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Censorship Your Rights Online

Censoring Australian Censors' Blacklist 365

steveroehrs writes: "'Your access to the Web is being censored by the Government -- but it refuses to reveal exactly what it is we are not allowed to see.' Despite the attempts of Electronic Frontiers Australia in obtaining a copy of the Australian Internet black-list, the Australian government is still refusing to release the list to the public. This is in stark contrast to the situation for film classification, where the list is freely available. Article here "
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Censoring Australian Censors' Blacklist

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  • by Shoeboy ( 16224 ) on Sunday January 20, 2002 @09:18PM (#2874219) Homepage
    The irony, the irony.
    • The people who run /. don't have the power to send people with guns to your house to arrest you. There may be censorship here, but deliberately confusing it with the government kind (or even the kind practiced by big corporations, which may not have the power to take your freedom away directly, but which are very good at getting governments to do their bidding) is absurd.
      • /. is not censoring. They don't delete anything, it's all still there, and anyone on the planer can read it, even if it's at -1.

        To be censorship, the material in question has to be inaccessible.
        • I disagree, something can be censorship even if it's technically accessible, and I think you'd agree if you thought about it for just a moment.

          What if everytime before someone watched a program which criticizes the government, they have to first go to the store, purchase a special Dissent Card from the convenience store, come back from the store, step through a series of 99 arcane menus on the television to activate the Dissent Mode, stick the Dissent Card in their television, and then wait for a 2 day cooling off period before being able to view said content. The material is still accessible, but this is clearly censorship.

          It becomes censorship at the point where it is made even slightly more difficult to access based solely on its content. Now even though it's not as extreme a case as the one I described above, that's still exactly what happened here at Slashdot.

          I consider myself a pretty avid Slashdot reader, I mean, I post, and that in itself puts in like the top 10% of most avid Slashdot readers right there. And I had absolutely no idea what was going on and that posts had been censored through moderation bitchslap until it was brought up on Kuro5hin! How the hell is someone supposed to know to browse at -1 to see the censored posts when they don't even know they're there? You can't seriously expect me to browse at -1 all the time and wade through the ascii goatse and page extending posts just on the off chance that the Slashdot editors are 'not-censoring' posts do you?

          If it is done in such a way that there is no reasonable chance of people ever finding out that material existed, then that sure as hell sounds like censorship to me.
          • true, but the difference between /. c style censorship and government censorship is still pretty stark. Perhaps it could be termed "soft-censorship".

            Also worth considering is the fact that /. is a private entity, not a public one.

        • Not quite true - once the threads are archived all -1 posts are gone aren't they? Including a very famous one ...
        • /. is not censoring.

          If you're going to quibble with definitions don't be supprised when people start throwing dictionaries at you [m-w.com] .

          transitive verb
          to examine in order to suppress or delete anything considered objectionable

          The posts were not deleted, but they WERE suppressed. Suppressed down to -1, where they were invisible to almost everyone.

          Even if you use a different definition for censorship, it still stinks. Expecially considering that one of Slashdot's favorite passtimes is denouncing censorship. I think it's pretty hypocritical.
  • by Alien54 ( 180860 ) on Sunday January 20, 2002 @09:24PM (#2874234) Journal
    Typically, when there is a blacklist like this, the things that are black listed include sites that would be embarresing to the government, having nothing to do with the morality of the public, and everything with the lack of morality of the government officials involved.

    Not that this is actually happening, but this is typical of what you can expect.

    I suppose that someone could do a distributed computing mapping of the australian black list space, and compare it with as database of the real DNS list from outside of AU.

    This almost sounds like a version of the land of OZ where the wicked witch never died.

  • Fascist? (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Shadowin ( 312793 )
    Seems to me they feel it's a good way to control people. If the citizens never knew it existed, how are they going to complain on it being censored.
  • by dagoalieman ( 198402 ) <thegoalieman AT yahoo DOT com> on Sunday January 20, 2002 @09:26PM (#2874248) Homepage
    I mean really- if the people are allowed a glimpse at what they're missing, they'll just scream "GIVE IT TO US!!" And that's precisely what the government doesn't want.

    Also, if they reveal the list, everyone will start second-guessing their judgements. Anyone can tell you that any slight lack of confidence on behalf of the people is very bad for people in the government. With some people out there, give them a slight reason, and you'll see pipe bombs coming through your front window.

    If only there were a way for the government to publish the list without getting themselves deeper in the alligator pit, they would likely do it. But until then, I fear they're SOL.

    I may not like our government, but I am thankful for what I have here in the US...

    • And how, pray tell, would the government publishing the list of websites be different than them publishing the list of films that have been censored? They've been black-listing films for years, and I don't see any pipe-bomb toting militants demanding that Elementary School Spanking 16 be released or else they'll blow up the parliament building.

      Frankly, I find my confidence to be even more 'slightly lacking' from their refusal to reveal what they're hiding than I would if they just showed me the list.
  • by Artifice_Eternity ( 306661 ) on Sunday January 20, 2002 @09:28PM (#2874256) Homepage
    ...is that those who make them secret often won't even divulge what it is they've made secret. This is a major problem in a democratic society. In the US we are still dealing with decades of Cold-War-era documents that are difficult to get at. The Freedom of Information Act provides some help, but if you don't know a secret exists, how can you file a request to have it released to you? Also, the gov. is increasingly putting people on trial with secret evidence, that even the defendant and/or their attorney cannot see. This is the sort of thing this country was founded in reaction against.

    I sympathize with our Aussie friends on this. At least the USA doesn't have this sort of regime on the Internet (yet).

    Speaking of government secrets: ever wonder what the true story is about Bush and the "pretzel?" [subintsoc.net]
    • It goes further back than the cold war. According to cryptome, the CIA/FBI/NSA/Army have thousands of documents on the JFK assassination that they still haven't released. They were supposed to be, after the work of the Assassination Records Act (I think that's what it was called anyway), but apparently requests are denied on the grounds that they might endanger 'national security' (hello!) Hell, JFK's [i]brain went missing[/i] from the pile of evidence (disappeared right out of the NARA building, I think) and as far as I know no one has talked about how that happened either. Mmmmmm, fascism!
    • ...is that those who make them secret often won't even divulge what it is they've made secret.

      Most likely because such information would lead to too many questions about the sanity.

      This is a major problem in a democratic society. In the US we are still dealing with decades of Cold-War-era documents that are difficult to get at.

      Though this is an ongoing problem, didn't GW Bush just seal a set of documents by executive order.

      The Freedom of Information Act provides some help, but if you don't know a secret exists, how can you file a request to have it released to you?

      Hnece the list of banned books being on the banned books list

      Also, the gov. is increasingly putting people on trial with secret evidence, that even the defendant and/or their attorney cannot see.

      Making sure to make it very clear that these "arn't nice people" before bringing them before the "star chamber".
  • by alsta ( 9424 ) on Sunday January 20, 2002 @09:30PM (#2874266)
    Apart from the fact that Australians obviously aren't Free to decide what they would like to view on the Great Network, what measures can a government take?

    I mean, if somebody in Australia wanted to, that person could use a proxy somewhere else in the world, where the "forbidden" content is available. Or does the Australian "government" have some really creepy way of filtering stuff out? (Can't think of how that could be possible, without secretly installing rogue software on everybody's computers which would filter content per machine)

    Something like that could be attributed to evidence of filtering being a moot point. That the person who would like to view "forbidden" content could do so regardless of the "safeguards" put in by the Australian "government".
    • The censorship only applies to sites hosted in Australia, this is one of the things that make this law so laughable. As soon as a take down notice is served on a site they can move it to an overseas server and it's bussines as usual....except more money gets spent overseas instead of localy. The Hon (sic) Senator Alston (AKA) the worlds greatest luddite is the same man who said that broadband is only for childrean playing games and so he won't be doing anything to rein in the near monopoly enjoyed by our biggest teleco and it's outragous 3000mb monthly data transfer limit on cable/ADSL.
      • Does Australia have any laws that prohibit politicians that go about "governing" the public like this? Is there such a thing as a Constitution? Somebody must be able to contest the "governments" actions, such as a Judiciary branch?
        • Yes and no (Score:3, Informative)

          by Goonie ( 8651 )
          Australia has a written constitution, but unlike the US constitution it says very little about human rights, and the limits of government legislation.

          About 20 years ago, a constitutional referendum to introduce a bill of rights was put up (by the other major party, the Australian Labor Party) and soundly defeated in a referendum.

          There are reasonable (in my view, not sufficiently convincing, but credible) arguments to suggest that extensive bills of rights are unnecessary and that regular laws passed by a democratically elected parliament (whose functioning *is* constitutionally protected) are a better safeguard of human rights. Amongst others, it is argued that elected politicians are likely to interpret human rights more in keeping with the electorate's views better than unelected judges, and as views on human rights evolve laws can adapt better than constitutions can.

          • There are reasonable (in my view, not sufficiently convincing, but credible) arguments to suggest that extensive bills of rights are unnecessary [...]

            Three things about the US Constitution are interesting - and crucial to preserving liberty:

            1) Government powers not explicitly granted to the Federal government are the responsibilities of the several States.

            2) Recognition that powers not explicitly devolved to the government are enshrined in the hands of the People.

            3) Provisions for Amendments to the Constitution.

            The last procedure was employed early to establish some important Amendments identifying US citizens' Rights. They are not "extensive" (your key word), but instead basic. I won't list them here - you can pull them up with a simple search.

            But I rather suspect you're an Australian who's quite comfortable with your Big-Brother as nanny socialist government. Sure, they handle everything for you, but you pay outrageous taxes and then pay through the nose for government sanctioned monopoly utilities on top of that. No worries mate, eh!

            But Australia's far behind the US, and somewhat behind Britain, when it comes to questioning senior governmental appointments here. [independent.co.uk]

          • Australia has a written constitution, but unlike the US constitution it says very little about human rights, and the limits of government legislation.

            Not that it makes much difference in practice. Since the US federal government has had plenty of practice in finding and exploiting loopholes.
            A written constitution is only as good as a populace prepared to defend it.
    • Maybe there's a business opportunity in providing "banned" content to people in Australia and other countries like Communist China and Iran which similarly attempt to censor the 'net. (Australia should be sooo proud to oppress its citizens just like the army satraps of Red China and the radical clerics of Iran, by the way.)

      Charge a nominal amount, say AU $5 or so per month, and run an offshore proxy server. Compare search-engine TLD addresses reachable from outside against those reachable from within the customers' country, and mirror all the blocked domains. Give customers PGP (and tell them how to set it up) to protect the emailed proxy address from the censors. Keep a few spare domain names and proxy addresses to jump to whenever the censors catch on, and email customers with the new proxy address in response to inquiries ("Where'd you go?) in order to avoid conspicuous mass mailings. It might work, I think.

      I realize there are other anonomizers and proxy-relay operations out there, but has anyone tried a secure subscription model proxy service to bypass oppressive censorship?
    • by Goonie ( 8651 ) <robert DOT merkel AT benambra DOT org> on Sunday January 20, 2002 @10:23PM (#2874433) Homepage
      They're not *really* interested in censoring the net. In fact, I'm sure Richard Alston (the Minister responsible) wishes this stupid legislation would go away. It was rushed through the Senate in a (failed) attempt to impress a whacko Bible-basher independent Senator from Tasmania whose vote the government wanted at the time, and to a lesser extent to impress some of the government's more wowserish backbench and junior ministers.

      However, when the government actually looked at implementing the legislation, they realised that all they could practically do was require ISPs to *offer* commercial filtering software, and for those commercial filtering providers to filter stuff that the classification board deemed offensive. It's not like the Great Firewall of China, people.

      In practice, everyone's happy. The government is seen to be doing stuff (thus keeping the wowsers happy), the Bloggs family installs the filtering package on their PC, young Joeseph Bloggs gets around the filtering package, and the rest of us keep downloading porn and bomb recipes totally unencumbered by any filtering software at all :)

      I agree that an unenforced bad law is still a bad thing, but it's a hell of a lot nicer than an enforced bad law.

      • OK, what happens is twofold:

        1. ISPs are required to provide filtering software (fairly benign, no?) and
        2. if the responsible goverment body recieves a complaint (say from a federal minister?) about a website, and that site is hosted in Australia, then the ISP is contacted and asked nicely (*cough*told*cough*) to remove the offending site. Most do with no questions asked and no notice given. Some others do inform the site owner and tell them why the page is being taken off. As I understand it, though, if the ISP does not remove the site it is liable to Criminal Charges.

        For an example where this power has already been used, have a look at Raymond Hoser's website [smuggled.com]. Strident, I know, and he could use some pointers on HTML and page design, but the story is the same. He published a book on Wildlife smuggling, and the collusion and corruption he found in the NSW wildlife service, and was hounded out of NSW. He later, as a result of his experiences as a Taxi driver in Melbourne, wrote 'Victorian Police Corruption' Vols 1 and 2. As a result of these books ... well. [smuggled.com]

        I can't help thinking how the blacklisting of the list (and any information on punitive actions taken, from warnings to charges), serves mainly to hide the exact proportion of kiddy-pr0n vs real political dissent.

        Hey, maybe I'm just paranoid, and The Government really is just here to help us (by telling us what it is too dangerous to be allowed to read). But I doubt
      • The problem with an unenforced bad law is that it can be applied selectively (e.g. "we think this person is doing something wrong (or we don't like), but don't have proof ... oh, wait a minute, we can get him for this other thing"). There's then no comeback, becuase after all, the law was being broken. However, the bad law gets to stay on the books because there isn't a public outcry.

        Also, it's surely not good for the integrity of the whole system of laws to have some that aren't "meant". Much better to have a clear set of laws and a justice system where the laws are enforced, and lawbreaking dealt with fairly (OK, there's a lot of things in this sentence that don't happen).

        The best way to get rid of a really bad law is to rigorously enforce it.
  • Too bad we just can't blacklist the censors. (/joke)
  • I assume... (Score:2, Interesting)

    That one of the sites they're censoring is google.com before some clever Aussie hax0r discovers it's cache feature.
  • Alston and company are incompetent twits. They are atypical of an endangered species of Australian politician and/or upper corporate manager - overweight, not too bright and utterly ineffectual.

    Let them strut around Canberra spouting drivel about anti-censorship views suggesting the holder is in league with "drug pushers and paedophiles." I have not noticed a single difference to my internet access in the 2.5 odd years that Alston has been around.

    So I might be apathic, but I also have faith that dinosaurs like this are on the way out.
  • by brogdon ( 65526 ) on Sunday January 20, 2002 @09:43PM (#2874305) Homepage
    Think of what's on the list. :)

    If I went to the US government and said give a list of the latest warez and porn sites, they'd toss me out on my ear!
  • haha... hahahahaha (Score:2, Insightful)

    by smash ( 1351 )
    The ABA (Australian Broadcasting Association) - AKA fools who are trying to censor the media, including the internet, make me laugh.

    Over here, 9/10 movies you go to see at the cinema have a nice big yellow screen before the start of the show with a big "This film has yet to be classified" messaged on it :)

    I am thinking that if they can't even keep up with the small number of movies that are released every month, how the *fuck* are they going to keep up with censoring the internet? :)

    Thats forgetting for a second that they actually manage to get content blocked in the first place :)

    smash(this isn't censorship - its a joke :)

    • Sorry to be a stickler for detail, but it's a different .gov.au department responsible for Film and Literature Classification (the Office of F and L C, funnily enough!).

      Point is still valid - even LOTR:FOTR wasn't given a classification the day I went to see it - the second day after it was released. Matter o fact, it's STILL not classified, if you believe their database []. (Navigate from here [oflc.gov.au] for the IP-wary)

  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday January 20, 2002 @09:46PM (#2874316)
    Im a Aussie [Sydney based] who has had the chance to live and work in many difference places around Europe and the US. [Seems to be an Australian cultural thing to get drunk in strange places]

    Our government does some stupid things. Attempting to censor the net is one. When Australia gets mentioned on /. like this alot of people who dont understand the country get on their high horses and yell "Australia = facists", "If they had guns they could defend their rights", etc etc.

    When it comes down to it, our government is no more stupid than the next guys. We're still free down here [wish there was more free beer!], and I honestly believe Australia is one of the best places to live in the world.

    The man who passed the rule will no longer hold the balance of power in 2 years in the Senate elections, and we can move forward and change policy. This is what a democracy allows us to do.

    As a matter of interest for some of you US based people -- Australia has no freedom of speech legislation. This is a myth. The only freedom of speech that is mentioned in the constitution and our laws is that of Political free speech.

    Does that make us a a facist state? No. Would we react well to this changing? No.
  • by mESSDan ( 302670 ) on Sunday January 20, 2002 @09:50PM (#2874329) Homepage
    This article brings to light a very valid point. What came first, the "banned" url, or censorship of the censorship of the banned url?

    We may never know.. ;)

  • This is interesting because it seems to be another take on freedom of information regarding what our governments do on our behalf. The EFA has a document that details the FOI requests released or denied [efa.org.au].

    In a similar vein, the US government won't even release information about how its own citizens are being profiled [slashdot.org].

    That familiar question from ancient Rome comes to mind:
    Sed quis custodiet ipsos custodes?
    Who watches the watchmen?

  • by Tuxinatorium ( 463682 ) on Sunday January 20, 2002 @09:51PM (#2874334) Homepage
    When will the conservatives in Australia learn that just because you might want your kids seeing something, doesn't mean you have the right to stop everyone in the country from seeing it? Let parents make their own decisions about censorship, instead of having the government decide what to censor and force it on everyone.

    It's obvious that the reason they are keeping the blacklist secret is because they are afraid of public scrutiny and backlash against it. No doubt, like virtually all censorware, they have censored many sites that clearly oughtn't be censored. Australia is not as bad as China, but is certainly working in the same direction.

    Censorship accomplishes nothing, and does so at a very high cost: your freedom. Regardless, the government can't stop you from viewing what you want on the net, and there are countless ways to circumvent any censorship. The average computer literate 10 year old could probably bypass australia's censorshp.

    • When will the conservatives in Australia learn that just because you might want your kids seeing something, doesn't mean you have the right to stop everyone in the country from seeing it?

      THe simple answer is never since very often the "children might see it" is simply an excuse.

      t's obvious that the reason they are keeping the blacklist secret is because they are afraid of public scrutiny and backlash against it. No doubt, like virtually all censorware, they have censored many sites that clearly oughtn't be censored.

      THough the more interesting question is how many of these are actual "mistakes" and how many are because the adgenda of the censors isn't quite what they want people to think it is.
  • by indaba ( 32226 ) on Sunday January 20, 2002 @09:55PM (#2874344)
    No impact, ineffectual legislation is poor law, and just ends up making us look silly.

    My guess is that the government is too embarrassed to show how pitifully few sites have been taken down for the money expended

    You need to remember that Alston et all are only really interested in pandering to the popular press, and not in actually making any real changes.

    As far as I can make out, I still have unrestricted access to everything I have ever had

    i saw this because:

    I have NOT been forced to install blocking software

    My ISP is not running blocking software (nor any others to my knowledge

    If the ABA has taken down a site, I'm sure it's just popped up again overseas

    It's probably just more boring pr0n anyway ..

    ho , hum , back to work...

  • by gnovos ( 447128 )
    ...to actually find out for yourself. One guy down under, on guy in America, and start your counters at and start pinging port 80 until you get to After you are done, compare notes, and viola, there is your blacklist. In fact once this is done once, other groups could do this in other countries usuing the same "roadmap" of all the viable sites. I'm sure you could get a distributed.net project going that could get this done in a couple of days...
    • The lists would be identical (Network issues notwithstanding), as the Austrlian government is NOT blocking or filtering sites, that's what makes the whole thing so stupid.....

      It's all just hot air...albeit very expensive hot air.....

      In theory ISPs are supposed to offer filtering software at a reduced price to new subscribers, but the subscriber is not forced to use it, and I am unaware of any ISP actually doing it anyway.
  • Why does it seem that governments always come to be dominated by special interests, e.g., big business, religious zealots, etc., at the expense of the people at large? Are statesman inevitably doomed to fade away, to be replaced by politicians and bureaucrats? Is this the best we can do?

    We like to believe that the early United States government was "by the people, for the people." Was it really, or is this another myth, another example of rewriting history?

    I am not a scholar of history. I am not an expert on the world's governments. Are there any examples of a government that truly remained responsive to its citizenry over the long term? If so, what made them successful? What are we doing wrong?

    We've run out of habitable continents. I think it may be time to start looking seriously at colonizing space. It may be the only way to get a representative government, at least for a little while.

    • Why does it seem that governments always come to be dominated by special interests, e.g., big business, religious zealots, etc., at the expense of the people at large?

      Because such organisations are better able to find time (and money) to influence politicans. Especially if they claim to represent either a "majority" or politically correct "minority". (The really clever ones "bootstrap" their own "minority" cause...)
      How you create a political system where regular people can raise issues with politicans whilst eliminating organised corporate lobbying is a very non trivial issue.
  • by rat7307 ( 218353 ) on Sunday January 20, 2002 @10:01PM (#2874364) Homepage
    The intent of Alstons bill is to shutdown sites WITHIN Australia or by Australians that publish content which is deemed inappropriate as per australia's publishing laws. This is not always a bad thing..

    They do not filter incoming content, They just shut down those sites within the countries borders that, in effect are breaking the law (Kiddy porn etc..)..
    How effective that is, well, thats another debate.
    But at least this way there is some accountablilty for what these people put on the net.
    There has (to date) been no policlitical/anti govt. sites closed down that I am aware of.
    • The intent of Alstons bill is to shutdown sites WITHIN Australia or by Australians that publish content which is deemed inappropriate as per australia's publishing laws. This is not always a bad thing..

      I totally agree with this statement.

      In related news, germany is still a fascist country because Hitler's book "Mein Kampf" is still banned from librarys, reproduction, publishing and sale and has been for more than 50 years.
      • germany is still a fascist country because Hitler's book "Mein Kampf" is still banned

        Nah. That's not enough to label them fascist. It just makes them idiots.

        Sigh. It's kinda hard to get worked up about foriegn idiots. I'm to busy with American idiots. Not only do they affect me directly, but they want to impose their crap on the rest of the world.

  • by Bilby ( 222476 ) on Sunday January 20, 2002 @10:01PM (#2874365)
    ... is worried that displaying the URLs will show how ineffective it has been on this?

    The censorship laws were a joke when first proposed - a joke that could damage Australian content providers, but which could have little or no impact on Australian's access to illegal materials. At the recent ACIS 2001 [scu.edu.au] conference, a paper was give (full text available [scu.edu.au] as pdf) arguing that the whole thing was pointless as far as pornographic sites were concerned, as they were all offshore already (due, in part, to expansive hosting on Australian servers) and therefore outside of Australia's juristiction.

    I can only think of two good reasons for not releasing this material - they fear that examination of the material will show that many of the sites should not have been blacklisted (as per peacefire's work), or that they fear it will show how ineffective the legislation is. :)
  • Ironic.. (Score:2, Insightful)

    by zcat_NZ ( 267672 )
    Hey.. I can be ontopic now! When are the slashdot admins going to answer some of the questions raised during the "Great Karma Massacre?".. Is it justified for /. to consider itself a 'user-moderated' community when the editors have unlimited mod points, can (and do) bitchslap entire threads, and overturn metamoderation.

    Sure, it's not censorship 'as such' since users can read at -1, but it makes posts far less obvious and there's also the 'chilling' effect of massive karma loss.

    Speaking of karma loss.. I'm really half-inclined to post this anonymously but what the hell, karma is easily regained :-)

    • Re:Ironic.. (Score:2, Redundant)

      by bartyboy ( 99076 )
      For those of you who have missed the censorship on Slashdot, here are some links:

      And no, this is not offtopic. Read the links before you moderate.


  • Is google blocked/censored down under? If not, then a good chunk of the blocked content should still be readily available.

    Instead of using, say:
    prefix it with a string to access google's cache:

    I'll be the first to admit it is far from perfect (robots.txt, not up-to-the-second, lose access to on-line interactive sites (e.g. e-bay, etc.)), nor is it easy for the casual user. Still, an enterprising user could readily get past some of the censoring. Further, a simple ssh to a host in a different, non-blocked host in a different country would afford access as well.

    As for determining WHAT has been blocked, I would think a simple pair of scans across all IP addresses, once attempting access in Australia, and another from, say, USA; then just compare notes and voila! That would seem to be a heck of lot quicker than the months they've been at it trying to go through formal channels.

    • Why not take it a step further and browse through a foreign proxy... take it even further and encrypt everything.

      I seriously think things might actually head in this direction, where there will be a "virtual private internet" within the internet. This would of course be a pay service, but your own ISP would have no clue what you are looking at. The issue would be actually trusting that third party.

      I've been thinking of fooling around with this idea to get through this content filtering firewall at work that blocks some strange material from time to time by browsing through my home PC.
  • Black List (Score:2, Insightful)

    by lukecs ( 548904 )
    Whats the use of censorship if when you release the Black List every single site that is black listed gets double the traffic. It makes sense not to release the Black List for if they did it would neglect the whole purpose of the censorship. The Sites Black Listed would get a lot of attention that they don't deserve. This is especially the case for links to illegal sites such as child porn. Although I don't support this type of censorship I do support the decision not to release the Black List.
  • Just to clarify, there is nothing in Australia stopping me from accessing any internet site. The blacklist is added to censorware which is sanction by the Government (coincidentally, the censorware companies were big proponents of this rather useless law). The censorware is supposed to be used by everybody and I think by law should provided by ISPs - but no-one is at all interested in enforcing this.

    So this story doesn't affect me, or any other internet user in Australia, any more that the broadcasting act does.

  • Why this hurts (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Boiling_point_ ( 443831 ) on Sunday January 20, 2002 @10:19PM (#2874423) Homepage
    This isn't simply a case of bureaucratic weirdness. The reason this story is news, is that the law [hinet.net.au] in Australia requires ISPs to restrict access by end-users to banned Internet content.

    If ISPs can't access a government-compiled list of what-is-banned, then to absolutely comply with the law they have to manually (ie. with a human) proxy every request from their customers, determine whether those requests will return <jellobiafra>HARMFUL MATTER</jellobiafra>, or expose themselves to possible prosecution.

    It's a bit like keeping a secret list of banned foods, then busting a grocer for ordering in a special type of mushroom for a customer.

    Much noise [efa.org.au] was made at the time against the leglisation because it's stoopid. I remember reading about six months ago (sorry, no link) that, despite all the fuss, only half a dozen complaints against ISPs had actually been received by the Aust. Broadcasting Authority. No prosecutions ever eventuated.

    Although it's a Very Bad Thing, since nobody's (so far) gotten in trouble because of this legislation, the real danger of ignoring this might be that you teach politicians they can be ignorant and stupid all the time and get away with it.

  • Given my expertise in anti-censorware investigations [sethf.com] I spent a considerable amount of time searching to discover if there was some sort of illegal-in-Australia category in censorware. This was prompted by OLD Australian government publications [noie.gov.au] which had passages such as:
    Iseek have already made provision within the existing server software for the inclusion of a new category called "ABA". This category will include all URLs provided by the ABA in accordance with the take-down notices. Iseek would be able to accept the URLs via FTP etc.. and push the updated list out to all operational servers daily along with the normal daily list updates.
    [ABA = Australian Broadcasting Authority]

    Again, this is old, and modifications in the Australian law render it no longer applicable. I eventually came to the conclusion that the "Australian" blacklist bit never got implemented (at least in what I could examine). So it seems that the bans works, operationally, by the Australian government just sending the sites to various censorware companies. The blacklisted sites are then just mixed into the general huge censorware blacklist itself.

    Amusing footnote: A little before everything broke loose in What Happened To The Censorware Project (censorware.org) [sethf.com], I actually tried to enlist Michael Sims' support in my first idea for a technical attack on the Austrialian blacklist. This was because at the time he was well-positioned (as a "journalist", and also with other contacts) to take certain legal risks which I found extremely worrisome. No help whatsoever, in any form. Luckily, it seems not to have mattered.

  • No impact, ineffectual legislation is poor law, and just ends up making us aussies look silly.

    My guess is that the government is too embarrassed to show how pitifully few sites have been taken down for the money expended

    Refer to this EFA report : Government Net Censorship Reports - Facts or Fallacies? [efa.org.au] 7th September 2000
    The censorship regime is highly costly in view of its ineffectiveness in protecting children using the global Internet. The explanatory memorandum to the Broadcasting Services Amendment (Online Services) Bill 1999 states the total ongoing cost to the Commonwealth of the regime was estimated at AUD$1.9 million per annum.

    Graham remarked "If the ABA has only received 201 complaints in six months as the government report states, and the government's cost estimate of $1.9 million was correct, it's costing taxpayers around $4,700 per complaint. Only 93 of those complaints resulted in a finding of prohibited content, a small fraction of the billions of pages on the Internet, and less than 20 concerned pages hosted in Australia."

    Fantastic value for money there , AUD$100,000 per page....

    You need to remember that Alston et all are only really interested in pandering to the popular press, and not in actually making any real changes.

    Also, now that the balance of power has changed in the senate (ie Senator Harradine has gone) , the Libs will now be pandering to the Democrats, so we may see an end to these silly, unenforceable censorship laws

    As far as I can make out, I still have unrestricted access to everything I have ever had

    I say this because:

    I have NOT been forced to install blocking software

    My ISP is not running blocking software (nor any others to my knowledge

    If the ABA has taken down a site, I'm sure it's just popped up again overseas

    It's probably just more boring pr0n anyway ..

    ho , hum , back to work...

    Darren Kruse CCNP CCDP
    WAN/LAN Networking Consultant
    www.geocities.com/darren_kruse [geocities.com]

  • by mickonline ( 158719 ) on Sunday January 20, 2002 @10:26PM (#2874441)
    I am only too aware of how extremely dodgy our censorship laws are here. In reply to the theme that publishing the list would make people demand what's banned, think again.

    1) The government publishes a list containing URLS for child pornography, bomb making, and anti-copyright law propaganda.

    2a) Someone asks for the child pornography sites to be unblocked. Police jump on them. Quite rightly.

    2b) Someone uses the anti-copyright law website in a campaign for freedom of speech. Quite rightly.

    The problem is a complete lack of checks and balances on the governments ability to censor what we watch. In addition, the censorship process in Australia is very dodgy indeed.

    So many of our censorship laws were enacted so that the Government could buy off Senator Brian Harradine who held the balance of power in the Senate. Brian Harradine, a Tasmanian senator, has extremely conservative views - vastly different to the mainstream views in australia.

    Studies have shown, time and again, that the australian population does not agree with the TV and movie censorship ratings given out. The official classification almost always condones more violence and less sex.

    • The government publishes a list containing URLS for child pornography, bomb making, and anti-copyright law propaganda.

      Dear Sir or Madam,

      I'd like to request a copy of the list of the anti-copyright law propaganda URLS.


      While you're at it, toss in the other two lists.

  • This here is a key example of why "democracy" doesn't work. The United States is NOT a democracy, its a republic. Any country that attempts to base its laws on "democracy" will ALWAYS end up socialized.

    The main problem with democracy is that it allows a crazy majority to infringe on the rights of a sane minority -- as has been happening in the U.S. in growing amounts since 1913. In the beginning, the democratic system says "lets help those who can't fend for themselves." When government gives a handout to 2 or 3, those closest in financial ability to the 2 or 3 will ask, and eventually it will be 4 or 5. Go long enough, and even the rich want a hand out.

    A democracy is a BAD IDEA. Australia has now made illegal something that infringes on NO ONE's rights -- basically another law that criminalizes NON-VIOLENT activity. Why bother?

    Make people not responsible for their actions, and they'll be less responsible. As time goes on, they'll look to big government as the daddy-state that it is -- to pay for their health care, their retirements, their children's educations, their unemployment, etc.

    Oh, wait. We're already there...
    • crazy majority to infringe on the rights of a sane minority

      Most people in the lunny-house also think they are sane and everybody else is crazy.

  • Ok, I'm about sick of this. THERE IS NO INTERNET CENSORSHIP IN AUSTRALIA. Ok? Got it?. The Only "Censorship" is from the Federal Police shutting down websites that contain illegal content (i.e. child porn, bomb making 101, ... ). The same thing is done is the U.S.

    There are no restricted sites, no great-big-firewall, no proxy server we are forced to go through... the only filtering done is at the client end- ISPs have to sell software like NetNanny at a reduced price to customers. We do not have to buy it if we don't want it.

    Now can you Americans _please_ stop with this bullshit... Australia is not fascist, we are not oppressed, we are in fact one of the most free nations on earth, and to be told otherwise by people from a country that comes up with things like the DMCA, the US Patriotic act, and holds hundreds of innocent civilians WITHOUT TRIAL just because they are of arab descent.... well, who's the oppresive government again?
    • Once again I'm right, every government is oppresive, but I'm still looking for the exception.
    • Well, bomb making information is legal in the United States.
    • Let me quote the Greatest of Mortal Documents:

      Amendment I: Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.

      I do not know about Australia. I really don't. So I won't comment. But let me address your concerns the best I can.

      Any abridgement, for any reason, for any purpose, to prevent any evil act or thing is a violation of the United States most primary amendment. It is a literal document. The words mean what they mean, written how they are and were written.

      Whats that you are asking? I can't be serious? What about bomb making! Child porn! Urges to kill/maim people? Hate speech! Ohh my!

      Yes, I am saying those shouldn't and neigh, can't be legally banned in the way they are. They can however be banned in other ways - ie causing harm to a minor is already illegal, so we don't need to violate the 1st amendment by making anti-speech/press laws to "protect children". Blowing people up is illegal - we don't need anti-press laws to prevent dissemenation of bomb making materials/manuals.

      How does this relate to your nation? And my nation (US)?

      Simple. We don't (neither of our nations) follow the words we agreed to live by (well, again, I know nothing about your government, so please excuse me if you do not have an analagous provision).

      So to the rest of your post - the DMCA is illegal because it restricts speech (ala poems, source code for DeCSS) as well as the press. The USA Bill is also mostly illegal. Various pieces restrict speech, violate the 4th amendment, and agregiously violate the 9th and 10th amendments.

      HOWEVER, the point of my response is about the "innocent civilians". Clearly, you misunderstand something important. The US Constitution, and most of its laws, protect only citizens. Non-citizens are exempted from protections that citizens receive. And thats the way it should be. If you visit my nation, and break the law, look like you may break the law, or actually just piss someone off you shouldn't have you will be DEPORTED, IMPRISONED, and/or EXECUTED at the will of the nation and people and in accordance with various International laws and treasties.

      So in closing, I agree that the US government is repressive. However, that does not and shall not excuse your own government. Any government instituted of the people should not restrict in *any* way the right of the people to speak and print whatever words they feel fit. If you've ever been told that there is something you can't read, something you can't see, something you can't speak then you've been repressed by government, and therefore, your fellow citizens and neighbors. Under the US's choosen government this should never happen. We are weak though. We should never repress any speech by law for any reason, ever. Period.

      Anything less is uncivilized.
    • There is Internet censorship in Australia. I know of a couple of people who run club web sites (computer related) who have received take down orders from the ABA mainly because of content uploaded by others. These orders are arbitary, and possibly capricious. There is no "due process".

      Given this and the lack of transperency by federal and state governments we may not be a fascist country but we are certainly an authortarian one.

      Further there are the proposed SA and NSW state laws that make uploading certain content a criminal offense. In the case of SA the body that decides what constitutes illegal content are the police (i.e. a not very bright arm of executive government). If you live in SA I suggest you hurry down to your local police station and make a donation to the next police ball.

      WRT the DMCA you should read the federal Copyright Ammendment Bill - Digital Agenda Act of 2000. This bill contains within it the key elements of the DMCA.

      As an aside, we do hold foriegners without due process. I'll not try and defend the US in this matter (who, IMO, are in breach of at least the spirit, if not the lettter, of their own constitution) but I will point out that any people held are not being so as a result of the Patriotic Act.

      Finally I am not American. I am Australian. I would like to be able to say that Australia is one of the most free nations on earth. The question is would I be telling the truth?

  • They won't release the list because there's nothing in it.

    Can anyone point to any situation where our (Aus.) Internet censorship laws have actually been enforced ? People charged? ISPs sued for

    I know of none.
  • by PaganRitual ( 551879 ) <`ten.no.edonretni' `ta' `agalps'> on Sunday January 20, 2002 @11:05PM (#2874556)
    great. more 'internet censorship' bull that we australians have had to go thru before. if they arent banning classic games like GTA3, they are dictating that we cant display 'adult' material for other adults on the web, because 'minors' can have access to it. its a standard govt ploy to appeal to the voters thru scare tactics ... "the net is full of evil pornographers and blah blah blah that your children need to be protected from and WE are the people to do it".

    for some reason it seems to work well tho (see the basis for the current australian govts recent election win; keeping out illegal immigrants) so im sure it will be a big hit with parents so lacking in parenting skills that instead of thinking that maybe they might possibly need to be the person required to guide their childs internet surfing, they can just sit back and let the govt turn into criminals anyone who wants to display anything the current govt doesnt agree with.

    and who can possibly claim to properly be able to regulate what is 'suitable' and what is not? surely not some out-of-touch politicians. it all comes down to a point of view thing. i am tired of being told what to do and what to look at and what i can buy based on rules that are applicable only to 'minors' (i am 24). is there some way of getting a transfer to another planet for people who dont need to be told what to think and what they can look at and what they can do? not that it matters, im sure the site for that particular travel agency is blacklisted as well :)

    'This site is intended for people over 18, but only because kids shoot each other if they hear the word "fuck"' (seanbaby.com)

    (btw, to all you other aussies out there who missed out on GTA3, order it from a UK games site, mine only took 7 days to get here, and it all up cost about the same as it would have to get it from here. but im sure you all knew that anyway)
  • by catsidhe ( 454589 ) <[moc.liamg] [ta] [ehdistac]> on Monday January 21, 2002 @12:12AM (#2874714) Homepage
    ... miss the point.

    The responses I have seen fall mainly into these groups:
    1. If everyone could see the list, they would know where to go to get the good stuff. Duhh!
    2. This list is pointless because filters won't work anyway. Duhh!
    3. (Rarely) Umm, this has potential repurcussions which go beyond kiddy-pr0n...
    4. But it doesn't matter, because they haven't gone after any political sites anyway! and
    5. Stephen King dead at 58

    I think we can ignore number 5. As for the others;

    2. There is no filter. As several people have pointed out, this legislation is to provide for the prosecution of ISPs for hosting a site which is mentioned on the blacklist. There is no consultation. And, as the list is itself censored, there is no appeal.

    1. It also means that the public who is funding these actions, and are directly affected by them are forbidden from finding out a] what is being done in their name, and b] how effective it has been in eliminating the societal bane of being able to look at nekkid ladies.

    3. Kudos to these people. Sometimes, you can be paranoid and they're out to get you.

    4. Yes they have. Raymond Hoser's site [smuggled.com] may not be the prettiest, but deserves to be looked at for what he is trying to say. (just try to ignore the ugly banners and flashing GIFs.)
    Refer also to my reply to point 2. When we don't know what has been gone after, how the hell can we turn around and say "but they haven't gone after any political sites!" What is the evidence for this? More to the point where is the evidence? In that file, and the most likely explanations for its censorship are either a] reflexive beaurocratic obstructionist B.S. or b] the protection and hiding of potentially sensitive or incriminating evidence.

    As I said before, Sometimes you are paranoid, sometimes they really are out to get you. How are we supposed to tell which is true when the official government line is "keep doing what you have been doing. If it is illegal, we (might) tell you."
  • by Tyreth ( 523822 )
    To quote Sid Meier's Alpha Centauri:

    "As the Americans learned so painfully in Earth's final century, free flow of information is the only safeguard against tyranny. The once-chained people whose leaders at last lose their grip on information flow will soon burst with freedom and vitality, but the free nation gradually constricting its grip on public discourse has begun its rapid slide into despotism. Beware of he who would deny you access to information, for in his heart he dreams himself your master."

    - Commissioner Pravin Lal,
    "U.N. Declaration of Rights"

    I believe these words have a glimmer of truth in them. Unfortunately, in the western world I see the signs of an increasing desire to collect and conceal information from the public.

  • Isn't it ironic... (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Flavius Stilicho ( 220508 ) on Monday January 21, 2002 @12:35AM (#2874769)
    ...that a nation that started out as a penal colony would have some of the most conservative censorship laws?
  • I believe that no government in the world should censor information available on the Internet. The Internet should be a way to exchange information freely, even if that information is illegal to obtain through other means. In fact, the governments of the world should encourage people to obtain illegal information over the Internet, and should pass laws making such illegal information legal if obtained through the Internet. Also, if the information is really illegal, like more illegal than most other illegal information, the government should give both the sender and receiver a hefty reward of, say, one year's worth of wages, tax free.

    In other words, ban Internet censorship!

    By the way, I was being somewhat sarcastic above. Oh well.

  • by Guppy06 ( 410832 ) on Monday January 21, 2002 @02:56AM (#2875076)
    Why they're keeping the black-list secret seems pretty obvious to me. As soon as that list becomes known, well-meaning non-Australians will immediately start to mirror those sites, and those mirrors will be visible to Australians until the government is able to find the mirror and update their blacklist.

    While censorship in and of itself is reprehensible, at least they're not going about it in a half-assed manner.
  • The more I hear about pointless censorship in Australia, the more I'm convinced that the hole in the ozone layer down at the south pole has expanded to affect southern australia. All that extra UV has begun to cause rampant mental illness among the politicians in that country. Why only politicians? Well I'm not sure of that yet but I don't think that matters much since its clear they're going mad.

    The solution? Boot them out of office. If you can't do it at the ballot box, do it with the business end of a rifle. Oh, wait, they've already taken everyone's guns away down there and succeeded in convincing the population it was a good idea. Come to think of it, I wonder just how censor happy they would be if the citizens there were armed? One way or another the Australians really need to clean house down there since its hardly the government's job to tell anyone what they can look at.

  • by i1984 ( 530580 ) on Monday January 21, 2002 @04:03AM (#2875184)
    The problem is not simply that information is being censored; this is to a large extent up to the Australians and they can try to censor Internet content or whatever if they so choose. The problem is that the governed aren't being told what is being censored. That is, the problem is government secrecy -- citizens cannot perform their democratic duty of overseeing their own government if the government won't reveal what it is up to.

    Stories like this should alarm people who believe in government by the consent of the governed.

    Granted, Australia seems much more conservative than the US when it comes to freedom of information (and other things too). However, those of us in the States shouldn't let stories like this slide off our back.

    In the US it is much more difficult for the government to censor free speech, but just as in this article, our own government has grown very interested in not telling its citizens what it is up to.

    In particular, the Executive Branch of the United States has been less than forthcoming on numerous occassions regarding its own activities: President Cheney won't tell us who he & others talked to while they were drafting their energy policy, they won't identify people picked up in the post-911 dragnet (nor will they tell us the standard list of questions arab looking people were asked as part of that), various federal records have been destroyed and removed from availability [as noted in earlier Slashdot story], and in general the government has exuded a contempt of those outside the administration trying to figure out what it's up to. Of course this is on top of the government's long standing infatuation with secrets -- the most recent pattern is just an escalation of the existing mindset towards secrets.

    Really people, this story has a moral for those outside of Australia: it's an example of the idiocy that can take hold when people don't demand oversight of their own government!

    What's being censored? Well, unless you can look at the list, you simply have to trust that the bureaucrats are doing just what they're supposed to, and that they need to be doing it. This is inherently undemocratic.

    Secrets give government the opportunity to mismanage without falling under the prying eyes of the people -- you and me -- whose job it is to see to the proper maintenance of government, and whom might be upset at the revelation of any such mismanagement.

    This sort of thing shouldn't be tolerated in any democratic country.

Happiness is twin floppies.