Government’s secret internet filter blocks thousands of harmless websites

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Fears that the Government's scaled-back internet filter would be subjected to scope-creep have been confirmed, with revelations on Delimiter that ASIC is responsible for blocking 1200 sites found to be perfectly legal, Greens communications spokesperson Senator Scott Ludlam. 

"The website of Melbourne Free University was blocked by an Australian authority from April 4 ‘til April 12 and no reason was given. The block was lifted after I and Greens Deputy Leader Adam Bandt raised the issue with the Attorney General but the source of the block remained a mystery. We now know that the Government's financial regulator - ASIC - has started requiring internet service providers to block websites suspected of being used in fraudulent activities, which opens the door to wide-scale banning of sites. It also means no-one is effectively in charge; other Government agencies could demand sites be blocked with no coordination or accountability in place. 

"Telstra, Optus, and Vodafone internet customers were unable to access the Melbourne Free University Site as well as more than 1200 websites that share the same overseas IP address. The website's convenors were told at the time by Exetel that the IP address had been ‘blocked by Australian authorities for undisclosed reasons' - this is a filter by stealth that operates with no explanation and no transparency." 

In April Senator Ludlam put a series of Questions to the Minister representing the Attorney General, but it was not until last night that Communications Minister Stephen Conroy revealed ASIC was operating the internet filter. 

"The Australian public overwhelmingly rejected the Government's plan to introduce a mandatory filter and welcomed the news in November that the scheme had been abandoned in favour of more effective and more fair methods of fighting crime online such as child abuse material. We now know the Government has introduced a filter by stealth, one that has already caught 1200 perfectly legal websites in its net. The Government needs to abandon this scheme and come up with methods to tackle online fraud that don't involve widespread censorship of harmless material."