Leaked Government blacklist confirms worst fears

Edit 19/3 4.00pm: The Minister has refuted the authenticity of the list in a media release. Indications are that the leaked list contains the ACMA list plus sites chosen by the filter vendor. In any case, comments about individual sites on the list should therefore be treated with caution.

Electronic Frontiers Australia today hailed the leaking of the government’s secret internet blacklist as a “wake-up call for Australians concerned about secret censorship”. The blacklist, which appeared on the whistle-blower site Wikileaks, is compiled by the Australian Communications and Media Authority and distributed to the vendors of approved internet filters, but is otherwise secret.

“The leaking of the list has confirmed some of our worst fears,” said EFA Vice-Chair Colin Jacobs. “This was bound to happen, especially as mandatory filtering would require the list to be distributed to ISPs all around the country. The Government is now in the unenviable business of compiling and distributing a list which includes salacious and illegal material and publicising those very sites to the world.”

The blacklist, which EFA tried unsuccessfully to obtain under Freedom of Information laws, was expected to contain not only some sites publishing illegal material involving minors, but also a majority of sites that were blocked for other reasons. Nevertheless, an examination of the list by EFA has turned up a few very surprising additions. YouTube videos, a MySpace profile, online poker parlours and a site containing poison information were present, as well as many apparently harmless sites such as that of a tour operator and a satirical encyclopedia.

“Now that we have seen the list, it is clearly not the perfect weapon against child-abuse it has been made out to be,” said Jacobs. “Many of the sites clearly contain only run-of-the-mill adult material, poker tips, or nothing controversial at all. Even if some of these sites may have been defaced at the time they were added to the list, how would the operators get their sites removed if the list is secret and no appeal is possible?”

The leaking of the list on Wikileaks is ironic, as ACMA this week confirmed that another Wikileaks page containing a similar blacklist from Denmark is now on their own list. It is therefore presumed that the leaked ACMA blacklist will itself be blacklisted.

“Controlling the spread of information on the internet is not as simple as some in government would like to believe,” said Jacobs. “The leaking of this blacklist is a timely lesson in this, and we hope the Government will take this to heart before imposing a filter on the entire country.”

– Ends –

Below is:
– Background information
– Contact details for media


* Leaked Australian blacklist reveals banned sites
– http://www.smh.com.au/articles/2009/03/19/1237054961100.html
* EFA’s No Clean Feed campaign
– http://nocleanfeed.com

About EFA:
Electronic Frontiers Australia Inc. (EFA) is a non-profit national
organisation representing Internet users concerned with on-line
rights and freedoms. EFA was established in 1994, is independent
of government and commerce, and is funded by membership subscriptions
and donations from individuals and organisations with an altruistic
interest in promoting online civil liberties.

Media Contacts:

Mr Colin Jacobs
EFA Vice-Chair
Phone: 0402 631 955
Email: cjacobs at efa.org.au

Mr Geordie Guy
EFA Board Member
Phone: 0415 797 142
Email: gguy at efa.org.au