Internet censorship in Australia

13 05 2009
 
This is a comment (410) posted on the Discussion pages of the ALS http://blog.libertarian.org.au/discussion/
David is the current National Coordinator of the Liberal Democratic Party in Australia.

A post on Catallaxy by Jason Soon has exposed some particularly authoritarian anti-free speech behaviour by the ACMA (we are talking about an Australian government authority here).

The subject of ACMA’s ire is not at all interesting. The issue is whether ISPs can be legally bullied into censoring material on sites they host.

Unfortunately the guys at Catallaxy wimped out and removed my link to the offending site, so I’ve added it here. WordPress is hosted in America (where free speech is protected by the Constitution) so it’s untouchable by the Australian gestapo.

Link here: http://www.abortiontv.com/Pics/AbortionPictures6.htm

Jason’s post:

Thanks to Rudd/Conroy how long will it be before our runaway bureaucracy ACMA bans even Google? It already has a 6 degrees of separation takedown policy: http://www.theregister.co.uk/2009/05/07/oz_link_ban/

The Australian Government yesterday broke new records for web censorship by requiring the takedown not just of a page containing harmful content, nor even a page linking to harmful content, but a page linking to a link to allegedly harmful content.

The content that the Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA) originally deemed to be inappropriate was to be found on a US site – Abortion TV. The site is political in nature, clearly coming down on the anti-abortion side of that debate – and the page in question features pictures of aborted foetuses …

Despite this, the link continued to be published by popular news site, Whirlpool. In March, ACMA upped the ante, by sending to Whirlpool’s ISP – Bulletproof Networks – an “interim link-deletion notice”, warning them that they were in breach of the law – and that failure to block access to the link in question could cost them $11,000 a day.

Bulletproof pulled the link. This sequence of events was then reported on by Electronic Frontiers Australia Inc (EFA) …

It was therefore drearily predictable that ACMA would descend on EFA like the proverbial ton of bricks – and lo, yesterday they did exactly that, serving their latest “link-deletion notice” on EFA.

This time, EFA pointed out the cost of this sort of action. They said: “This system, which costs Australian taxpayers millions each year, is clearly unworkable”. However, there are also clear political dangers. As they further observed: “If a link to a prohibited page is not allowed, what about a link to a link? At what number of hops does hyperlink become acceptable?”

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