Crikey: ACMA’s blacklist just got read all over

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I’m in Crikey again today with an 800-word essay about the leaking of a secret Internet censorship blacklist — exactly what I’d predicted only on Wednesday.

The article is free to read, but here’s a flavour:

Dear Government, look, I hate to say we told you so, but… we told you so. On Wednesday. The more you try to hide your controversial Internet blacklist, the bigger you make it, the bigger the incentive for someone to leak it.

For money. For political advantage. For the sheer bloody fun of sticking it to The Man. And, yes, maybe someone might even leak it because they’re one of that tiny number of sick bastards who get off on child pornography…

American bank robber “Slick” Willie Sutton was (probably apocryphally) asked why he robbed banks. “Because that’s where the money is.” ACMA compiles a virtual bank vault of nasty websites and hands the keys to the makers of filter software and from there, it’s planned, every ISP in Australia — including many low-margin businesses which, let’s face it, don’t have the security procedures of an ASIO or an MI5. As yesterday’s leak to whisteblower website Wikileaks proves.

I go on to analyse the leaked list — I judge it “a pretty shit piece of work” — and drop in a few thoughts from Greens Senator Scott Ludlam. Enjoy.

I’ll post my 5-minute interview with Senator Ludlam tomorrow morning.

2 Replies to “Crikey: ACMA’s blacklist just got read all over”

  1. If releasing or linking to blacklisted sites is made illegal, then how can those politicially opposed to this inane piece of misanthropic shyte actually prove to the Australian public just how bad the proposed legislation is? If I state that the list contains (for example) a suburban dentist and Senator Conroy states that the ‘alleged list’ is a ‘fake’ and of course the secret ‘real list’ would only contain ‘bad things’, how can I prove my point under the secrecy provisions of the ACMA? If I claim that less than 5% of the list have anything to do with child pornography and the good ole Senator keeps claiming that ‘most’ of the sites are child pornography, how can I hold this representative of the Christian far right… er, I mean people… to account for his outright lies, without being able to bring forth the list as proof?

    I am not a lawyer, but perhaps someone who is might be able to see an implied right to political speech argument against the secrecy provisions of the legislation as currently proposed (Levy notwithstanding…)?

  2. @Brillat: You have of course identified one of the rather nasty problems with a secret, unaccountable censorship mechanism. Nic Suzor has commented further in his legal analysis (fake?) ACMA Blacklist leaked; citizens threatened with prosecution:

    There is a real legitimacy problem if the Australian public are not allowed to know what is blocked, and there is no recourse for blocked sites to appeal decisions by ACMA.

    What makes this much, much worse is that we face serious repercussions for simply wanting to examine the list and point out mistakes by ACMA or undesirable effects of the censorship regime…

    This is not only bad policy, but it’s bad democracy. Solving the problem caused by leaked lists by silencing critique is not best way forward.


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