Australian Internet 'blacklist' prompts concern

Mar 20, 2009 By KRISTEN GELINEAU , Associated Press Writer

(AP) -- A whistle-blower organization claims a secret list of Web sites that Australian authorities are proposing to ban includes such innocuous destinations as a dentist's office.

Australia's government denied that the list - published by renegade Web site Wikileaks.org - was the same as a run by the Australian Communications and Media Authority, or ACMA. However, a manager at the dentist's office said the ACMA had confirmed her site's inclusion on the ban list.

Wikileaks' publication of the list this week reignited a debate over whether a government proposal to impose an filter for all Australians could have unintended consequences for innocent businesses.

The list in question is provided to the creators of that people can opt to install on their computers. But Communications Minister Stephen Conroy has proposed mandating that Australian Internet service providers implement the list, which would make Australia one of the strictest Internet regulators among democratic countries. Several Internet providers are conducting trials of the filter through June.

The authority says the list largely contains the addresses of Web sites promoting child pornography and sexual violence, but it has refused to release its contents publicly.

The proposal has prompted protests across the country, with critics slamming it as censorship. Internet providers argued that a filter could slow browsing speeds, and pointed out that illegal material such as child pornography can be traded on peer-to-peer networks or chats, which would not be covered by the filter.

On its site, Wikileaks accused Australia of "acting like a democratic backwater," and said "Australian democracy must not be permitted to sleep with this loaded gun." The site - which casts itself as an outlet for "untraceable mass document leaking and analysis," with a focus on exposing oppressive regimes and unethical behavior - did not explain how it obtained the purported blacklist.

The list published on Wikileaks contains around 2,400 Internet addresses, many of which are clearly for child pornography. But the list also includes a dental office, online poker parlors, a kennel and a school-cafeteria consultancy firm.

Kelly Wilson, a manager at Dental Distinction in the Australian state of Queensland, said she had no idea her office's site had been blacklisted until a newspaper reporter informed her Thursday. Wilson contacted the ACMA, which she said confirmed the site was on the authority's blacklist. She said she was offered no explanation why.

The site was hacked more than a year ago, and visitors were temporarily redirected to an adult Web site. The office quickly switched to a different Internet provider and hasn't had a problem since, she said.

"We're a little annoyed that we're on there," Wilson said. "It's a great Web site."

Jocelyn Ashcroft, owner of Tuckshop and Canteen Management Consultants in Queensland, whose apparently innocent site was also included on the Wikileaks list, worried that her business could be hurt.

Ashcroft said she contacted the ACMA after learning of the Wikileaks list and was told her site was not on the authority's blacklist. But since the blacklist is secret, she was unsure what to believe.

Australia's government and the ACMA slammed the publication of the Wikileaks list as irresponsible and denied it was the same as the official blacklist.

In separate statements, the ACMA and Conroy, the communications minister, acknowledged that the official blacklist and the version published by Wikileaks contained sites common to both lists. But Conroy said several addresses on the published list have never appeared on the official blacklist.

While the published list contains about 2,400 Internet addresses as of Aug. 6, 2008, the official blacklist for the same date contained around 1,000, the ACMA said. The ACMA said its blacklist has never contained 2,400 sites.

Conroy said the ACMA was investigating the publication of the list and was considering handing the case to the Australian Federal Police.

Jim Wallace, managing director of the Australian Christian Lobby, which supports the Internet filter, said the questions surrounding the published list had done nothing to change his opinion.

"It's going to take time to develop any system and the processes that surround it. We don't know at what stage of investigation these names on the blacklist were," he said. "It's a real shame that people can - through illegal means - challenge something which is purely and simply aimed at giving children a safer experience on the Internet."

©2009 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Explore further: Britain's UKIP issues online rules after gaffes

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Aussies to monitor Net for zombies

Nov 07, 2005

The Australian government has launched a trial program to ferret out "zombie" computers that have been hijacked to send out spam or viruses.

Recommended for you

Britain's UKIP issues online rules after gaffes

8 hours ago

UK Independence Party (UKIP), the British anti-European Union party, has ordered a crackdown on the use of social media by supporters and members following a series of controversies.

Sony saga blends foreign intrigue, star wattage

8 hours ago

The hackers who hit Sony Pictures Entertainment days before Thanksgiving crippled the network, stole gigabytes of data and spilled into public view unreleased films and reams of private and sometimes embarrassing ...

Digital dilemma: How will US respond to Sony hack?

Dec 18, 2014

The detective work blaming North Korea for the Sony hacker break-in appears so far to be largely circumstantial, The Associated Press has learned. The dramatic conclusion of a Korean role is based on subtle ...

User comments : 8

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

LuckyBrandon
5 / 5 (2) Mar 20, 2009
this is a HUGE CROCK OF SHIT. I hate to put it that way, but any government that thinks it has the right to censor what theyre citizens are doing IN ANY WAY needs to be immediately overthrown.
barakn
4 / 5 (4) Mar 20, 2009
If it is truly not the ACMA list, then there is nothing illegal about publishing it. So why are they "considering handing the case to the Australian Federal Police?" Something doesn't add up here.
tpb
5 / 5 (2) Mar 20, 2009
Quote from article.
Conroy said the ACMA was investigating the publication of the list and was considering handing the case to the Australian Federal Police.

Since the ACMA says the list published by Wikileaks isn't their list, what law could they have possibly broken?

latersville
5 / 5 (2) Mar 20, 2009
Jim Wallace, speaking as a representative of God, is just as surely using children as a shield when he argues that he supports the governtment's plan to censor the Internet, as is a terrorist who barricades himself behind students in a school.
russcelt
not rated yet Mar 21, 2009
Isn't safety something we teach children to BE in the 'real' world?

By giving children safety, a.k.a. child proofing, aren't we effectively teaching them that their are no adverse consequences to their actions? Isn't this part of what is wrong with our place in the environment? We humans, as a species on planet earth, don't see or understand the consequences of our actions.

It's a real shame that people can not - through legal means - challenge a so-called democratic government's policies.

"We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. That to secure these rights, governments are instituted among men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed."
KBK
not rated yet Mar 22, 2009
The thing I screamed from the rooftops for years is now being supported by studies, and that is:

The amount of pornography and similar that pollutes the internet amounts to somewhere around 0.001% or LESS of all internet data.

So we are going to have everyone stay at home and strapped into their chairs (at home)...to avoid the odd highway accident? We are going to put policemen in the backseat of each car, with recording devices..to prevent accidents on highways?

I don't think so!!

It's a bullshit scaremongering tactic to obtain more fascist control over your life. Plain and simple.

Terry-Wrists!! Terry-Wrists!! Terry-Wrists!

Fight it - or loose what you might have or now hold. It is the responsibility of the individual to move to physical action. Not internet blogging-sleep. They think that is fantastic. You label yourself via posting-ahead of time. Far easier to collect you, in the future.

They don't care what you do-as long as you never actually get out there ---and do something.

Get out there and actually, physically - talk to your neighbors, friends, family, and associates.

Farting on the 'net counts for little to nothing.

The proof is in that every time I say such simple things--that is when they get upset with me and get into hardcore monitoring.
superhuman
not rated yet Mar 22, 2009
This is a really pathetic move and a huge disgrace to Australia.

It won't stop any child pornography from reaching those after it, it will however:
1. greatly undermine citizens trust into their own government,
2. establish a precedence for further intrusions into free speech and privacy rights,
3. form a publicly funded Government Censorship Agency which is certain to attract all the "right" people,
4. lead to a multitude of exploits and errors,
5. slow down internet access and considerably rise it's costs,
6. and place Australia in the prestigious Club of Internet Censors headed by China.
Arikin
not rated yet Mar 25, 2009
Umm... Why does a filter list have to be secret?? It should be lockable by the parent on the computer it is being used on of course. But secret?

As an optional software for your computer where you have control --> Yes
As a default filter at the ISP level --> censorship similar to China's.

Sadly a democracy doesn't stay a democracy unless its citizens take up responsibility and speak up.

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.