Despite premature celebrations or wishful thinking that the Government are looking for an exit strategy, the Government is powering ahead with its plans to censor Australia's Internet.

On Sunday's edition of Background Briefing on radio national - an excellent and in-depth look at the scheme, available here for download - the Minister could be heard proclaiming the necessity of the scheme, dismissing the critics, and confusing the issue, saying that the filter would protect Australia's children from "'such vile websites as child pornography and the ultra-violent sites" and that Labor made no apology for trying to "block these sites from families' loungerooms and children's bedrooms." These are frightening words for anyone who understands the issues at stake, for they demonstrate some very confused thinking lies at the heart of this policy. If the Minister truly believes that children are seeking out, or being bombarded with child pornography, then there's a dearth of both common sense and proper research in the Ministerial suites.

In the meantime, events have belied the benign nature of the new regime. After Friday's notice to online discussion site Whirlpool, demanding a link to blacklisted content be taken down, it has come to light today that ACMA has blacklisted a page on the whistle-blower site Wikileaks. The page was submitted by a Whirlpool user, and ironically contains the leaked blacklist from a Danish filtering scheme (where the list is also kept secret, as in Australia). Wikileaks is designed as a safe repository for the anonymous posting of documents, especially those Governments would seek to suppress. Few would fail to see the value in such a site, and so it is not a little disturbing to see how casually it was added to ACMA's list of prohibited web sites. Even under the current regime, a site like Wikileaks could certainly not be hosted in Australia.

We note that, not only do these incidents show that the ACMA censors are more than willing to interpret their broad guidelines to include a discussion forum and document repository, it is demonstrably inevitable that the Government's own list is bound to be exposed itself at some point in the future. The Government would serve the country well by sparing themselves, and us, this embarrassment.

The spin is starting to wear thin. It can no longer be denied that the blacklist targets a huge range of material that is legal and even uncontroversial. Politically controversial material will be blocked, as we have seen today. As time goes on, pressure will only mount on the Government to expand the list, while money and effort are poured into an enormous black box that will neither help kids nor stem the flow of illegal material.

In light of this, it's no wonder that Australians are unwilling to take it on faith that the list will contain only uncontroversial content and will be flawlessly administered for all time. Instead, citizens are keeping up the pressure on their government, with a protest march taking place in Canberra on Saturday. EFA will be there to address those attending. Mandatory ISP filtering is a bad solution in search of a problem. The only problems the Government can find to make it fit are solely political in nature.

28 comments

  1. Pingback: ACMA blacklists Wikileaks page - Somebody Think Of The Children

  2. Pingback: WikiLeaks on Censorship Blacklist « The musings of an Australian classical liberal in Washington DC

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  4. At least we still have greens on our side to stop it, and including ( maybe ) Nick Xenophon.

    Comment by Rastko Petrovic on 17 March 2009 at 08:17
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  6. It looks like ACMA have been told to put a stop to that sort of thing.....

    from

    http://www.australianit.news.com.au/story/0,27574...

    "ACMA must advise complainants of the outcome of their complaints, the spokesman said, and it was usual to include the relevant URL in the response to ensure that complainants, particularly those who had complained about several URLs, were aware of the action ACMA had taken."

    They MUST advise complainants of the outcome of their complaints, but have just proclaimed that they have taken a measure that hides the outcome if you make more than one complaint at a time! Are they permitted to have that much discretion with the legislation?

    Comment by Neil McAliece on 17 March 2009 at 17:48
  7. This case encapsulates all that is wrong with the black list. The page shows images of
    aborted foetus so linking to it is banned. Now if you do a Google using the terms "foetus" "image" and "aborted" you get over 100,000 hits, many with pictures, including the website in question. Does this mean Google should also have to remove links (like the Chinese made them do).

    Also, although distasteful to the general reader, some of these sites are materials for health professionals. Do they all get blacklisted or only POLITICALLY motivated sites.

    It just means any lobby group can get any material banned as long as they organise enough complaints. Where does it end?

    Comment by Greg on 18 March 2009 at 00:49
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  10. If Whirlpool can be forced to take down the link, then presumably YahooGroups can also be forced. The story is already spreading like wildfire across YahooGroups, so they must be being inundated with take-down notices. Surely if those against internet censorship were to spread the story further, and lodge complaints with ACMA about all appearances, the system would gring to a standstill in no time.

    Comment by Palloy on 18 March 2009 at 06:06
  11. Pingback: Banned hyperlinks could cost you $11,000 a day

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  13. Pingback: statism watch » Blog Archive » In Australia, censored hyperlinks could cost you

  14. Damned fools in this Government. I honestly don't understand why we need politicians in this day and age. BTW, is the whole wikileaks site blocked or that one address? Or are you just not allowed to display links to it? I'm confused.
    All still working fine for me.

    Comment by James on 19 March 2009 at 06:06
  15. Pingback: Qed » Australia secretly censors Wikileaks press release and Danish Internet censorship list, 16 Mar 2009 - Wikileaks

  16. Is there an easy to follow, step by step guide to bypassing the filter, foreign VPS/encryption, or whatever? I want to prepare myself!

    Comment by Richard on 20 March 2009 at 00:06
  17. Comment by Palloy on 20 March 2009 at 01:24
  18. just tell your provider that if they only have censored internet you will be cancelling.....and stick to it!

    only thing they understand is the bottom line.

    government will listen more intently to big business than they ever will to the voters.

    Comment by alby on 20 March 2009 at 03:00
  19. The Wikileaks web site was unreachable today - the whole site not just the ACMA blacklisted pages.
    On the Whirlpool forum it was suggested this was not because of any blocking but just too many requests to the server and a suggestion was supplied how to use a proxy server to reach the site.
    Through the proxy server I was able to reach the Wikileaks site including the purported ACMA list of banned sites.
    Since then the post mentioning how to use a proxy server has been removed from the Whirlpool forum and the link to Wikileaks via that proxy server no longer works.
    This is really scary. What is going on?
    This is the most dangerous time for Australia's so called democracy since the Menzies government tried to outlaw the Communist Party. Then there was a principled Labor Party leadership not afraid to lead the Australian public out of a descent into authoritarianism. Not so today. In fact the reverse. I'm enraged.

    Comment by Michael Rogers on 20 March 2009 at 08:51
  20. Pingback: Banned Hyperlinks could cost you $11,000 a day | Censorship Sucks Balls

  21. You could make quite the argument for this being a case for widespread civil disobedience.

    For example, I'm going to go ahead and tempt the wrath of Conroy and the ACMA by posting this link -- which, might I add, has no illegal content in it [warning, the following link contains softcore pornography involving consenting adults]:

    http://www.abbywinters.com/portal/

    Go ahead, Conroy and the ACMA. If you want to fine me or put me in prison for posting material that isn't even illegal, on the basis of your secret list which we're not allowed to see, then you just try it. I can assure you you'll have quite the legal battle on your hands.

    Comment by A concerned citizen on 21 March 2009 at 07:51
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  23. What really bothers me is the dearth of coverage in the mainstream media. Is it only a certain faction of the
    population that cares about this wrongheaded filter?

    Comment by Flying Saucer Jones on 23 March 2009 at 02:32
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  25. Hitler is told by his generals that Internet Censorship Australia isn't going so smoothly
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tH35CVig3fQ

    Comment by Goat on 24 March 2009 at 09:49
  26. You folks may want to check out this site...and build your list now, while its not down...I checked it out...it works.

    http://dnsdown.com (it bypasses content filters...;-)

    Send the guy a few bucks, keep this site up!

    Comment by Mikey on 16 December 2009 at 21:02
  27. the blocking of content on this scale is expensive and a complete waste of time, id give it a week before someone figures out how to get around it. although its to protect the children, anyone who can read the instructions on a router package can set it up to block certain key words, child pornography should not exist but deciding to block a large part of the internet to all users in australia isnt the way to go about it, lower level blocks on the local router level will have more succsess. ive also heard that internet response times will be increased (ping) pretty much everyone in australia who has an XBOX live subscription will be incredibly furious if it takes 3-4 seconds for thier movements and actions to matter to others, the normal response to the USA on games is 200-400 MILISECONDS, the servers that run in australia, ive had a response time of 48 miliseconds, and i wouldnt want anymore laag than that. this was not discussed by the public, i havnt heard of anything in the news, there has been no votes, its just somethin that the government has decided "yeah this is a good idea, lets do it, we'll worry about complaints when it fails".
    among the blocked sites will be Encyclopedia Dramatica, it has many offensive articles but are supposed to be taken in a harsh satirical matter, the articles are sometimes obscene, but theres no way i could have found it in google with no "safe search" on my own. i have read the article on aspergers syndrome (as an aspie myself) and i found it to be the funniest thing ive ever heard.

    GOVERNMENT, FIND A BETTER USE OF MONEY THAN A FILTER THAT WILL LAST THE BETTER PART OF THE MONTH, when it does come through, it better not block game.uk.stne.net, i play that thing almost religeosly and it will make me have to find a better use of my time, like figureing out how to bypass the filter to keep playing the game (the server is in germany)

    Comment by scotty on 25 January 2010 at 09:48
  28. The filter will only be on web requests, so games will not be affected.

    The way around it is already worked out and is built into Windows - its called VPN : Virtual Private Network. Politicians and business people already use this extensively when they are away from their offices and need to communicate securely.

    To bypass the government filter you will need to access to a web proxy using a VPN (encrypted) connection, like the way you access your on-line banking. For small volumes you can use free ones like https://vtunnel.com , or for a more sophisticated service try https://your-freedom.net which offers various packages from $48/year.

    For how to set it up see http://www.peakoil.org.au/privacy/privacy.htm

    Comment by Palloy on 25 January 2010 at 18:17