Last night news broke that Australia's financial regulator, ASIC did in fact block the 1200 websites on 12th April, ASIC. According to Delimiter in a statement made last night by the office of Stephen Conroy:
ASIC believed that the website in question was operating in breach of Australian law, specifically section 911a of the Corporations Act 2001
Under Section 313 of the Telecommunications Act, websites that breach Australian law can be blocked.
Melbourne Free University’s website was hosted at the same IP address as the fraud website, and was unintentionally blocked.
Once ASIC were made aware of what had happened, they lifted the original blocking request. The government is working with enforcement agencies to ensure that Section 313 requests are properly targeted in future.
ASIC used Section 313 to block www.globalcapitalwealth.com and www.globalcapitalaustralia.com but due to technical incompetence failed to realise an IP address can host many websites - the action taking down 1200 other websites including education site Melbourne Free University in the crossfire.
Section 313 notices can be issued by officers and authorities of the Commonwealth and of the States and Territories.
This is not the first time ASIC has moved to block websites. In October of last year ASCI blocked prestigeprivatewealth.com, a scam that purports to provide brokerage services.
Brendan Molloy of Pirate Party Australia has requested documents under Freedom of Information from Australian Securities and Investment Commission relating to the above censorship.
Section 313 notices have no public oversight. Communications Minister Stephen Conroy said in November 2012 that these notices would only be used the block the worst of the worst of child pornography.
I would not be comfortable to moving to a system that is more likely to accidentally block material, does not meet Australia’s laws in terms of Australia’s legal definition of child abuse, and does not have appeal mechanisms.
- Senator Conroy, Senate Environment and Communications Committee hearing transcript, 18 October 2011
This is just the latest in a growing number of examples where surveillance and censorship powers have been subject to scope creep. Starting off to fight the boogie man, terrorists and child pornographers only to spread like a bushfire blocking anything without a second thought. Given the complete lack of transparency it is hard to imagine this is the only case of friendly fire.