Govt agency caught blocking thousands of websites 16
PETER LLOYD: The corporate regulator has admitted it's responsible for blocking more than 1,000 websites from Australian internet users.
It was trying to block access to a website it says was defrauding Australians.
While ASIC's putting it down as a technological blunder, the move is raising fears that any government agency could use the same power to become an unregulated, open slather internet filter.
WILL OCKENDEN: It's the internet filter no one knew about a little known, old section of the Telecommunications Act, which can be used by any federal or state government agency, to secretly block parts of the web.
PETER BLACK: It does seem as though, since the Government formally abandoned their policy of mandatory ISP level internet filtering, they do seem to seem to be moving towards using section 313 to effectively introduce some form of filter through the back door.
WILL OCKENDEN: Peter Black is a senior lecturer of internet law at the Queensland University of Technology. He says it appears section 313 is being used more often by government agencies to filter the net.
PETER BLACK: The big problem, in my opinion, from going down this particular path is that we're not seeing proper parliamentary or public scrutiny about this process.
WILL OCKENDEN: It was discovered when the financial regulator, the Australian Securities and Investments Commission, found websites it says were defrauding Australians.
ASIC used section 313 of the Telecommunications Act, ordering internet service providers to block access. But in doing so, it made a simple technological blunder, which meant more than 1,000 other websites on the same server were also blocked.
One of those websites was Melbourne Free University, which wondered why people in Australia couldn't access it.
Peter Black says it appears that section 313 is now being used more and more for a purpose it wasn't intended for.
PETER BLACK: It certainly has the potential for it to be mandatory web filtering, but by another name. I mean, the difficulty is we don't know how widespread this practice is.
WILL OCKENDEN: Last year, Communications Minister Stephen Conroy admitted defeat of found pandora bracelet the Federal Government's unpopular policy of mandatory web filtering.
But in dumping it, Senator Conroy said ISPs would still be compelled to block web addresses on Interpol's so called worst of the worst list. While the list isn't public, Interpol says the websites on the list feature child abuse and child pornography.
Greens Senator Scott Ludlam says it's section 313 that's used to force ISPs to block the content on the Interpol list.
SCOTT LUDLAM: I just don't think the act has been read this creatively before. I think the Communications Minister has opened up something of a Pandora's box in using this section of the act to block against, or to force service providers to block against, the Interpol list. Now other agencies have realised that they can use the act in the same way.
WILL OCKENDEN: Scott Ludlam says it's worrying because there's no oversight and no way to know who's blocking what.
SCOTT LUDLAM: Because what this effectively says is that any officer in any state, territory or Commonwealth department could issue one of these notices and a service provider arguably then has a legal obligation to block websites.
So what we appear to have is mandatory internet censorship with no list, no categories, no criteria, no accountability, no pandora jewelry rings sale transparency and no idea how many sites are being blocked.
WILL OCKENDEN: The Australian Securities and Investments Commission today went to ground, declining interview requests. In a statement, ASIC says once it was made aware of the unintended consequences, it lifted the original blocking request.
But if it wasn't for the technological mistake, the issue of section 313 orders may not have come to light.
Scott Ludlam heidi klum jewelry worries that Australia now effectively has a censorship system with less accountability than the Federal Government's failed mandatory web filtering policy.
SCOTT LUDLAM: What we've got now though is open ended and totally unaccountable internet filtering of we don't latest pandora charms know what. All we have is this example of ASIC that wrongly blocked 1,200 websites before they quietly withdrew the block.
WILL OCKENDEN: The Communications Minister Senator Conroy was unavailable for an interview. A spokesman for the Minister says section 313 of the Telecommunications Act was introduced in 1997, recognising that the Government has an obligation to enforce Australian law. The spokesman says the Government is working with enforcement agencies to ensure that section 313 requests are properly targeted in the future.
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