Australian Government webpage blacklist leaked

The Australian Government maintains a secret list of ‘banned’ webpages. Australian ISPs that host webpages that contain hyperlinks to banned webpages face charges of AU$11,000 per day.

This post on Slashdot includes a good summary with links to related news articles. Today, the Sydney Morning Herald is reporting that the blacklist has been leaked.

Electronic Frontier Australia (EFA) has a media release on the story. The EFA’s No Clean Feed campaign website includes information on how you can protest internet censorship in Australia.

Note: The EFA website is currently down, so here is a copy of the media release (taken from my RSS reader):

Electronic Frontiers Australia today hailed the leaking of the government’s secret internet blacklist as a “wake-up call for Australians concerned about secret censorship”. The blacklist, which appeared on the whistle-blower site Wikileaks, is compiled by the Australian Communications and Media Authority and distributed to the vendors of approved internet filters, but is otherwise secret.

“The leaking of the list has confirmed some of our worst fears,” said EFA Vice-Chair Colin Jacobs. “This was bound to happen, especially as mandatory filtering would require the list to be distributed to ISPs all around the country. The Government is now in the unenviable business of compiling and distributing a list which includes salacious and illegal material and publicising those very sites to the world.”

The blacklist, which EFA tried unsuccessfully to obtain under Freedom of Information laws, was expected to contain not only some sites publishing illegal material involving minors, but also a majority of sites that were blocked for other reasons. Nevertheless, an examination of the list by EFA has turned up a few very surprising additions. YouTube videos, a MySpace profile, online poker parlours and a site containing poison information were present, as well as many apparently harmless sites such as that of a tour operator and a satirical encyclopedia.

“Now that we have seen the list, it is clearly not the perfect weapon against child-abuse it has been made out to be,” said Jacobs. “Many of the sites clearly contain only run-of-the-mill adult material, poker tips, or nothing controversial at all. Even if some of these sites may have been defaced at the time they were added to the list, how would the operators get their sites removed if the list is secret and no appeal is possible?”

The leaking of the list on Wikileaks is ironic, as ACMA this week confirmed that another Wikileaks page containing a similar blacklist from Denmark is now on their own list. It is therefore presumed that the leaked ACMA blacklist will itself be blacklisted.

“Controlling the spread of information on the internet is not as simple as some in government would like to believe,” said Jacobs. “The leaking of this blacklist is a timely lesson in this, and we hope the Government will take this to heart before imposing a filter on the entire country.”

Update: ABC News story. No comment yet from the Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA).

Update: reddit discussion thread.

Update: Statements from the ACMA and Stephen Conroy (Minister for Broadband, Communications, and the Digital Economy) assert that the leaked list is not the government blacklist (although it suggests that the blacklist is a subset of the list hosted on wikileaks).

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