ACMA clowns “not suppressing” political speech

acma_logoThe Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA) will be responsible for choosing which websites are censored under Stephen Conroy’s proposed Mandatory Internet Filter scheme. The ACMA is an insular and secretive organisation. Their blacklist is held under lock and key.

In early January, a user known as “xFoadx” lodged a bogus complaint with the ACMA about an anti-abortion website. Surprisingly, the authority upheld his complaint, and sent him a letter containing the URL as confirmation. As the website is not hosted in Australia, the ACMA has no way of pulling it at this stage (but it would be censored if Conroy’s MIF were in place today). Links to the site were posted on the popular forum, Whirlpool, as well as elsewhere on the Internet. The ACMA was having none of this, and they made a complaint to Whirlpool’s web host, threatening a fine of $11000 per day if they did not comply with a request to have the link removed.

I personally have no strong opinion on the issue of abortion, but despite that, I find the idea of squelching debate on the topic absolutely disgusting. Conroy has said time and time again that the ACMA will not censor political speech, but he must have no idea what they’re doing, or be lying. Following the ACMA’s threat, websites right across the Internet have removed the link from their website. As noted in Catallaxy today, no matter which you cut it, this is self censorship of political speech in Australia stemming from a Government agency’s threat.

So the situation has evolved from a fellow who made a complaint about a website to test the response of the ACMA, to the ACMA threatening exorbitant fines for linking to that site on Australian websites. It’s an interesting point that many of the social conservatives who are supporting the filter have been flustered by this debacle. Everyone’s a fan of Government action until it adversely affects them, right?

“There has never been any suggestion that the Australian Government would seek to block political content.”

-Stephen Conroy


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