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Online privacy advocacy group Electronic Frontiers Australia (EFA) has withdrawn links to a blacklisted Web site after its hosting provider was threatened with an $11,000 fine by the communications watchdog.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

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