Adventures With A Blacklist

WikileaksTwo days ago I was complaining that the internet filter plan is sucking up my time. Damn, if that hasn’t been true today. At 11am the SMH revealed that the ACMA blacklist of “illegal” sites had been leaked on Wikileaks. Naturally I went straight there to check out what the government authority considers to be “prohibited content.”

As is to be expected, the list is a fairly abhorrent catalogue of child porn and rape sites – which is what Senator Stephen Conroy has been trumpeting about in his quest to censor the net.

Unfortunately the list also has more than its fair share of legitimate adult sites featuring consenting participants: Abby Winters, I Shot Myself, I Feel Myself, Girls Out West, The Hun, XTube and Redtube are all listed, along with Australian linklists like Danger Dave and even Whale Tails – a site that focuses on women wearing their g-strings above the waistline of their jeans. Shocking, no?

The list also contains the site of a dentist, a dog kennel facility, a school tuckshop and a website design company. Beyond that there are gambling and poker sites, euthanasia sites, gay dating sites and – an online community for Christians who are into swinging and polyamorous lifestyles. Plus, of course, the anti-abortion site which was added after a single complaint by an anti-filter protester to see what would happen.

I checked carefully. None of my sites have been banned.


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Last week the ACMA was threatening $11,000 a day fines for publishing any URL that was on the blacklist. Even though nobody officially knew what was on the blacklist. Go figure.

Now they’re threatening the fine and 10 years jail to any Australian who publishes the Wikileaks link. Even though Conroy is saying that the list is a fake. If it’s a fake, why the threats?

I found myself feeling suddenly worried. I’ve been linking to Abby Winters and plenty of other blacklisted sites for years! How was I to know I was breaking the law? Thankfully, the fines only apply if your site is hosted in Australia. Thanks to the draconian laws of 2000, all of my hosting money is paid to US providers.

Indeed, it tends to prove how silly the whole idea of internet regulation is. Blogger, Facebook and millions of other sites do not come under the jurisdiction of our puny bunch of pollies. The internet is the world. It can’t (and it shouldn’t) be ruled by any one nation.

There is no constitutional guarantee to freedom of speech in Australia. Thus, it’s possible for the government to compile a secret list of sites deemed unacceptable based on single complaints from individuals. No review process, no appeal. And, until today, no idea what was banned.

Right now this list is used by ISPs for optional filters and by workplaces. Senator Conroy’s plan is to use it as the base for the mandatory nationwide filter. If it goes ahead, no Australian will be able to access Abby Winters, or the Whale Tale site, or even find out about Christian swingers (which, you’ve got to admit, is a pretty amusing site that NEEDS to be seen). It’s patently obvious how much of an imposition this will be on freedom of speech. The list already contains legal sites. What’s to stop the government from secretly adding anything else that irks them?

And there’s more than a touch of Room 101 in the blustering threats of prison and fines for linking to the list. Where is the harm in looking at a list of URLs? Certainly, the majority of them lead to highly offensive or illegal CP sites, but I’m a grown, thinking woman. I calmly and sensibly went through that list to see what was included. I did not click any of the illegal links – I know better than that. I’m sure most people do.

So why is some beaurocrat more morally able to look at this list of links than me? Who decides?

Quis custodiet ipsos custodes? Who watches the watchmen?

I’ve been following this issue all day. It’s been a fascinating example of why the internet is so powerful, and why governments want to clamp down on its use. Within hours, thousands of people in Australia and around the world knew that our government is not being honest with us. We Tweeted about it, blogged it, talked about it, considered options. When the story appeared in our major online newspapers, about 99% of comments were anti-filter. A huge groundswell of opposition to the filter made itself known – and the government has been scrambling and lying to protect its position.

This is our revolution. We’ve got to protect it, or the bastards will snatch it away forever.

By the way, if you want to look up the blacklist for yourself, type “Wikileaks” or “ACMA blacklist txt” into Google.

There. I didn’t link to it.

I'm in your internet, blocking your dentists

Edit: Just have to add this pic, thanks to Overclockers.

Another edit: If you can get to Canberra this weekend, attend the March In March anti censorship protest.

4 Replies to “Adventures With A Blacklist”

  1. Considering that Wikileaks had mirrors everywhere, it’s a bit suspicious. I’ve kept my own copy. I’m hoping others will put it up, enough so that there are too many to fight, V For Vendetta style.

  2. Great post! Particularly like the bit “… but I’m a grown, thinking woman. I calmly and sensibly went through that list to see what was included. I did not click any of the illegal links – I know better than that. I’m sure most people do.” Exactly! Why don’t the politicians recognise the fact that the majority of mature adults will choose NOT to access the child porn or similar? *sigh* Another day watching the news tomorrow I suspect. With luck, this will lead to the government withdrawing from its ludicrous censorship plans.
    Take care Ms Naughty.

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