Watchdog threatens online rights group with $11k fine

EFA forced to remove blacklist link

EFA's Colin Jacobs. Credit: EFA

EFA's Colin Jacobs. Credit: EFA

Online privacy advocacy group Electronic Frontiers Australia (EFA) has withdrawn links to a blacklisted Web site after its hosting provider was threatened with an $11,000 fine by the communications watchdog.

The EFA, a staunch opponent of the federal government's Internet content filtering scheme, included a link to the abortion TV Web site in a story posted on its Web site in March. That month Furore erupted after the Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA) first issued the $11,000 infringement notice to BulletProof Networks for content hosted on the online telco forum Whirlpool.

The EFA yesterday removed the link to avoid imposition of the fine on hosting provider SublimeIP.

EFA board member and Labor party member Colin Jacobs said the redress should alarm Internet users because it was part of a political discussion about online censorship.

“The link was offered as a demonstration of the sorts of controversial content that could and would be included in any such proposal. No “offensive” material was included on our site itself,” Jacobs said on the EFA Web site.

“This system, which costs Australian taxpayers millions each year, is clearly unworkable. Because the content is hosted overseas, it remains untouched by ACMA’s directives.

“With fines of up to $11,000 per day threatened against our hosting provider, we have little choice but to comply with ACMA’s directive,” he said.

Jacobs said the action taken by the ACMA is a “textbook case” concerning censorship of the grey areas between political speech and banned content. “Trying to stamp these [issues] out, especially on the Internet, not only diminishes our democracy but is pointless and paternalistic to boot,” he said.

EFA board member Geordie Guy said the nature of the discussion was political, and the board is investigating avenues of appeal, including the Administrative Appeals Tribunal.

Tags internet content filteringefablacklistACMA

9 Comments

Bob B

1

AGE Verification, Not Political anything

The website in question is rated R18+

Lets ask the ACMA about R18+
http://www.acma.gov.au/WEB/STANDARD..PC/pc=PC_90102
" Under the Broadcasting Services Act 1992, the following categories of online content are prohibited: "
"- Content which is classified R 18+* and not subject to a restricted access system that prevents access by children. This includes depictions of simulated sexual activity, material containing strong, realistic violence and other material dealing with intense adult themes."

The ACMA takedown notice was because the EFA website does not have an Age Verification system in place.
Nothing "political" at all.

I understand the concern, but this example is flawed and does not help the EFA argue against mandatory filtering.

Anonymous

2

Colin Jacobs being a Labor party member should have known (by adding a link that is rated 18+) better since it's his own party who wants this policy so bad.

I'm against a mandatory filter but not a Opt-In/Out filter.

Anonymous

3

Age verification not relevant

The EFA doesn't need age verification; it had no content of any kind that met the definition you posted. It instead had a link to a site with such content.

Where next? What happens if the EFA's site was hosted overseas and another Australian web-site has a link to the EFA page in question? What if there is a link to a link to a link? The madness will never end.

Anonymous

4

But why aren't they chasing

Google, MSN, Yahoo et al (google.com.au, yahoo7.com.au, and ninemsn.com.au all link to the Abortion TV site).

I'm guessing it's because these companies have deep pockets and the inclination to fight it in court. The last thing the ACMA would want is a test case which could result in an unfavourable legal precedent.

And before anyone points out that Google hasn't fought similar issues in China - remember that China's legal system is different from ours. Google are not going to fight a case they know they can't win (and there is a big incentive to play by China's rules given the size of the Chinese market)

Anonymous

5

just use tinyurl ;)

Anonymous

6

R18+ = absurd

As you can see this is not going to work. If the acma was intending on blocking all R18+ (or RC) material with this net filter we would see half the internet vanish overnight. As for the age verification blurb that the previous poster mentioned, what a load of crap. Just because they are children does not mean they can not count. Age verification is yet another absurdist idea cooked up as some sort of defense against nasty things kiddies can see.

If anyone is to be blamed for these kids having access to unsuitable material, it is their parents. Not the Government, ISP's, websites or the general public.

It's much the same as blaming isp's for why everyone downloads illegal movies and music. It's not their fault that their customers choose to undertake in illegal activities. Much the same as it's not the fault of hydroponic companies that their equipment is used to grow drugs.

Alan Jones

7

So, is Google subject to the same laws?

When is the ACMA going to try to threaten Google with the $11,000/day fine? If you search the text from this article "the abortion TV Web site" on www.google.com.au (as I did to see what the fuss was all about) - bang there is is at the top - a link to the "blacklisted" site for all and sundry to see AND hosted on a .com.au website to boot!

Also, not that it serves any point, I don't remember being asked how old I am either.

Al.

Anonymous

8

The ACMA page describing political content specifically refers to content that has been classified by the Classification Board.

What about sites/pages that have not been officially classified yet? Am I right in thinking that this makes up almost 100% of content on the Internet?

Is the ACMA suggesting that any content not yet officially classified could potentially be banned?

Anonymous

9

>Google, MSN, Yahoo et al (google.com.au, yahoo7.com.au, and ninemsn.com.au all link to the Abortion TV site).

ACMA does not seem to actively seek out violations, it requires user submissions, so just go to the ACMA site and submit the "offending" google, yahoo and ninemsn pages and see what happens.

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