Possible Australian ACMA banned sites list published

Wikileaks, the international purveyor of information governments would rather keep privy from their citizens, has published what is claimed to be the Australian ACMA blacklist in their section on Australia.

The leak was revealed by @ashermoses in an exclusive in the Sydney Morning Herald.

Wikileaks has previously published the blacklists for Thailand, Denmark and Norway.

University of Sydney associate professor Bjorn Landfeldt said the leaked list “constitutes a condensed encyclopedia of depravity and potentially very dangerous material”.

He said the leaked list would become “the concerned parent’s worst nightmare” as curious children would inevitably seek it out.

But about half of the sites on the list are not related to child porn and include a slew of online poker sites, YouTube links, regular gay and straight porn sites, Wikipedia entries, euthanasia sites, websites of fringe religions such as satanic sites, fetish sites, Christian sites, the website of a tour operator and even a Queensland dentist.

The subject matter of banned content may shed a unique light on national societal tabus and mores – for example, the distaste of the Thai government for internet content which criticises their sacrosanct monarchy. Apparently online poker is an Australian tabu – is this because our government collects taxes from local betting in TABs, casinos and pokie machines than have precious revenue dispersed to overseas gambling dens?

ACMA clarifies:

The Interactive Gambling Act 2001 (the IGA) makes it an offence to provide, or advertise, certain interactive gambling services. ACMA is responsible for investigating formal complaints made under the IGA in relation to prohibited internet gambling content.

Prohibited internet gambling content is content that can be accessed, or is available for access, by customers of a prohibited internet gambling service.

A prohibited internet gambling service is a gambling service provided in the course of carrying on a business to customers using an internet carriage service, and an individual physically present in Australia is capable of becoming a customer of the service.

If ACMA receives a complaint about prohibited internet gambling content that is hosted in Australia, ACMA will refer the matter to the Australian Federal Police.

If prohibited internet gambling content is hosted outside Australia, ACMA will notify the content to makers of the approved Family Friendly Filters listed in Schedule 1 to the Interactive Gambling Act Industry code.

Other legal adult sites also feature on the list.

Although AbbyWinters is hosted overseas and accessible now, it would be blocked to all Australian Internet users if mandatory ISP filtering is introduced.

Perhaps certain sectors of our government may have serious religious and/or personal issues with sex and a prurient interest in what consenting adults choose to do in the privacy of their own homes on the net with legal adult material.

Julian Assange, founder of Wikileaks, dug up the blacklist after ACMA added several Wikileaks pages to the list following the site’s publication of the Danish blacklist.

He said secret censorship systems were “invariably corrupted”, pointing to the Thailand censorship list, which was originally billed as a mechanism to prevent child pornography but contained more than 1200 sites classified as criticising the royal family.

“In January the Thai system was used to censor Australia reportage about the imprisoned Australian writer Harry Nicolaides,” he said.

“The Australian democracy must not be permitted to sleep with this loaded gun. This week saw Australia joining China and the United Arab Emirates as the only countries censoring Wikileaks.”

The leaked list, understood to have been obtained from an internet filtering software maker, contains 2395 sites. ACMA said its blacklist, as at November last year, contained 1370 sites.

Assange said the disparity in the reported figure is most likely due to the fact that the list contains several duplicates and variations of the same URL that stem from a single complaint. Alternatively, some sites may have been added to the list by the filter software maker.

That the list has been so readily leaked attests to the counter-productivity and uselessness of maintaining such a list at all, let alone attempting to censor its entries at ISP level, which can be easily circumvented using VPNs, proxies etc.

Warning – “ACMA said Australians caught distributing the list or accessing child pornography sites on the list could face criminal charges and up to 10 years in prison.”

Controversy is raging in the twitterverse as to whether direct linking to the relevant Wikileaks page may lead to criminal prosecution – and at present there is no shortage of folks willing to defend their tweets in court. Relevant ACMA legislation is here.

Asher Moses has now interviewed some legitimate businesses and sites who’ve ended up on the ACMA blacklist – legal claims against the government may be relevant?

The Queensland dentist included on the Australian communications regulator’s blacklist of prohibited websites has demanded that the list be cleaned up, as he is now being associated with child porn peddlers and sexual violence sites.

Other Australian sites on the list are canteens.com.au (“Tuckshop and Canteen Management Consultants”) and animal carers MaroochyBoardingKennels.com.au.

The dentist, Dr John Golbrani, was furious when contacted to inform him that his site, dentaldistinction.com.au, appeared on the blacklist.

“A Russian company broke into our website a couple of years back and they were putting pornographic listings on there … [but] we changed across to a different web provider and we haven’t had that problem since,” Golbrani said in a phone interview.

He said the fact that he hadn’t been removed from the list was “criminal” and he was scared potential customers may avoid him.

“The government needs to get in and clean it up,” said Golbrani.

UPDATE

Conroy says the list on Wikileaks is not the ACMA blacklist.

“I am aware of reports that a list of URLs has been placed on a website. This is not the ACMA blacklist,” Conroy said in a statement.

“The published list purports to be current at 6 August 2008 and apparently contains approximately 2,400 URLs whereas the ACMA blacklist for the same date contained 1,061 URLs,” he said

He admitted the list contained some common URLS, but said that other URLs on the list had never been the subject of a complaint or ACMA investigation.

“ACMA is investigating this matter and is considering a range of possible actions it may take including referral to the Australian Federal Police. Any Australian involved in making this content publicly available would be at serious risk of criminal prosecution,” Conroy said.

How odd – Conroy says that the Wikileaks banned list is not the ACMA list, then decrees that one can be at risk of prosecution for making it publicly available?

Conroy’s statement should be reviewed in the light of ACMA’s press release today:

ACMA has previously investigated and taken action on material—including child pornography and child sexual abuse images—at some of the sites on this list of 2300 URLs. However, the list provided to ACMA differs markedly in length and format to the ACMA blacklist. The ACMA blacklist has at no stage been 2300 URLs in length and at August 2008 consisted of 1061 URLs. It is therefore completely inaccurate to say that the list of 2300 URLs constitutes an ACMA blacklist.

It also appears that many of the 2300 URLs provided on the list are no longer active. However, some of the URLs that remain active appear to relate to online depictions of child sexual abuse. Possessing, distributing or accessing such material may amount to an offence under the Commonwealth Criminal Code and relevant State laws.

ACMA provides the ACMA blacklist to the fourteen providers of filter software which have been tested and accredited by the Internet Industry Association (IIA), as part of IIA’s Family Friendly Filter scheme. ACMA is discussing with the IIA what if any action it may need to take to help ensure that ACMA’s list remain secure.

ACMA considers that any publication of the ACMA blacklist would have a substantial adverse effect on the effective administration of the regulatory scheme which aims to prevent access to harmful and offensive online material. Such publication would undermine the public interest outcomes which the current legislation aims to achieve.

ACMA does not mention any penalties for linking to the current Wikileaks page.

5 comments to Possible Australian ACMA banned sites list published

  • JJ

    Are we in Australia or China? If the list is “Secret” then how do we know EXACTLY what we are being denied access to? Whos to say that someone who has a blog saying all the things the government is doing wrong doesn’t make it onto the list just so the government has 1 less thorn in it’s side what the person is perfectly entitled to do this. This is sounding more like a communist system every day Rudd is in power. I need to say it now because soon it will be illegal to do so or print a comment like that…… won’t it?

    • Not so much a communist system as a paternalist fascist kindergarten where the religious old guard are currently at the helm – a communist system is secular, and would attempt to rehabilitate its critics through punitive reeducation. In our system, it is the politicians and attendant hopeful dogooders and moralisers who might benefit from the reeducation 😉 Perhaps the wikileak.org Swedes are about to donate some.

      Conroy is promising punitive measures and titheing, to the tune of $11,000 per day for distributing the non? ACMA list. Thus are we all ‘protected’ by governmental paternalist determinations, and we are not trusted to know what it is we are being protected from – who will watch the watchers? Yet it is Conroy’s silly unwanted policies which have brought us to this point – it is his fatally flawed policies, his lack of political nous and foresight which are directly responsible for wikileaks publishing the ?ACMA list. Conroy is guilty as charged, hoisted by his own petard. He was warned what would happen if he continued to ignore legitimate criticism of his policies, and that of which he was warned has transpired. Perhaps he has even unconsciously invited this situation and may learn from it? or otherwise be reshuffled.

      It is public apathy and ignorance which permits our successive governments to pander to interest groups with repressive moralities & illogical unproductive agendas and pull the wool over our eyes. Still, we are in a democracy, and if we, the people, don’t like our archiac, backwater censorship laws and government efforts to baby us in ways which do not serve to protect our childrens’ futures, diverting scarce resources away from the police whose job it is to catch exploiters and into unworkable policies which have the potential to destroy our freedoms, it’s up to us to lobby for change. 🙂

  • Wikileaks.org is now up and running again!

  • From NineMSN News:

    But opposition communications spokesman Nick Minchin said the leaking of the list also highlighted how such information could surface, despite the efforts of ACMA or the introduction of an internet content filter.

    “The regrettable and unfortunate reality is there will always be explicit and illegal material on the web and regardless of blacklists, filters and the like, those with the means and know-how will find ways of accessing it,” Senator Minchin said.

    “The coalition also maintains that adult supervision is the most effective way of keeping children safe online and people shouldn’t be led into believing by Labor that expanded blacklists or mandatory filters are a substitute for that,” Senator Minchin said.

    Greens senator Scott Ludlam said the leak was further evidence the government should take a step back from the mandatory filtering idea.

    He said filtering devices did not solve the problem of child pornography.

    “People in the industry … have said first of all that the kind of material the government says it’s most interested in cracking down on is not largely trafficked over websites, it’s a tiny fraction.

    “A lot of it is trafficked over peer to peer networks.”

    The leaking of the list has also raised concerns about the potential for blacklists and filtering devices to be used as way of censoring other material that is not illegal.

    Wikileaks said censorship systems, whatever their original intent, were invariably corrupted into anti-democratic behaviour.

    It cited the Thailand censorship list, saying that like Labor’s proposed filter scheme, it was originally proposed as a mechanism to prevent child pornography.

    But Wikileaks said that in January, the Thai system was used to censor reporting about the case of Australian author Harry Nicolaides who was recently released from a Thai prison after pleading guilty to criticising the Thai royal family.

    Wikileaks said research showed that such blacklists were dangerous to “above ground” activities such as political discourse and had little effect on the production of child pornography.

    Several Wikileaks pages also appeared on the list published on Thursday.

    It appears the Wikileaks website has since been shut down.

    Wikileaks shut down? now that would be annoying – hoping it’s temporary server problems.

    Meanwhile, Boing Boing comes to the rescue with a mirror. The genie is out of the bottle. Your call, Senator Conroy.

  • From ABC News:

    The managing director of Tech 2U, one of six ISPs involved in a trial of filtering technology, told ABC News Online the list bore little resemblance to the official ACMA version.

    “The list released on Wikileaks does not agree with the list which was provided to us earlier this year,” Andrew Robson said.

    “I don’t know where this list came from, but our copy is kept very securely and only one person in the organisation has access to it.”