In an ominous escalation of internet filtering in Australia, an unidentified agency under the remit of the Attorney-General is also using section 313 of the Telecommunications Act to block an unknown set of websites – bringing the number of government agencies filtering up to three, Greens Senator Scott Ludlam said today.
“We now know that in addition to the ASIC and Australian Federal Police, a third agency has used the section 313 power to block websites, but the Government will not reveal which,” Senator Ludlam said.
The Department of Communications was also unable to identify how many state, territory and Commonwealth agencies are legally empowered to demand ISPs block websites at will.
“This morning I asked the Department of Communications which agency is blocking websites under section 313. In a manoeuvre straight out of ‘Yes Minister’, Senator Conroy advised me to ask the Attorney General, despite the fact Communications has responsibility for the issue. The AG’s department subsequently said they could not reveal the third agency.”
Minister Conroy has revealed his department convened a meeting of agencies likely to be using such powers to filter websites on May 22, and that to date three agencies have begun blocking websites. In today’s hearing Department representatives listed attendees, but neglected to mention that ASIO attended the meeting until quizzed on that specific agency.
"After I had to name them it was provided," Senator Ludlam told Minister Conroy in the hearing. “How many other agencies do I need to name to see if they were also there?”
There is virtually no oversight or transparency in how 313 notices are issued, which agencies and individuals can request one, or under what circumstances they're permitted.