Tuesday, March 17, 2009
The first rule of censorship is that you cannot talk about censorship.
In late 2008, Wikileaks released the secret Internet censorship list for Denmark , together with a press release condemning the practice for lack of public or judicial oversight. Here’s an extract from the press release:
- The list is generated without judicial or public oversight and is kept secret by the ISPs using it. Unaccountability is intrinsic to such a secret censorship system.
- Most sites on the list are still censored (i.e must be on the current list), even though many have clearly changed owners or were possibly even wrongly placed on the list, for example the Dutch transport company Vanbokhorst.
- The list has been leaked because cases such as Thailand and Finland demonstrate that once a secret censorship system is established for pornographic content the same system can rapidly expand to cover other material, including political material, at the worst possible moment — when government needs reform.
- Two days ago Wikileaks released the secret Internet censorship list for Thailand. Of the 1,203 sites censored this year, all have the internally noted reason of “lese majeste” — criticizing the Royal family. Like Denmark, the Thai censorship system was originally promoted as a mechanism to prevent the flow of child pornography.
An Australian anti-censorship activist submitted the page to the Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA), requesting that they censor it, under their internal guidelines. The activist wished to expose the “slippery scope” of the proposed Mandatory Internet Censorship scheme.
The press release and the list itself have now been placed into the secret Australian government blacklist of “Prohibited Online Content”.
The content on the blacklist is illegal to publish or link to in Australia, with fines of upto $11,000 a day for contraventions.
The ACMA blacklist is proposed to become the list with which the Australian Government will mandatory block all Australians Internet requests. Presently censorship of access attempts by ISPs is voluntary. The Australian government has faced strong opposition over the scheme, with the Liberal (conservative) and Green (liberal left) opposition parties stating they will vote against it.
- http://wikileaks.org/wiki/Denmark:_3863_sites_on_censorship_list,_Feb_2008  (the censored URL)
- Whirlpool forum discussion 
- http://www.somebodythinkofthechildren.com/ 
- Australian Government censorship of US anti-abortion site abortiontv.com, 21 Jan 2009 
The downloadable file contains a PDF of the request. What follows is the emailed reply from ACMA, agreeing to the censorship request. At no stage did the Australian government contact Wikileaks .
ACMA reply received today 16/3/09 at 2:49 pm Australian time:
Complaint Reference: 2009000154 / ACMA-1303474585 Dear ******* I refer to the complaint that you lodged with the Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA) on 19 February 2009 about certain online content. Following investigation of your complaint, ACMA is satisfied that the Internet content specified in your complaint is hosted outside Australia, and that the content is prohibited content or potential prohibited content as defined by Schedule 7 to the Broadcasting Services Act 1992. The Internet Industry Association (IIA) has a code of practice (http://www.iia.net.au/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=415&Itemid=33) for Internet Service Providers (ISPs) which, among other things, sets out arrangements for dealing with such content. In accordance with the code, ACMA has notified the above content to the makers of IIA approved filters, for their attention and appropriate action. The code requires ISPs to make available to customers an IIA approved filter. On this occasion ACMA has also referred the matter to the appropriate law enforcement agency. Information about ACMA's role in regulating online content (including internet and mobile content), including what is prohibited or potentially prohibited content is available at ACMA's website at www.acma.gov.au/hotline Thank you for bringing this matter to ACMA's attention. Please contact the Content Assessment Section at email@example.com if you have any further questions about this matter. Yours faithfully Content Assessment Section Australian Communications and Media Authority