Current the planned Australian Internet filter and the Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA) are causing quite a bit of controversy. The ACMA's Internet blacklist was leaked and there were some disturbing entries on the list. Among the entries were a Queensland dentist's website, a tour operator, and after disclosing the contents, wikileaks has been added to the list.
There are two problems with the current blacklist as it stands. Firstly, a site that links to a blacklisted or illicit site is also blacklisted. The prime example of this is wikileaks.org which was blacklisted after disclosing the ACMA's blacklist. Media outlets have also been threatened with an $11,000 a day fine for linking to banned sites. This is insanity:
- What if you link to a site then at a later date it posts offending material?
- What if a site is placed onto the blacklist after you've linked to it?
- What if a user posts a black listed link onto a forum you control?
- The link itself doesn't contain any illicit material.
It seems like a violation of free speech to prevent someone from discussing illicit material, how is linking to it any different? Of course the linking issue it the key issue being played out in music sharing cases such as the current trial for "The Pirate Bay".
Secondly, the list is secret and thus there is no accountability. The article on ComputerWorld claims that the decision to add a site to the list can be made by a single bureaucrat. Without the list being disclosed how can there be any accountability for government. They may argue that disclosing the list will provide a central point for people to look for the offending illicit material (child pornography, etc). However:
- People know how to get to illicit material anyway. Pedophile networks can be extremely sophisticated and secure.
- If the governments filter is put in place all those sites will be blocked anyway.
Leave it to the Experts
There is already a lot of evidence that the Internet filtering plan will not work out (including ACMA's own reports). Instead of entering into an unaccountable Internet censorship setup, I feel that we should direct the funding into our state and federal police bodies. They are already doing a great job but could use the extra support. In NSW the police have just recently been given a boost to their online powers but only with a warrant - already much more accountable than a secret list.