Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Censorship in Oz - Now links are banned too

Remarkable news from the Sydney Morning Herald:
The Australian communications regulator says it will fine people who hyperlink to sites on its blacklist...

The move by the Australian Communications and Media Authority comes after it threatened the host of online broadband discussion forum Whirlpool last week with a $11,000-a-day fine over a link published in its forum to another page blacklisted by ACMA - an anti-abortion website.
The irony here is that the anti-abortion website was referred to ACMA by an anti-censorship campaigner seeking to demonstrate that the blacklist would be used to censor legitimate political speech. Once he succeeded in this aim, it seems that ACMA became embarrassed by their own actions and are now trying to prevent Australians from viewing the page and deciding for themselves whether ACMA's decisions can be trusted.

Electronic Frontiers Australia has more.

In the meantime, here's the ACMA response which they're now trying to censor:
Subject: Complaint Reference: 2009000009/ ACMA-691604278
Date: Wed, 21 Jan 2009 15:45:00 +1100
From: online@acma.gov.au
Complaint Reference: 2009000009/ ACMA-691604278
I refer to the complaint that you lodged with the Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA) on 5th January 2009 about certain content made available at:


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 (http://www.iia.net.au/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=415&Itemid=33) 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.

Information about ACMA’s role in regulating online content (including internet and mobile content), including what is prohibited or potentially prohibited content is available at ACMA’s website at www.acma.gov.au/hotline

Thank you for bringing this matter to ACMA’s attention.
One point stands out about this response. Similar to the Wikipedia debacle in the UK, material is being blacklisted on the basis that it is "potentially" prohibited - that is to say, ACMA is taking a guess as to what the actual censorship body - the Classification Board - might do if asked to decide on the material.

That link contains photos of aborted foetuses. Gruesome? Certainly. But legitimate political speech seeking to demonstrate what the site argues is the "reality" of abortion? Without a shadow of a doubt - making it remarkable that it should be banned to Australian viewers based on nothing more than a hunch as to what a censorship body might think.

1 comment:

  1. Is this the start of Freedom of speech on the internet being closed down.