staff members around the first sitting week of
But Qantas refused to run the ad, which lampoons the Government's forthcoming internet filtering scheme, saying it had a long-standing policy not to run political advertising.
Meanwhile, GlaxoSmithKline, which owns the Sensodyne brand, on which the parody campaign is based, said it was considering legal action against GetUp. It said it was not consulted over the campaign and did not endorse GetUp's use of the word
Hardly a brand improving association: Censordyne promises unproven, ineffective relief from internet nasties
A group of mainly smaller internet providers are now finishing their trials of the Government's internet filtering scheme and Communications Minister Stephen Conroy has said he expects to release results within weeks. Senator Conroy has said the
results will determine whether the Government proceeds with the controversial election policy.
The Australian Democrats have announced Sydney technologist Geordie Guy as their new National Technology Policy Coordinator.
Currently a board member of Electronic Frontiers Australia, Guy has been an active figure in the fight against internet censorship as proposed by the Rudd Government.
He is a computer systems architect with a decade of experience working with business and people in the IT industry itself as well as other markets and a qualified network engineer.
The Technology Policy working group under Mr Guy's direction will continue the Australian Democrats' search for a better solution than censorship to current web content concerns through the nointernetcensorship.com campaign website.
An internet activist group calling itself Anonymous is taking on Kevin Rudd over his censorship policies.
They've released a video threatening their full-fledged wrath if the government doesn't abolish its internet filtering plans.
The group is also demanding the resignation of communications minister Stephen Conroy.
They claim he has has no level of understanding of the topic he is dealing with.
Anonymous led a high profile campaign against the Church of Scientology, and has tried to subvert censorship in Iran. The group is composed of members of different internet discussion forums and subcultures.
On 20 June 2009, a young woman, Neda Agha-Soltan, was shot and killed during the Iranian election protests. Her death was captured on video, and spread virally on the Internet, becoming a rallying cry for the Iranian protests.
Given the notorious attempts by the Iranian government to censor the protests, both online and in the media, I thought it would be fitting to test Senator Stephen Conroy's assertions that the Government's proposed mandatory Internet filter was
unlike the censorship that occurs in Iran and under other undemocratic regimes.
I submitted the following to ACMA:
I am an Australian resident. I believe the content at the following links is prohibited content or potential prohibited content hosted outside Australia within the meaning of the Broadcasting Services Act 1992.
Boing Boing post with embedded YouTube video showing the death of Neda Agha-Soltan and associated commentary.
YouTube video showing the death of Neda Agha-Soltan.
YouTube video showing another angle of the death of Neda Agha-Soltan.]
Each contains graphic video, apparently real, of a young girl shot in the chest and bleeding to death over the course of a couple of minutes.
The first link has no restrictions for viewing the video (but contains a textual warning). The second two links require registration and a declaration of date of birth (and also contain textual warnings).
The videos document the recent violence in Iran.
Today, 64 days later, I received a notice from ACMA confirming that the content was prohibited content.
As part of the ACMA's investigation of the complaint, it applied to the Classification Board for classification of the content concerned. As a result of the Classification Board's decision (R18+), and as the content is not
subject to a restricted access system, it is prohibited content under the Broadcasting Services Act 1992.
ACMA has an obligation to blacklist (ie, add to the list of websites containing prohibited content, which is distributed to makers of IIA Family Friendly Filters) any site hosting prohibited content overseas. ACMA has no discretion not to
blacklist content that meets the statutory definition of prohibited content.
Although the position was ambiguous initially (and is arguably still uncertain), Senator Stephen Conroy has now stated that the Government wants to constrain mandatory Internet filtering to content that is refused classification. (Though, refused
classification content is much broader than his statements suggest.)
Because this content was classified R 18+ and not refused classification, this content would not be subject to mandatory filtering under a regime that mandated filtering only of content that has been refused classification.
However, none of this applies to sites hosted in Australia. ACMA can still issue a take-down, or link-deletion notice, to any site hosting, or linking to, R 18+ content that is not subject to a restricted access system (or other prohibited
content). And you can be fined $11,000 per day if you don't comply with the notice by 6:00 pm the next business day.
The Rudd Government plan to introduce mandatory ISP-level filtering was dead in the water and Communications Minister Stephen Conroy should end the farce now, the Opposition's leader in the Senate Nick Minchin said.
Senator Minchin, who risks a backlash from elements within the Coalition, says Senator Conroy already knows the mandatory filtering plan is heading for the rocks and was delaying its demise to avoid ultimate embarrassment.
Senator Minchin complained that Government had not even said what metrics it planned to use to determine whether a filtering trial could be considered successful or not.
Almost two years after coming to office with a plan to censor the internet, Senator Conroy has not even managed to release results for long overdue filtering trials, let alone come close to actually implementing this highly controversial
policy, Senator Minchin said.
Huge doubts also continue to surround the type of content Labor wants to filter and how it will compile a black-list which would form the basis of its filtering regime.
The Coalition has said from the beginning it was prepared to assess any credible trial results, but almost two years after coming to office Senator Conroy has failed to produce them, let alone put forward any formal proposal for consideration,
Senator Minchin said.
The Australian Prime Minister's website has been hacked in protest over proposed reforms of internet censorship.
The website, www.pm.gov.au, was brought down along with that of the Australian Communications and Media Authority, but both were back online about an hour later.
A post on the Inquisitr blog shows a flyer, allegedly from the group Anonymous, claiming they organised the hack in response to a Federal Government proposal to introduce mandatory internet filtering.
Anonymous are a loose collection of internet users known for posting anonymously to message boards and who have previously organised global rallies protesting against Scientology.
The Anonymous flyer complains that the proposal to introduce internet filtering would block legal content, and take censorship to levels like that seen in China.
Related Coverage The flyer called for Senator Conroy to resign and also posted a link which is claimed to be a list of websites on the banned content list.
The Greens communications spokesperson Senator Scott Ludlam has confirmed that Senator Stephen Conroy, Minister for Broadband, Communications and the Digital Economy has taken receipt of his ISP-level filtering report, but was yet to
The live pilot trial into ISP-level filtering has recently been completed, Conroy said. He explained how his department would release it shortly.
He also addressed concern about the potential influence for politicians in blocking material they might push to be censored:
As I indicated at [Senate] Estimates, I have been in discussion with some in the industry about an enhanced practical measure to ensure confidence that a government minister or a government bureaucrat is not the sole
arbiter. There have been a number of options floated
The Classification Board may consider all of the items that are ... to be classified.
An industry-based body may also be an option, where an industry body with the government agency involved could go through and examine [refused classification material]. That's one of the options I'm considering. Another being a parliamentary
committee [that] can also examine the classification process.
There are a number of options that the government is generally considering.
The Australian Government has confirmed that it would proceed with broad scale internet censorship in Australia following a trial into ISP based internet filtering.
Stephen Conroy spun the decision by selectively quoting parts of the trial report. Conroy claimed among other things that banned material can be done with 100% accuracy and negligible impact on internet speed and that the filter would
apply to all RC (Refused Classification) content.
It's an interesting line, because the reports findings don't actually say that the filtering of RC content is either 100% accurate nor would it necessarily have a negligible affect on internet speeds.
The study asked the nine ISP's to trial several forms of internet filtering. The first test was based on the flawed ACMA blacklist of approximately 2,000 sites, which as we know from earlier in the year blocks dentists, poker sites, and other
legal sites along with illegal sites. The second was based on a broader child safe filter which attempted to filter more sites (although the exact figure was not disclosed.)
The tests found that 100% accuracy was obtained with the ACMA blacklist only, a list of 2,000 odd sites that would only be a small sample of sites blocked under the scheme. The tests found that when the list was expanded to the bigger child safe
list, that accuracy dropped to between 78.8% and 84.6%.
On those results, the study claimed Enex considers it unlikely that any filter vendor would achieve 100 percent blocking of the URLs inappropriate for children without significant over-blocking of the innocuous URLs.
The report also details the circumvention of blocked sites. It notes in its summary that A technically competent user could, if they wished, circumvent the filtering technology.
The report seems to accept that proxies aren't that hard to use to some degree, and this is where it gets into scary territory: the report suggests that proxies should be banned: Filtering of additional categories of content enabled ISPs to
implement measures which made some common circumvention techniques difficult. For example, a third party website which hides the origin of the requested content (proxy site) can be included in a wider list of URLs to be blocked.
Conroy claims that adult computer games will not be initially included in the filter as the Australian Government has started a public consultation process into whether there should be an R18+ classification category for computer games.
It's a sad day for freedom of speech in Australia when the Government delivers a slanted report that when you actually read it doesn't back everything it is claiming. It's not dissimilar to Iran: you don't get the result you want so you ignore
the results you don't want, you stuff the boxes in other places, and you deliver a result that was always predetermined to begin with.
Conroy claims again that the filter is all about kiddie porn (which is already illegal to view and host anyway) but at the same time will ban euthanasia and abortion sites, along with adult computer games as well. The dark clouds of
totalitarianism are descending on Australia; remember, history shows that Governments who start on the road to censorship usually expand the regime with time. The can is open now, and who knows when the madness might end.
Reporters without Borders has written an open letter to Australian prime minister Kevin Rudd, condemning communications minister Stephen Conroy's plan to introduce mandatory Internet filtering by ISPs.
In the letter the organisation says: If Australia were to introduce systematic online content filtering, with a relatively broad definition of the content targeted, it would be joining an Internet censors club that includes such countries as
China, Iran and Saudi Arabia.,
It claims that the plan, as proposed would violate the rule of law. The decision to block access to an inappropriate website would be taken not by a judge but by a government agency, the Australian Communications and Media Authority
(ACMA). Such a procedure, without a court decision, does not satisfy the requirements of the rule of law. The ACMA classifies content secretly, compiling a website blacklist by means of unilateral and arbitrary administrative decision-making.
Other procedures are being considered but none of them would involve a judge.
Reporters without Borders also says that the criteria the proposed law would use are too vague. Filtering would be applied to all content considered inappropriate, a very slippery term that could be interpreted very differently by
different people. In all probability, filtering would target refused classification (RC) sites, a category that is extremely controversial as it is being applied to content that is completely unrelated to efforts to combat child sex abuse
and sexual violence, representing a dangerous censorship option. Subjects such as abortion, anorexia, aborigines and legislation on the sale of marijuana would all risk being filtered, as would media reports on these subjects.
In one of its most cynical moves yet, the Australian Government will delay the implementation of Internet censorship until after the next Australian Election.
In a letter to an opponent of internet censorship, Minister for Censorship, Stephen Conroy, wrote that the Government would introduce legislative amendments into Parliament to require all ISPs, starting twelve months from the passage of the
legislation, to filter RC material hosted on overseas servers.
The Australian Parliament next sits on February 2, 2010. Even if the legislation were presented to the House of Representatives on February 2 (and there is no indication at this stage that it will be,) the legislation must pass the Senate (which
isn't assured) and eventually return for a third reading in the House of Representatives before it passes. Given the contentious nature of the legislation, it would be fair to presume that there will be proposed amendments and/or strong
opposition in the Senate for the bill. Even if it passes the Senate quickly, by the time it is passed and gains royal assent, at the very earliest the bill would be law in late February 2010, for implementation in late February 2011.
The next Australian election must be held no later than the April 16, 2011. Under the unlikely scenario that the bill passes in February 2010, internet censorship would come into law in Australia in February 2011, which even if the election
hadn't been formally called, would none the less fall a week or two before the formal campaign (and the unofficial campaign would be in full swing.)
There's no way in hell that Rudd will risk implementing internet censorship in the middle of an election campaign, because it risks distracting from the Government message. It could easily become a wedge point against the Government, particularly
when voters start asking why their internet connections have magically become slower all of a sudden.
More likely is that Senator Conroy is looking for the legislation to pass before Winter recess, with implementation a couple of months clear of the election.
It's the height of cynicism that the Australian Government, seeking to implement draconian internet censorship in Australia, would be so afraid of what the reaction might be they'd delay it until after the next election. Weasels of the first
Thousands of elderly Australians who want the basic human right to have control over how they will die will suffer if the Rudd Government's proposed internet filtering law is passed later this year, says leading euthanasia advocate Dr
Dr Nitschke said Communication Minister Stephen Conroy's controversial mandatory ISP filtering plan supposedly aimed at protecting Australians from online material such as child pornography and anorexia guides would also prevent elderly
people, including those suffering from terminal illnesses, from locating vital information on painless end-of-life solutions.
Nitschke's online version of his banned book on painless suicide methods is available through his website, Exit International. The Peaceful Pill eHandbook discusses the exit bag and lethal drug options.
A spokesperson for Senator Conroy said Exit International would not be blocked if the ISP filter goes ahead. However, any material on the site providing step-by-step instruction on how to commit suicide would be banned by the National
Hundreds of websites have joined an Australia Day internet blackout to protest against the Government's web censorship agenda, but even the internet industry body believes it will do little to lessen the Government's resolve.
The Greens, Democrats and ISP iiNet are among the organisations that pledged to fade their websites to black today and provide visitors with information about the Government's censorship plans. The blackout is expected to last until Friday.
The blackout was the brainchild of web activist Jeff Waugh and is being supported by online users' lobby group Electronic Frontiers Australia (EFA).
Some of the websites taking part in the blackout are listed on internetblackout.com.au. The list includes a diverse selection of mostly smaller websites, ranging from personal web pages to media sites such as newmatilda.com and
But Peter Coroneos, chief executive of the Internet Industry Association, said it would take 200,000 people protesting in the streets in every major capital city for the Government to pay attention. Coroneos last week met senior bureaucrats from
the Department of Broadband, who stressed to him that the Government was pushing ahead with plans to implement its internet filter legislation in the autumn session of Parliament.
I think the Government's fairly intent on their course of action to legislate filtering - I think that's almost beyond doubt, he said.
Electronic Frontiers Australia (EFA) have welcomed survey results showing Australian Internet users might not vote Labor again at the next election due to Internet filtering.
The preliminary results of the Australian Broadband Survey 2009, conducted by Whirlpool, found that 92% respondents did not support the idea of mandatory Internet filtering.
The survey also found 83% of respondents said that the introduction of mandatory Internet filtering might affect their vote at the next Federal election.
The results highlight widespread community disagreement with the Government's plan, said Peter Black, EFA's campaign manager. These results also show that Australians believe the Government would be better off focusing on increased
education and law enforcement, instead of an impractical and costly policy of Government censorship.
When asked what the Government should focus on in terms of internet safety, 82% supported educating parents, 64% said educating children, 44% said law enforcement, 42% said subsidising desktop filter software, and 34% said subsidising ISP-level
opt-in filters, with only 3% supporting mandatory Internet filtering.
The survey was successfully completed and verified 21,775 times by respondents aged 18 years of age or older. The full results of the Survey are expected to be published soon.
These results confirm that people who understand the issue overwhelming oppose the Government's policy, Black said: The big challenge now is to win the hearts and minds of ordinary Australians, who perhaps aren't particularly computer
or Internet savvy.
That is why last week EFA launched the Open Internet campaign, centred around a new website,
OpenInternet.com.au , blog, and Facebook fan page, that together will act as campaign hub for all the different individuals and organisations that are campaigning against the Government's mandatory Internet filtering policy.
The Australian Government is considering a blitz on online racism, including the possibility of extending the proposed internet filter to block anything moderately deemed as racist content.
Australian Attorney-General Robert McClelland has requested that the Australian Human Rights Commission undertake a sweeping review of arrangements for dealing with racist material on the internet .
According to Fairfax Media, options on the table include providing the Human Rights Commission with the power to order internet service providers to remove racist content.
While freedom of expression is one of the most fundamental rights, this is not at the expense of the rights of people, while using the internet, to be treated with equality, dignity and respect, McClelland said.
Fairfax notes that such changes – which are opposed by civil libertarians – could have significant ramifications for online news websites that offer readers the opportunity to comment, and for ISPs working with the commission to voluntarily
remove racist material.
The proposals would shift liability to website owners for comments made by others, an outrageous attack on social and new media. Having said that, it's not that surprising giving the nanny state Australian Government is planning to introduce
Chinese style censorship this year as well. Goebbels would be proud.
If you're planning to censor free speech on the internet, what better approach to take than to, er, censor debate about how you're planning to censor free speech on the internet? Brilliant.
That, according to one sharp-eyed Register reader, is the game being played by Australian Communications Minister Stephen Conroy, whose
ministerial website is currently set up so as not to show searches on embarrassing terms such as ISP filtering .
Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd threw more wood on the fiery debate about the government's internet filtering plans, saying it wouldn't apologise for pushing ahead with the initiative.
The politician took several strongly worded questions from a viewer of Channel 7's Sunrise program, who asked why the government was implementing a plan that he claimed would fail in its objective to protect the children, and whether Rudd
could guarantee business would not suffer a loss in productivity from decreased internet speeds.
In response he neglected to mention the wide range of banned material such as 18 rated mainstream video games. Instead Rudd pointed to just part of the Refused Classification material the filter aims to block. What does it involve? Acts of
child abuse. Acts of sexual abuse against children, including material which also provides 'how to' kits in terms of conducting terrorist acts . I think this stuff is filthy, I can't stand it. I think these are the right measures. You're
running a business, we're pro-internet, but we don't make apologies for this.
The news came as efforts have stepped up within Rudd's own party to push an amendment to the legislation to implement an opt-out option for Australians who don't want their internet to be filtered. Labor Senator Kate Lundy is hoping to
gain the support of other Labor MPs and senators in the days before the legislation is tabled in Federal Parliament.
Australia's Pirate Party last night said the opt-out idea was censorship lite and a hollow response to community concerns that the filtering project could lead to legitimate online information being blocked off from Australians.
On Sunrise , Rudd also commented on the supposedly offensive material being posted on social networking site Facebook related to several traumatic events in Queensland, such as the death of schoolgirl Trinity Bates.
Rudd said he would investigate an idea being promoted by Sunrise and Independent Senator Nick Xenophon to set-up an online ombudsman to deal with such complaints. He said it was obvious which material went too far, and rejected any criticism that
it was draconian to address offensive online material: This is where we get into this really stupid debate, with what I describe as extreme civil libertarianism, which says any such move in that direction means soviet communism, a'la 1980 .
Look, it's not like that. People out there, mums and dads, they know where the balance lies.
Australian Greens MP, Lee Rhiannon, said at the National Day of Action against the government's internet filter that all five Greens senators will vote against the internet filtering Bill.
We absolutely need to defeat this incredibly irresponsible piece of legislation that is now before the federal parliament, she said to attendees in Parramatta Park in Sydney. My colleagues in the federal parliament — we have five Greens
senators — will vote against it. What we need to ensure is that some sanity starts to prevail and that we win the numbers.
The filter curtailed freedom of speech, she said. There were also better ways to protect children against pornography, such as education, which she said had been pointed out by a 2008 report written by the Australian Communications and Media
That's a report to the government. They've been told that. We know they've been told [that] by a lot of their MPs who actually understand how the internet works. They've been told about this by official government bodies, but they're pushing
on with their censorship.
So I do urge all of you when you leave here today to take away a commitment to sign the petitions, to write your letters, to write your emails, ring up the politicians, she said.
Fewer than 100 people at any one time actually showed up at Saturday morning's protest in Parramatta Park in Sydney's west. There are a number of MPs who do not support this legislation and are saying to their leaders, to Mr Abbot and Mr Rudd:
'This is madness. It will not work. It will make us look like a fool internationally, let alone amongst Australians once they catch on.'
Debate had begun, she said. Now, the community needed to give it legs by voicing disapproval.
Shadow treasurer Joe Hockey has launched an attack on the Australian government's internet filtering scheme, in one of the first cases of a senior Opposition figure coming out publicly against the policy.
What we have in the government's Internet filtering proposals is a scheme that is likely to be unworkable in practice. But more perniciously it is a scheme that will create the infrastructure for government censorship on a broader scale, said Hockey in a wide-ranging speech on freedom to the Grattan Institute.
Hockey said that of course people wanted to stop unlawful material being viewed on the internet, and that there were appropriate protections that are in place for that. But I have personal responsibility as a parent, he added. If
I want to stop my children from viewing other material that I feel is inappropriate then that is my responsibility to do something about it – not that of the government.
Protecting liberty is about protecting freedoms against both known and future threats. Some may argue that we can surely trust a democratically-elected government in Australia to never try to introduce more wide-spread censorship. I am not so
Ultimately Hockey used the speech to strongly push the cause of individual liberty in Australian society. Quoting Benjamin Franklin, he said: Those who would give up essential liberty to purchase a little temporary safety deserve neither
liberty nor safety.
The Rudd Government's nasty internet filter legislation is still being drafted and is unlikely to be debated in parliament until at the middle of June and might be pushed back even further.
Internet lovers, gamers, media - journalists, entrepreneurs and lovers or freedom of expression have been rejoicing and see the latest development as a victory of sorts in the internet control war .
Australian Communications Minister Stephen Conroy had originally planned for the filter to be debated this week, but his office confirmed the drafting of the legislation was still not finalised and discussions with ISPs and other stakeholders on
outstanding issues were still taking place.
The Government will take the time to ensure that it gets the legislative framework right, advised a spokesprat for Senator Conroy: Discussions with ISPs and owners of high traffic sites on the implementation of ISP filtering are
ongoing. The Government is also considering the responses to the consultation paper on improved transparency and accountability measures which will feed into the legislative framework.
The Bill will be introduced when these processes are completed, the spokesprat said.
It is currently unclear whether the internet filtering plan has a hope in hell of getting through the Senate.
The Greens are opposed to the scheme, and the opposition says while it supports in principle measures to protect children online, it has reservations about mandatory ISP level filtering.Shadow communications spokesman Tony Smith said the
coalition will wait until the draft legislation is tabled before it formalises a policy on the issue
Yahoo! and Google have criticised Australia's plans to enmesh the nation into a sophisticated internet censorship structure, which, according to some, will restrict freedom of internet by prohibiting access to legal information.
Statements made by Yahoo and Google are among the 174 complaints submitted by the public regarding the internet filtering proposal, which will soon go into review.
Commenting on the controversial internet filter, Lucinda Barlow of Google Australia said in a statement that moving to a mandatory ISP-level filtering regime with a scope that goes well beyond such material is heavy-handed and can raise
genuine questions about restrictions on access to information.
Yahoo representatives on the other hand, pointed that the technological advanced internet filter has the potential to go beyond blocking child pornography to blocking socially controversial content like gay and lesbian issues.
How can US criticise Chinese internet censorship when Australia is just as bad
The Obama administration has questioned the Rudd government's plan to introduce an internet filter, saying it runs contrary to the US's foreign policy of encouraging an open internet to spread economic growth and global security.
Officials from the State Department have raised the issue with Australian counterparts as the US mounts a diplomatic assault on internet censorship by governments worldwide.
The news is a blow to Communications Minister Stephen Conroy, who is defending the plan for internet companies to mandatorily block swathes of websites.
That the US government joins a widening coalition of agencies with concerns about the plan is sure to turn up the political heat on Senator Conroy.
Responding to questions about the filter, commentary website The Punch reports today that US State Department spokesman Noel Clay has raised concerns on the filter plan: The US and Australia are close partners on issues related to cyber
matters generally, including national security and economic issues . We do not discuss the details of specific diplomatic exchanges, but can say that in the context of that ongoing relationship, we have raised our concerns on this matter
with Australian officials.
Attempts to ban the infamous Rapelay video game have inevitably generated a little interest in it on torrent sites.
Australian nutters have picked up on this small interest game as useful propaganda for calling for internet censorship.
Karen Willis, executive officer of the NSW Rape Crisis Centre, said that the existence of material such as the RapeLay video game, which lets players simulate stalking and raping young girls, made internet filters, such as those proposed
by the government, necessary.
Communications Minister Stephen Conroy also believes that filters are necessary to block content such as RapeLay for all Australians, but a poll on this website yesterday found 96% of the 45,000 respondents did not support Senator Conroy's
Sexual assault victims' rights advocate Nina Funnell is against online censorship. ..BUT... said: These games are quite vile and for victims out there it's quite distressing to come across these games or even just be aware that
they exist and there's a culture of rape tolerance and acceptance. Willis said she absolutely believes the forthcoming internet filtering regime is necessary and should block sites that offer access to the game.
While I don't think that playing games causes people to go out and do things, what it can do for those who may already have that preclusion is further break down social barriers to them taking that action, she said.
Colin Jacobs, spokesman for the online users' lobby group Electronic Frontiers Australia, said on the surface a game like RapeLay might seem like a good argument for internet censorship but in reality trying to filter it would not work. Games
like this will only ever represent a tiny minority, and the proper response is largely parental, to make sure kids aren't getting their hands on them.
Euthanasia campaigner Dr Philip Nitschke has warned that Queensland seniors will resort to desperate measures should the Rudd Government restrict access to reliable voluntary euthanasia information through its proposed internet censorship.
Dr Nitschke welcomed 120 seniors to a recent suicide workshop in Toowong that featured a hacking masterclass showing seniors how to get around the proposed filter.
It was the biggest turnout we've had so far to a workshop, said Dr Nitschke, who has spent six months touring workshops across Australia, Europe and US.
The Government's Clean Feed internet policy will bar seniors from accessing Dr Nitschke's Exit International website where they can download his Peaceful Pill Handbook . The document details ways of obtaining Nembutal, a lethal drug
illegally imported from Mexico and South-East Asia by Australian euthanasia supporters.
Devised by a leading Australian computer hacker, the masterclass showed seniors how to get through the Government's filtering technology using their home computers.
Dr Nitschke said: If the Federal Government thinks it's a good idea to keep people deprived of good information then they have to explain why one of the commonest methods used by the elderly (to take their own lives) is by hanging themselves.
That's an extremely grim death. Those who deprive these people of good information and force them down that horrible path I think have some explaining to do.
The Australian government is considering another round of public consultation on its repressive internet filter plans, this time to supposedly fine tune the transparency and accountability measures.
The legislation was already unlikely to get introduced to the parliament before the June sitting, and even a short public consultation would almost certainly push its introduction back further.
Which means this legislation probably won't get looked at until the after the Federal election.
This is a difficult issue for both sides of politics, and as much as Government might be gaming the drafting of the legislation to keep it out of the way of an election campaign, the Opposition is likely to just as pleased not to have to come to
grips with a firm position.
The mandatory internet filter policy is not, as some might suggest, electoral poison. It is about as polarising an issue as you will find anywhere in contemporary Australia. The internet filter generates enormous heat – genuine anger and angst –
among those who are strongly opposed to it. But equally, its goals find a quieter form of support among many in mainstream Australia.
Of course anything can happen in an election year. And in an immediate post-election environment. But if Kevin Rudd remains PM, you can be sure the filter will remain on the agenda.
Australian internet censorship minister Stephen Conroy has confirmed his department was hosting a private online forum to discuss controversial issues about the filter with internet service providers (ISPs), including the possibility of
making it an offence to promote methods of circumventing the filter.
He has repeatedly stated, however, that the act itself of circumventing the filter would not be made an offence.
The Pirate Party Australia has likened the idea being discussed to oppressive censorship regimes in Iran and China.
If circumvention will not be illegal, then how can it be illegal to simply tell people how to circumvent the government-controlled infrastructure in order to secure access to information that the Australian Government may deem inappropriate,
said the Pirate Party in a statement.
Customs dogs trained to hunt out
porny memory sticks
It was ironic that Communications Minister Stephen Conroy announced the postponement of his internet filtering legislation via an adviser last week. Advice was not something he was fond of taking. Sensing a voter backlash on the legislation,
which was supposed to be introduced into the parliament before the federal election, Rudd and Conroy are banking on removing it as an election issue. But will they?
There is every chance a post-election internet filter will be more censorious than the proposed pre-election one. The Rudd government has been quietly increasing controls on sexual material coming into the country through other means. Anyone
coming back to Australia from an overseas trip now has a new question on their incoming passenger card. It asks if you have any pornography in your suitcase. They've also raised the bar for those who bring in more than 25 DVDs that would be
refused classification such as a DIY euthanasia film or an adult film where a couple spanks each other; both of which are available on Amazon and YouTube. Yet you can get five years' jail for them now.
Australian Christian Lobby chief executive Jim Wallace has boasted publicly of having numerous meetings with Conroy about banning sexual imagery in Australian homes and Rudd addressed the group's national conference last November. With another
four years to run after an election win, Conroy could go back to the original plan he floated, which was to blacklist the X18+ classification entirely.
Conroy changed his mind about this one night on SBS television's Insight program in March last year when challenged by Australian Sex Party leader Fiona Patten. She pointed out X18+ material was legal in Australia and that filtering legal adult
erotica would be the thin end of the wedge.
Suddenly, he changed his policy to we will only ban material that is refused classification and already illegal .
Curiously, Conroy fronted Patten in the green room after the show and regaled her with Why didn't you just call me about this? We could have sorted it out. You didn't have to set up a political party against us.
Wikileaks founder Julian Assange had his passport briefly confiscated when he returned to his native Australia last week, according to The Age.
Arriving at Melbourne, immigration staff told Assange his passport was looking worn and would be cancelled. Thirty minutes after his passport was returned to him, a police officer then searched his bags and questioned him about his computer
hacking offences he committed in 1991 when he was a teenager.
Despite the search, Assange was then told his passport is still classified as normal on the immigration database and could therefore travel freely.
Speaking on Australia's Dateline show, Assange said he is wary of travelling in Australia, where he was born, because of information that has been published on Wikileaks.
Assange had been told that the publication of a proposed blacklist of banned sites has been referred to the Australian Federal Police, who were investigating how it was leaked and then published on Wikileaks, though AFP told the Sydney Morning
Herald yesterday that the case had been dropped.
Electronic Frontiers Australia (EFA) has apologised for any offence caused by its latest campaign asking people to "tell mum" about the Federal Government's proposed mandatory internet filter.
The It's Time to Tell Mum campaign launched by EFA last week encouraged people to talk to their mothers about the proposed filter and what the implications of it might be.
According to the website, over 40,000 people have told mum through the website's various Facebook, Skype, SMS and email sharing methods.
Over the weekend, a number of nutters raised concerns that the website and its Twitter counterpart were promoting sexist stereotypes of mothers. Feminist blogger and mother Mary Gardiner told ZDNet Australia that she essentially agreed with the
EFA's reasons for opposing the internet filter, but said that the message was lost by the Mum campaign promoting stereotypes that mothers are only interested in technology for the sake of their children and parenting is and should
always be women's business . She said the social media portion of the campaign also resorted to stereotyping.
The National Party of Australia has come out swinging against the Federal Government's mandatory internet filter policy, with a motion passed at the party's Federal conference on the weekend against the idea.
The motion stated that The Federal Conference of the Nationals opposes any mandatory ISP-level internet censorship, and was passed after a deal of spirited debate.
The motion does not bind the Nationals' parliamentarians to vote against the ISP filtering policy when its supporting legislation is introduced into parliament. However, conference motions do give members of parliament a strong indication as to
what their party's grassroots membership would prefer in matters of policy.
This has been an issue of major concern to a very large number of people who have contacted the Nationals in recent times, said a spokesperson for Nationals leader and Minister for Trade Warren Truss.
At the start of this year, Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd, whose Labor Party won a landslide election in 2007, was still regarded as the poster child for a new Australia. Like a superman, he flew around his nation — and the world —
tirelessly working to help Australia avert the global financial crisis that had tainted other major economies. He wooed foreign investment in his homeland's natural resources and he bonded on the world stage with his political soulmate, Barack
Obama, in an effort to combat climate change. In due course, the center-left leader was rewarded with the highest popularity figures in Australian history, scoring an approval rating of 74% in a March 2009 poll. Was there anything K-Rudd couldn't
do? Yes, it turns out — keeping his own party loyal when the tide turned.
On June 24, Rudd's own party unceremoniously dumped him for his deputy Julia Gillard, turning the former political wunderkind into Australia's shortest-serving Prime Minister in almost four decades. Labor's change of heart, though, had less to do
with Australia's shifting priorities than a feeling that Rudd had neglected to safeguard the ideals he so strongly advocated during his campaign and at the start of his term. He came to be seen a flip-flopper on key issues like the environment.
In other areas, his steadfastness was increasingly perceived as mule-headedness. Loyalty to his inner circle, meanwhile, began to look disturbingly like a failure to consult with other party elders.
The generational change that saw Kevin Rudd swept to power in 2007 brought with it great expectations from a local technology sector which had struggled for a decade to convince John Howard that the industry deserved a bigger priority profile in
So what happens now?
Broadly, 2007 was genuine generational change, and so the direction and substance of Labor ICT's engagement will be fairly constant regardless of the Caucus outcome. (It is actually hard to see a return the Luddite-as-PM model, although Tony
Abbott wants to make a fist of it)
I would argue that the local tech sector will fair better under Julia Gillard, if only because she has deeper roots and greater personal interest in issues of industry development.
While there would likely be a modest shake-up of frontbench (modest, it being an election year and all), Stephen Conroy will remain in his current position up to and well beyond the election. The portfolio is too complex and at a particularly
critical stage of development to risk a change.
Finally, the internet filtering plan in its current form will be history. That alone should put a smile of the face of many tens of thousands of cranky and disaffected IT workers across Australia.
The opposition leader, Tony Abbott, appeared in a broadcast to church members recently being quizzed by church leaders.
I wanna stress that I am a Christian in politics, not a Christian politician and I am not asking Christians to vote for me because I am of like mind. Faith has influenced my life but it does not and I believe, should not,
shape my politics.
He addressed the 'concern' of the audience about the sexualisation of children.
Our current classification system is broken. It doesn't apply to much that it probably ought to apply to and it doesn't seem to apply community standards even where it does apply.
New Prime Minister Julia Gillard has confirmed that only minimal changes will be made to her cabinet team, with Communications Minister Stephen Conroy to retain his position.
Gillard this afternoon held a press conference in Canberra to detail the new cabinet. However, she did not make any new significant appointments to its ranks.
Gillard's minor cabinet reshuffle will put paid to the speculation in Australia's technology sector over the past few days that Gillard may replace Conroy with fellow Labor Senator Kate Lundy due to her long-standing commitment to the portfolio —
or hand off some of his responsibilities.
Australia's Communications Minister, Stephen Conroy, has announced that implementation of his policy would be delayed until a review of RC classification guidelines can be conducted by state and territory censorship ministers.
This is not expected to begin until at least the middle of next year.
Some sections of the community have expressed concern about whether the range of material included in the RC category ... correctly reflects current community standards, Senator Conroy said.
As the Government's mandatory ISP filtering policy is underpinned by the strength of our classification system, the legal obligation to commence mandatory ISP filtering will not be imposed until the review is completed.
In the meantime, major ISPs including Optus, Telstra and iPrimus have pledged to voluntarily block child abuse websites. This narrower, voluntary approach has long been advocated by internet experts and brings Australia into line with other
countries such as Britain.
But the Government does not seem to be backing out of the deeply unpopular mandatory filtering policy altogether, as it has today announced a suite of transparency and accountability measures to address concerns about the scheme.
an annual review of content on the blacklist by an independent expert .
clear avenues of appeal for people whose sites are blocked.
content will be added to the blacklist by the Classification Board, instead of the Australian Communications and Media Authority.
affected parties will have the ability to have decisions reviewed by the Classification Review Board.
people will know when they surf to a blocked page as a notification will appear.
The public needs to have confidence that the URLs on the list, and the process by which they get there, is independent, rigorous, free from interference or influence and enables content and site owners access to appropriate review mechanisms,
Senator Conroy said.
According to the Sydney Morning Herald, Australia's largest ISPs are to voluntarily block child abuse content, with the prospect that others might follow
But one ISP, Internode, says it has significant concerns with administration of the blacklist of child porn URLs used for the voluntary filter, and will not apply it.
Internode's regulatory and corporate affairs manager, John Lindsay, said that the child porn list contains a fraction of what would need to be blocked for it to be effective and has already been shown to contain URLs of legal content.
The list of child porn websites is maintained by the government's Australian Communications and Media Authority. But it also contains links to online poker sites, YouTube links, regular porn sites, and websites of fringe religions.
Internode is the country's sixth-largest internet service provider, with about 190,000 customers, but its refusal to voluntarily censor what the government is dubbing child porn is a bit of a blow to the government. If it could get
filtering in voluntarily it would not have to make a politically unpopular decision to back the censorship scheme. It would also classify all the sites it did not like as child porn and get away with it.
Australia's government will select an expert to manually check up to 10,000 blacklisted online web pages.
The proposal will come to fruition over the next year if Labor wins the August 21 election. Labor will take to the polls its controversial policy of mandatory ISP-level filtering of refused classification (RC) content.
An annual review of the RC content list would be conducted by an independent expert who would be appointed in consultation with industry, the government said.
A spokeswoman for Senator Conroy confirmed the expert would be a person and not an organisation. When asked if that person would enter into a browser each URL on the entire RC list to ensure its legitimacy, she said: Yes, the independent
expert would be a person (such as a retired judge) and they would examine the list to ensure it includes only RC content.
Meanwhile the Coalition refused to say if it would scrap Labor's controversial mandatory ISP filter plan. It kept mum on whether a Tony Abbott-led government would resurrect NetAlert or introduce an opt-in filtering version instead. The Coalition
will announce some practical and effective measures to enhance online safety and security in coming weeks, opposition communications spokesman Tony Smith said.
Refusing to Classify
An Australian Senate Committee has censored a link to a morally-ambiguous parody on the US TV show Family Guy that was included in a written submission by prominent anti-filter campaigner Mark Newton.
The censored Family Guy episode was legally available for sale in Australia with a MA15+ rating from later this month.
It showed the family's dog, Brian, showing baby Stewie the legendary scat video: 2 Girls 1 Cup . The video became an internet sensation when viewers posted videos online of their friends' reactions to the always offscreen video; about 6500
such responses are on YouTube with many generating millions of views.
The animated parody mimics the phenomenon by showing Stewie's reaction to the contentious video.
Newton said it was the cartoon character's facial expression that ran afoul of public servants: Stewie Griffin needs to be redacted for even hinting at something that might be RC if ever assessed .
The redaction gave ammunition to critics who warned the filter will expand to cover content not originally under its mantle. And it underscored fears held by campaigners such as Newton over the types of borderline content that could be swept up.
A committee spokesman told iTnews it had exercised its discretion in not publishing the link: The committee reserves the right to exercise its discretion not to publish any submission, or part of a submission, which in its view contains
objectionable material, or material that is or purports to be refused classification or links directly to refused classification material .
Newton wrote the Government had conflated the terms illegal with inappropriate in respect to proscribed content to the point where various types of legal but controversial content [were being portrayed] as if it were illegal .
Three other links included in footnotes were also redacted for pointing to RC content. They included a graffiti film and an Amazon.com web page where the banned film Ken Park could be bought on DVD.
Newton used his submission to argue that at Senator Conroy has variously portrayed types of legal but controversial content as if they were illegal . The current Government has created the manifestly false impression that material can
become illegal by means of a decision by the Commonwealth Classification Board to rate it as refused classification. RC content is not, and never has been, illegal.
It is lawful for Australian citizens to possess, own, read or view, give away and purchase RC content in all forms, except in Western Australia (which has a state law which criminalises possession of RC content) and parts of Western Australia
and the Northern Territory associated with the Aboriginal Intervention (where possession of content rated higher than MA 15+ is an offence). It is also legal to transmit RC content over a telecommunications network everywhere except Western
The man who is trying to protect Australia from all the evils of the world and block the Internet to online gambling websites and dentist offices, Communications Minister Stephen Conroy, was recently voted the Dumbest Politician in a
Zoo Weekly magazine conducted the online survey of 1200 voters to dub Senator Conroy the dumbest politician, followed by Family First senator Steve Fielding, and Opposition Leader Tony Abbott.
Stephen Conroy has relentlessly been working to filter various websites in Australia, though his efforts to date have been all for naught.
At the launch of National Cyber Security Awareness Week in Melbourne last June, Senator Conroy puzzled listeners by declaring: There's a staggering number of Australians being in having their computers infected at the moment, up to 20,000, uh,
can regularly be getting infected by these spams, or scams, that come through, the portal (sic).
Joe Hockey, shadow treasurer, has told Australian radio that the Liberal Party will oppose the Australian government's planned compulsory net filter.
Hockey said his party would not support the policy. We believe the internet filter will not work and we believe its a flawed policy. It is not going to capture a whole lot of images and chatter that we all find offensive... that are going
He told ABC's Hack show that he was in favour of technologies which give parents more control and promised a more detailed announcement soon.
Hockey added: I know it's a contentious issue but the filter does not work, it does not work. The ISP-based filter system does not work. Therefore it creates an assumption of trust which cannot be met by the technology.
Colin Jacobs of Electronic Freedom Australia welcomed the move. He said: We applaud Mr Hockey's announcement that the Liberal Party will vote against Labor's filter. The Opposition are very welcome among the ranks of those many organisations
and individuals that see the filter as a policy failure.
Political parties have responded to a survey by the Australian Christian Lobby (ACL) that canvassed policy positions on ACMA content classification and ISP-level filtering.
The Christian Democratic Party fully [supported] the filtering of RC [refused classification] material at the ISP level to protect children.
Self-regulation is not working, the Christian Democratic Party stated. A new scheme is required. Serious breaches should result in loss of license for the broadcaster.
Socially conservative Family First stated that it was one of the first groups to begin the campaign for tighter regulation of RC material.
While it did not directly reject Labor's mandatory filtering proposal, the party appeared to support a voluntary regime, stating: Family First ... welcomes industry moves to voluntarily block certain RC content.
However, it also recognises that it [filtering] is not a complete solution. New technologies, including peer-to-peer networks which cannot be filtered, remain an ongoing challenge.
Ultimately, parents must be responsible for monitoring their children's internet use and be provided with the tools and information required to do so.
Australian ISPs Telstra and Optus will impose a filter on child abuse websites for all internet subscribers from halfway through 2011.
The filter will apply to the 450 child abuse websites identified by the Classification Board in a list maintained by the Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA). The filter will not apply to all refused classification (RC) material,
as originally intended under the Labor party's filter proposal.
Under the plans users won't get a say as to whether the filter will be applied to them, nor will there be an opt-in or opt-out exclusion to it.
Like Labor's proposal, however, the filter will only block offending material travelling over standard web protocols such as HTTP. Other traffic from FTP sites, email as well as peer-to-peer networks such as BitTorrent will not be stopped.
Labor's bollox internet filter plan faces near-death despite the ascension of Julia Gillard as Australia's 28th prime minister.
Ms Gillard won the backing of independent MPs turned powerbrokers Tony Windsor and Rob Oakeshott despite Bob Katter supporting the Coalition and Tony Abbott.
The Coalition vowed to dismantle the plan regardless of last month's election outcome. And with the Greens set to hold the balance of power in the Senate from next July, it is almost certain Labor's filtering aspirations are as good as dead.
Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard has been rejigging her government.
As expected, Senator Conroy retains the Broadband, Communications and Digital Economy portfolio in the Gillard Government's new Ministry, and has been given an additional role as Minister Assisting the Prime Minister on Digital Productivity.
The Communications Minister, Stephen Conroy, is ploughing ahead with his internet filter policy despite there being virtually no chance any enabling legislation will pass either house of Parliament.
Independent MP Rob Oakeshott, the Opposition and the Greens have all come out against the policy, leaving it effectively dead in the water. The Greens communications spokesman, Scott Ludlam, has called on the government to end the facade and drop
the internet censorship scheme once and for all, as it was wasting time and taxpayers' money.
University of Sydney Associate Professor Bjorn Landfeldt said, given the catastrophic election result after only one term in government, it was remarkable the government was pushing the very issues that undermined their credibility,
rather than focusing their energy on important societal issues . One may wonder exactly what underlies this relentless pursuit of a mirage, given that there is just about zero support outside the cabinet . Surely it is no longer a
matter of believing that the policy would benefit the general public.
Senator Ludlam said in a phone interview that he wanted the review of RC guidelines to still go ahead but the government should drop the internet filtering policy altogether.
It [the RC review] was quite transparently a political stalling tactic but that didn't make it a bad idea, he said: [The filter] is just a complete waste of chamber time. It's a waste of public servants' time who for the next 10 months
are going to be progressing a mandatory filter proposal that has no chance of passing either house of parliament now.
Despite nearly losing an election over the matter, Aussie Prime Minister Julia Gillard still thinks it is a jolly good idea to censor the Internet, Chinese style.
The matter has gone quiet down under after the Government said it did not want to press the case for an Internet filter.
Now Gilliard is bringing the plan back claiming it was necessary because it was driven by a moral question .
Speaking during a press club meeting, Gillard said that it is unlawful for an adult to go to a cinema and watch certain sorts of content [or play an adults only computer game considered perfectly ok in the rest of the civilised world].
It's unlawful and we believe it to be wrong. If we accept that then it seems to me that the moral question is not changed by the medium that the images come through, she said.
Gillard has admitted that the problem of how to set up the internet filter is more complicated, but the underpinning moral question is, I think, exactly the same .
Australian internet users will have their web access partially censored next month after the country's two largest internet providers agreed to voluntarily block more than 500 websites from view.
Telstra and Optus confirmed they would block access to a list of child abuse websites provided by the Australian Communications and Media Authority and more compiled by unnamed international organisations from mid-year.
But internet experts have warned that the scheme is merely a feel-good policy that will not stop criminals from accessing obscene material online and could block websites unfairly.
The voluntary scheme was originally proposed by the Federal Government last year as part of a wider, $9.8 million scheme to encourage internet service providers to block all Refused Classification material from users. The Government dropped its
funding for the scheme last month due to limited interest from the industry, but a spokesman for Communications Minister Stephen Conroy said a basic voluntary filter was still on track to be introduced by Telstra, Optus and two small ISPs.
The ACMA will compile and manage a list of URLs of child abuse content that will include the appropriate subsection of the ACMA blacklist as well as child abuse URLs that are provided by reputable international organisations (to be blocked),
the spokesman said.
Electronic Frontiers Association board member Colin Jacobs also expressed concern at the scheme, saying the Government and internet providers needed to be more upfront about websites being blocked and offer an appeals process for website owners
who felt URLs had been blocked unfairly.
At least one Australian ISP is wavering on plans to begin blocking illegal websites next month because of fear of reprisals from internet vigilantes.
It came to light yesterday that despite a climbdown by the Australian government, four of the country's internet providers, including the two largest, were planning to launch a voluntary internet filtering scheme in July. The plan has been
criticized as lacking transparency, accountability and any sort of visible appeals process, but never mind all that, it's full steam ahead!
Now, Telstra, one of the two big players involved, is apparently having second thoughts about the whole thing. A rep said last night that while the company remains committed to working with the government to cut access to child pornography, it
hasn't actually made a decision to fire up the filter.
What's the hangup? Word on the street is that Telstra is worried about putting itself in the crosshairs of Anonymous and other internet vigilantes. Patrick Gray of the Risky Business security podcast said Telstra was right to be
worried. If they think there's a laugh in something and it ties in with their politics, they might have a go, sure.
Update: Strict Interpol List, Not Australia's bloated block list
30th June 2011. From sexparty.org.au
Australia's internet industry body has sought to distance its fledgling child pornography filtering scheme from the Federal Government's mandatory filtering policy, stating its own more limited approach was more akin to ISPs cooperating with law
enforcement authorities and would not constitute a form of censorship.
The scheme is expected to see most of Australia's major ISPs voluntarily block a list of sites containing child pornography compiled by international policing agency Interpol, with the assistance of the Australian Federal Police. The legal
instrument for the scheme to go ahead is section 313 of Australia's Telecommunications Act, which allows law enforcement to make reasonable requests for assistance from ISPs.
The framework has already been agreed to by Telstra and Optus, and most of the rest of Australia's major ISPs are expected to fall in line and implement the Interpol blacklist over the next year.
In an interview this afternoon, Internet Industry Association chief executive Peter Coroneos denied the Interpol filter would see a form of censorship reach Australia's internet sector. This is not censorship; this is law enforcement
cooperation around material which is illegal to possess, he said. We've been at pains to try and distance this initiative from the Government's mandatory filtering scheme.
Coroneos highlighted a number of key differences between the IIA's policy and Labor's filter policy. For starters, he said, no new technology would need to be implemented in ISPs' networks to block the Interpol list, although both policies would
see a block page displayed when a user tried to access a banned site. Instead, ISPs' network routing tables would block access to the sites directly, with a list of the banned sites to be provided by Interpol through the AFP to the ISPs.
Secondly, the Interpol list will contain a much more limited set of sites to be blocked than the Federal Government's scheme would affect. The Interpol list only contains several hundred sites, representing the agency's worst of list of
sites containing media depicting children younger than 13 years in sexually exploitative situations. And the images must be of real people --- sites which contain computer generated or other created images are not included.
The Federal Government's list is believed to contain several thousand sites in a range of categories of material that have been refused classification, not just child pornography, for example, but pro-rape sites, bestiality, sites which promote
crime and so on.
Optus, Australia's second largest telco, has confirmed recent rumors that the voluntary filtering technology it is rolling out in the upcoming weeks can be easily circumvented by users.
In response to a question whether a work-around to the Uptus filer was possible by simply using a different DNS server than the default setting on the user's PC, a company spokesperson said: That's correct. It's a feature of the Interpol list.
The ease of circumvention led a critic of the plan, Electronic Frontiers Association spokesperson Stephen Collins, to wonder why the filter was being unveiled in the first place. With such a trivial circumvention, Optus' implementation of this
block list is worse than ineffective, it's also misleading on a grand scale, he said, adding, Nobody will be protected from criminals by this, and worse, for those customers who believe they are protected, their kids or anyone else using
their internet connection will bypass this with less than 30 seconds effort. Optus should be ashamed of themselves; first for implementing this list and trying to have their customers believe it would work and second for doing such a half-baked
Stephen Conroy, the Australian minister of Communications Blocking has remained stalwart in his support for Labor's hated mandatory internet blocking scheme in a debate on ABC TV.
He was asked whether Labor's support for the blocking was pointless, given that it may not have the numbers to get through Parliament.
Conroy answered that a review of the Refused Classification category of content still had to be undertaken before legislation was introduced to Parliament. He added:
The legislation will ultimately reflect the outcome of that review... for people to say it definitely won't be passed, the legislation hasn't been drafted, and that review hasn't taken place yet
You don't, simply because you've got a lot of criticism, say 'well I'm going to run away from that policy.
Other panelists were more wary. Independent Rob Oakeshott said he was in favour of personal responsibility in terms of internet use, but he would wait to see the legislation.
Shadow Innovation Minister Sophie Mirabella told the audience that the Coalition wouldn't support the policy because it wouldn't work, particularly as it was unable to block peer-to-peer traffic.
Australian Sex Party president Fiona Patton warned filter critics not to take the Coalition's opposition to the scheme for granted. (Shadow Treasurer) Joe Hockey may have said he won't support the filter as it stands, but certainly Tony Abbott
out at Rooty Hill, of course, said that he would do whatever he could to stop people looking at filth, she said.
Australia's opposition Coalition has announced plans for an Online Safety Working Group designed to assist parents and teachers in protecting young people from the risks associated with the internet and social media.
The Coalition will consult with technology, education and cyber safety representatives, to develop its online safety policy in the areas of education, regulation and enforcement.
Federal opposition leader, Tony Abbott, said in a statement that approximately 2.2 million Australian children actively engage via the internet and are vulnerable to its risks:
In a relatively short period of time, the internet has transformed our way of life. However, there are also risks, and children are particularly vulnerable. These risks include children being exposed to illegal or inappropriate content and the
increasing use of social media as a forum for online bullying.
Abbott added that the Coalition do not seek to repeat Labor's ham-fisted attempt to put a filter on the internet or to hinder the dynamic nature of the online environment. Abbott was referring to the Federal Government's proposed mandatory
Internet Service Provider (ISP) filter which attracted criticism from the IT industry during 2011: This is about protecting cyber privacy. It's not about trying to enforce cyber censorship.
The axing of Stephen Conroy's other pet project, the controversial mandatory internet blocking scheme, will save the government more than $4 million.
According to Budget 2013 papers, the government will achieve savings of $4.5m over three years by not proceeding with mandatory filtering legislation, a move announced in November.
The plan would have forced ISPs to filter web pages that contain refused classification-rated content based on a government blacklist.
Instead, major internet service providers will be required to block child abuse websites on Interpol's worst of child abuse list, and anything else banned by government bodies such as the financial regulator.
Senator Conroy mooted the ea in the lead up to the 2007 election but it has been fraught with delays ever since. The methods employed by the government were deemed impractical and seen as an attempt to censor the internet.
An Australian security agency has used federal powers to block Australian access to websites, in the latest development surrounding revived fears of internet censorship.
Bureaucrats at the Department of Broadband, Communications and the Digital Economy, and the Attorney-General's Department separately confirmed at Senate estimates hearings that a total of three departments had requested that ISPs block specific
websites from access within Australia.
The requests, known as section 313 notices, come under 15-year-old legal powers that require telecommunications carriers to cooperate with law enforcement in stopping unlawful use of their services. However, until recently the powers were not
believed to have been widely used for the purpose of blocking websites.
DBCDE deputy secretary Abdul Rizvi said on Thursday that a total of three federal agencies were found to have used the powers to block website access, after a meeting was held on May 22 between 12 federal agencies to determine the scope of the
The bureaucrats conceded they were unsure exactly how much agencies were using the notices, and whether state government departments were also requesting website blocks.
The Australian Federal Police, the Australian Securities Investment Commission (ASIC), and one unnamed agency have indicated to the government that they would likely seek to keep using powers in the Telecommunications Act to force ISPs to block
In April 2013, following a bungle by ASIC that resulted in accidentally blocking customer access to 250,000 websites when the agency was just seeking to block websites associated with investment fraud, it was revealed that three government
agencies had been using Section 313 of the Telecommunications Act to compel ISPs to block customer access to websites on their behalf.
Following public backlash, and amid cries of censorship and criticism over the lack of transparency over the power, the then-Labor government promised to review the power, and improve the oversight and transparency of the process.
At the time, despite the controversy, it seems that internally agencies had indicated to the government that they intended to continue using the power. A briefing document from a meeting convened by the Department of Communications in May 2013,
and published online under Freedom of Information revealed that the three agencies the department had discovered to be using section 313 indicated that they will continue to so in the future.
The heavily-redacted briefing document showed the police had used the power 21 times between June 2011 and February 2013 to request ISPs to block websites listed on the Interpol worst of child abuse websites , and would continue to do so
in the future.
The Department of Communications told ZDNet in December that it was still in consultation with government agencies on the use of the power.
Attorney-General George Brandis indicated last month that he is considering giving the power to the Federal Court to give injunctions to ISPs to force the companies to block copyright-infringing websites such as The Pirate Bay.
The Australian federal government has founded a committee to inquire into law enforcement's use of the Telecommunications Act. The inquiry will specifically look into the Australian Securities and and Investments Commission (ASIC) alongside the
Australian Federal Police (AFS). The groups had initiated website blocking that was revealed in 2013 after a clumsy implementation blocked 250,000 other websites in the process.
Australian tech news site IT News first suggested federal agencies may be taking advantage of Section 313 after a third unnamed agency was found making similar website blocking demands. The federal government refers to the third organization only
as a national security agency and has repeatedly declined to disclose any further information regarding the identity or motives behind its behavior.
Australian Greens senator Scott Ludlam issued a public statement on his website accusing the government of a secret Internet filter, referring to an unpopular government proposal earlier that year to establish a mandatory Internet filter.
Ludlam asserted that ASIC and AFP activities amounted to a filter by stealth whereby law enforcement agencies disrupted access to online content without transparency or public statements of explanation.
After more than a year of public statements from corporations and politicians, the federal government is opening a parliamentary committee to undertake an inquiry into ASIC and AFP behavior.
The investigation will address whether these agencies' uses of Section 313 have been appropriate or abusive. The current law does not explicitly require transparency, but the inquiry will review whether legal adjustments are necessary, with the
committee calling it an important public policy question. Other questions will include the authority of who can use Section 313 to block websites, circumstances in which it is appropriate, and accountability procedures.