What do we know about the ACMA leak fiasco?

Conroy is not a happy camper.

Conroy is not a happy camper.

Yesterday was one of the biggest news days in the online filtering debate so far. Wikileaks published a list of URLs which purported to be the ACMA’s official blacklist. Responses from Conroy and the ACMA have been hard to completely decipher, but here’s what we know so far:
The list’s accuracy is still a point of contention.

Stephen Conroy said yesterday, “I am aware of reports that a list of URLs has been placed on a website; this is not the ACMA blacklist.

“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.”

Wikileaks said the disparity in the reported figure was probably due to the fact that the list contained several duplicates and variations of the same URL that stem from a single complaint.

The ACMA, of course, will not say which URLs have never been the subject of a complaint. They have not ruled out, for instance, that the website of popular international gambling service, BetFair, does appear on the official ACMA list. Wikileaks stands by the accuracy of the list.

The ACMA and Stephen Conroy have threatened legal action for distribution of the allegedly (in)accurate list.

“ACMA is investigating this matter and is considering a range of possible actions it may take, including referral to the Australian Federal Police,” Senator Conroy said.

The watchdog has warned that anyone who republishes the list or attempts to access child pornography sites on it could face up to 10 years in prison.

It has also warned that linking to sites on the list could incur fines of up to $11,000 a day.

There’s a mile wide grey area here. Will I be fined or jailed for ten years for simply linking to Wikileaks? I’m not providing direct access to the list, nor am I republishing it. Wikileaks has been named as the source of the alleged leak in numerous mainstream media outlets.

Will I be fined $11,000 a day for linking to BetFair, a website that appears on the Wikileaks list? Without a conclusive statement from Conroy or the ACMA notifying the public which websites are not on the official ACMA list, I don’t know what I’m allowed to link to.

The ordeal has shaken up the ACMA.

“ACMA is discussing with the IIA what, if any, action it may need to take to help ensure that ACMA’s list remain secure,” the authority said in a statement. “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.”

Several blacklists used by different censorship bodies across the world have leaked onto Wikileaks recently. Considering that the ACMA provides their official list to developers who make home Internet filtering software, I would posit that an eventual leak is inevitable if the recent list that has emerged is not accurate.

The ACMA claims that publication of their lists undermines “public interest outcomes”, but seeing as we have no other way of ensuring that the agency is sticking solely to child pornography, what else can we do? If I were the owner of BetFair, I would want to know if my website had been blacklisted, particularly considering that this list will form the basis of our Mandatory Internet Filter scheme. What recourse would BetFair have if they one day found that nobody in Australia could access their website?

There are still too many unanswered questions.

Although this debacle has enlightened us to how the ACMA and Conroy might act in certain situations, what they have failed to address seems far more telling than what they have addressed. It seems to me that Conroy, and to a lesser extent, the ACMA, have deliberately blurred the lines with respect to this list. They have advised that there are things we can’t do with this list, while at the same time claiming that not all the websites on it are blacklisted.

I hope we see more and more leaks forthcoming. The media frenzy that has surrounded this issue has given us a great opportunity to bring our many concerns to the forefront.

Information sourced from:1 2 3


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