Thursday, March 19, 2009

Australia secretly censors Wikileaks press release and Danish Internet censorship list, 16 Mar 2009

March 16, 2009
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The first rule of censorship is that you cannot talk about censorship.

In late 2008, Wikileaks released the secret Internet censorship list for Denmark, together with a press release condemning the practice for lack of public or judicial oversight. Here's an extract from the press release:

The list is generated without judicial or public oversight and is kept secret by the ISPs using it. Unaccountability is intrinsic to such a secret censorship system.
Most sites on the list are still censored (i.e must be on the current list), even though many have clearly changed owners or were possibly even wrongly placed on the list, for example the Dutch transport company Vanbokhorst.
The list has been leaked because cases such as Thailand and Finland demonstrate that once a secret censorship system is established for pornographic content the same system can rapidly expand to cover other material, including political material, at the worst possible moment -- when government needs reform.
Two days ago Wikileaks released the secret Internet censorship list for Thailand. Of the 1,203 sites censored this year, all have the internally noted reason of "lese majeste" -- criticizing the Royal family. Like Denmark, the Thai censorship system was originally promoted as a mechanism to prevent the flow of child pornography.

An Australian anti-censorship activist submitted the page to the Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA), requesting that they censor it, under their internal guidelines. The activist wished to expose the "slippery scope" of the proposed Mandatory Internet Censorship scheme.

The press release and the list itself have now been placed into the secret Australian government blacklist of "Prohibited Online Content".

The content on the blacklist is illegal to publish or link to in Australia, with fines of upto $11,000 a day for contraventions.

The ACMA blacklist is proposed to become the list with which the Australian Government will mandatory block all Australians Internet requests. Presently censorship of access attempts by ISPs is voluntary. The Australian government has faced strong opposition over the scheme, with the Liberal (conservative) and Green (liberal left) opposition parties stating they will vote against it.

See also:

The downloadable file contains a PDF of the request. What follows is the emailed reply from ACMA, agreeing to the censorship request. At no stage did the Australian government contact Wikileaks.

ACMA reply received today 16/3/09 at 2:49 pm Australian time:

Complaint Reference: 2009000154 / ACMA-1303474585
Dear *******

I refer to the complaint that you lodged with the Australian
Communications and Media Authority (ACMA) on 19 February 2009 about
certain online content.

Following investigation of your complaint, ACMA is satisfied that
the Internet content specified in your complaint is hosted outside
Australia, and that the content is prohibited content or potential
prohibited content as defined by Schedule 7 to the Broadcasting
Services Act 1992.

The Internet Industry Association (IIA) has a code of practice
for Internet Service Providers (ISPs) which, among other things,
sets out arrangements for dealing with such content. In accordance
with the code, ACMA has notified the above content to the makers
of IIA approved filters, for their attention and appropriate action.
The code requires ISPs to make available to customers an IIA approved

On this occasion ACMA has also referred the matter to the appropriate
law enforcement agency.

Information about ACMA's role in regulating online content (including
internet and mobile content), including what is prohibited or
potentially prohibited content is available at ACMA's website at

Thank you for bringing this matter to ACMA's attention. Please
contact the Content Assessment Section at if you
have any further questions about this matter.

Yours faithfully
Content Assessment Section
Australian Communications and Media Authority
  1. *
Government (bureaucracy)
Australian Communications and Media Authority
File size in bytes
File type information
PDF document, version 1.3
Cryptographic identity
SHA256 6eb77a35cca57b9892ad4cf156b4b8bb2d02fed1d624a41badfb50fac72d92a1

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