‘Embarrassed’ ACMA forced to change ways

Link to prohibited Web site causes ACMA to rethink its complaints handling process.

The Australian communications watchdog has modified its complaints handling process following the forced removal of a link to a prohibited Web site.

The decision comes after a threat by the Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA) to fine Web host Bulletproof Networks up to $11,000 a day for having a link to a banned anti-abortion Web site on Whirlpool.

In early January a Whirlpool community member known as ‘Foad’ lodged a complaint with ACMA about "offensive content" on an anti-abortion site, to which the authority later replied, deeming it prohibited content.

Unknown to ACMA, the complaint was only made after an argument on one of Whirlpool’s forums about whether the ACMA blacklist solely contained child sexual abuse material, and the complainant was only seeking a reaction.

ACMA’s response mistakenly contained the link to the prohibited site, which surged across Internet communities, with some still continuing to display it today.

ACMA is angry because they got caught out in Senate estimates a couple of weeks ago when they were questioned about it, said Electronic Frontier Foundation spokesperson Geordie Guy.

“ACMA did not seek the classification board’s opinion on the matter because apparently they’ve banned similar Web content before, and they were kind of annoyed that the complaint was generally just to see how they’d react not that someone was genuinely morally outraged by the content.

ACMA has stated in Senate estimates that they won’t rule out taking action against that person. But obviously the first thing they’ve done is issue a notice to Whirlpool, or rather Whirlpool’s host.”

In a statement, an ACMA spokesperson said the regulator has modified its replies to complainants to omit the URLs of prohibited content.

"ACMA must advise complainants of the outcomes of their complaints and ACMA's usual practice has been to include the relevant URLs in those responses," the spokesperson said. This measure was taken so complainants could see the action ACMA had taken.

Guy warns that Web hosts are going to have to become content police as ACMA start curtailing people’s freedoms like this.

It's terrible when ACMA starts throwing its weight around and really putting pressure like this on ISPs, who end up being responsible for everything that goes on [their networks], said Guy.

“Particularly when it’s our view that they’re doing so out of embarrassment because they got caught,” said Guy.

“There are people out there who believe that ACMA is needed to protect us from morally outrageous stuff but there’s very few people out there who believe that it’s okay to cover up the fact that you are doing that.”

According to ACMA, there are only a handful of instances from the 6000 investigations completed since January 1, 2000, where a complainant has published its response.

ACMA has not received any other complaints about links to the content concerned.

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Comments

Geoff

1

ACMA Banned List

Really what is the point ?
Anyone who wants to host a forum and not get busted by the ACMA thought police will just go off-shore, beyond the reach of Australian law.
Unfortunatly we in Australia have no constitunional rights to free speech or association so we can expect to be "guided" through life by burecratic boof heads like ACMA.
As a taxpayer I am less than impressed with this apparent waste of our money especially in such difficult economic times.
I would rather see more government funding spent on the investigation, prosecution and hopefully conviction of those involved in the real child abuse WEB sites.

gfrend

2

ACMA and embarrassment

Let's give credit where it's due here. ACMA may be a bunch of embarrassed bureaucrats, but they are acting under orders from little Kevvie.

He and Conjob are the ones who want to impose their secret blacklist of banned sites on Internet access, despite the fact that their bellwether references are to child porn. This is absolutely illegal already, as it should be, but they want the power to ban "inappropriate" material - namely anything they don't like, including political opposition.

Davy

Staff

3

Orwellian Australia?

Anyone doubting Conroy's moronic program to censor the internet would end up being a disaster surely has to wake up at this point.

The tragic thing is us proles thought it would be censorship by design. Instead it looks like ineptitude and bureacracy rule.

Anonymous

4

"ACMA has not received any

"ACMA has not received any other complaints about links to the content concerned."

They have now :-)

the banned page that whirlpool linked to is also linked from the ACMA page on Wikipedia.

A complaint has been submitted.

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