[LINK] The 'blacklist' may be scrutinised

Jan Whitaker jwhit at janwhitaker.com
Wed May 27 10:22:42 AEST 2009

[about time! No accountability is not acceptable in a liberal 
democracy, assuming we are one.]

Review of website blacklist in wind

Dan Harrison
May 27, 2009

THE Federal Government is considering having a secret blacklist of 
banned websites reviewed by a panel of eminent Australians or a 
parliamentary committee to try to get more transparency in the 
controversial internet censorship regime.

The blacklist, which has existed since 2000, is maintained by the 
Australian Communications and Media Authority, which considers sites 
for inclusion based on complaints from the public, groups and law 
enforcement agencies.

The list is supplied to the makers of internet filters, but 
publication of the list is a criminal offence. This has led to 
criticisms that websites could be listed without their knowing it and 
without any opportunity to challenge their inclusion.

The Government became the subject of ridicule in March when 
whistleblower website Wikileaks published a list of websites it 
claimed was the blacklist. As well as child porn, bestiality, rape 
and extreme violence sites, the list included seemingly innocuous 
pages including online poker sites and the website of a dentist.

Communications Minister Stephen Conroy told a Senate estimates 
hearing yesterday that the Government was "considering options for 
greater transparency and accountability in respect of the blacklist", 
including a regular review of the list by a panel of eminent persons 
or parliamentary committee or a review of complaints by the 
classification board. The ACMA blacklist is being used as the basis 
for trials to test the technical feasibility of government plans to 
block banned websites at the internet service provider level.

The proposal has attracted fierce criticism on free speech grounds 
and from others who suggest it will be ineffective and will slow 
internet speeds. Senator Conroy said the results of the trials would 
be considered along with possible transparency measures before the 
Government makes a final decision on implementation of the policy.

About 30,000 customers have been invited to participate in the trials 
by the nine internet service providers taking part. Senator Conroy 
has promised to release a report on the results of the trials, which 
are expected in July.

The blacklist contains 977 websites. Senator Conroy said the 
Government hoped to expand the list through co-operation with 
international agencies.

Communications and Media Authority officials told the hearing of a 90 
per cent increase in complaints about websites in the past 18 months. 
They attributed this to greater public awareness of the list.

Senator Conroy has said the filtering efforts would focus on "refused 
classification" material, such as child sexual abuse and instruction in crime.

Melbourne, Victoria, Australia
jwhit at janwhitaker.com
blog: http://janwhitaker.com/jansblog/
business: http://www.janwhitaker.com

Our truest response to the irrationality of the world is to paint or 
sing or write, for only in such response do we find truth.
~Madeline L'Engle, writer

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