After yesterday's story that Wikileaks had published the contents of the ACMA blacklist, both Senator Conroy and the ACMA have released (almost identical) announcements decrying the list's publication, while denying that the contents are actually the same as their blacklist.Their reasoning is that:
The ACMA blacklist has at no stage been 2300 URLs in length and at August 2008 consisted of 1061 URLs. It is therefore completely inaccurate to say that the list of 2300 URLs constitutes an ACMA blacklist.
But that's just being pedantic. We already knew that the list came from a filtering software company, and they would have added sites to the ACMA list that they deemed inappropriate, which would probably explain the high percentage of gambling and random sites on the list. But despite the ACMA's confession that they had "previously investigated and taken action on material—including child pornography and child sexual abuse images—at some of the sites on this list of 2300 URLs", if they were to say what percentage of sites on their list were also on the leaked list, my guess is that the number would be very high.
But both the ACMA and Stephen Conroy seem to miss the point in their releases. While they decry the accuracy of the claim that it's the "ACMA blacklist" and go on to say how irresponsible it is to publish links to websites with illegal, graphic and offensive material, the fact is that the list did leak. And even if this list is completely different to the ACMA's, there's no way that their list won't leak at some point in the future, jeopardising their entire filter scheme. So all the time, money and effort - not to mention inconvenience - will have been an exercise in futility. It's an extremely scary situation that we find ourselves in here, and we really need to doing everything we can to let the Government know that their plans both will not and cannot succeed.
Here's the entire ACMA release:
ACMA list of prohibited and potentially prohibited overseas hosted content
The Australian Communications and Media Authority is aware that a list purporting to be the 'ACMA blacklist' has been posted on an overseas website.
ACMA does not consider that the release and promotion of URLs relating to illegal and highly offensive material is responsible.
The regulatory scheme for online content that has been administered by ACMA since 2000 is underpinned by the National Classification Code that also applies to traditional media platforms (including cinema, DVDs and publications). ACMA's role is to investigate complaints and take such actions as prescribed by the legislation on materials assessed to be prohibited or potentially prohibited content.
The Sydney Morning Herald yesterday provided ACMA with a list of some 2300 URLs, purported to be the list of URLs of prohibited content and potential prohibited content maintained by ACMA as part of its regulatory responsibilities for online content under Schedule 7 of the Broadcasting Services Act (this list is often referred to as 'the ACMA blacklist').
ACMA has previously investigated and taken action on material—including child pornography and child sexual abuse images—at some of the sites on this list of 2300 URLs. However, the list provided to ACMA differs markedly in length and format to the ACMA blacklist. The ACMA blacklist has at no stage been 2300 URLs in length and at August 2008 consisted of 1061 URLs. It is therefore completely inaccurate to say that the list of 2300 URLs constitutes an ACMA blacklist.
It also appears that many of the 2300 URLs provided on the list are no longer active. However, some of the URLs that remain active appear to relate to online depictions of child sexual abuse. Possessing, distributing or accessing such material may amount to an offence under the Commonwealth Criminal Code and relevant State laws.
ACMA provides the ACMA blacklist to the fourteen providers of filter software which have been tested and accredited by the Internet Industry Association (IIA), as part of IIA's Family Friendly Filter scheme. ACMA is discussing with the IIA what if any action it may need to take to help ensure that ACMA's list remain secure.
ACMA considers that any publication of the ACMA blacklist would have a substantial adverse effect on the effective administration of the regulatory scheme which aims to prevent access to harmful and offensive online material. Such publication would undermine the public interest outcomes which the current legislation aims to achieve.
And Senator Conroy's:
Internet list publication grossly irresponsible
The Minister for Broadband, Communications and the Digital Economy, Senator Stephen Conroy, today condemned the reported leak and publication of a list which includes prohibited internet addresses.
"The leak and publication of prohibited URLs is grossly irresponsible. It undermines efforts to improve cyber-safety and create a safe online environment for children," Senator Conroy said.
"Under existing laws the ACMA blacklist includes URLs relating to child sexual abuse, rape, incest, bestiality, sexual violence and detailed instruction in crime."
"No-one interested in cyber-safety would condone the leaking of these addresses."
"I am aware of reports that a list of URLs has been placed on a web site. This is not the ACMA blacklist."
"The published list purports to be current at 6 August 2008 and apparently contains approximately 2400 URLs whereas the ACMA blacklist for the same date contained 1061 URLs."
"There are some common URLs to those on the ACMA blacklist. However, ACMA advises that there are URLs on the published list that have never been the subject of a complaint or ACMA investigation, and have never been included on the ACMA blacklist."
"ACMA is investigating this matter and is considering a range of possible actions it may take including referral to the Australian Federal Police. Any Australian involved in making this content publicly available would be at serious risk of criminal prosecution."
"The ACMA blacklist of prohibited URLs has been in place since 2000. URLs placed on the list have been deemed to contain prohibited content as determined by the Broadcasting Services Act 1992."
"The ACMA blacklist is currently provided to vendors of filtering software under a Code between ACMA and the Internet Industry Association. It is used for the provision of PC-based filter programs which are endorsed by the Internet Industry Association."
"Under current law, ACMA has the power to issue take-down notices for prohibited URLs hosted in Australia. However, it has no power to do the same for content hosted overseas."
"The Government has indicated an interest in using ISP-level filtering technology to block URLs that display content that is Refused Classification under the Broadcasting Services Act 1992, including child sexual abuse imagery, bestiality, sexual violence, detailed instruction in crime, violence or drug use and/or material that advocates the doing of a terrorist act."
"A final decision on the extent of the content filtering proposal will be determined after the conclusion of technical feasibility trials."