ACCAN condemns ASIC block of 250k sites

Teresa Corbin said the practice could lead to consumers being unable to access legitimate websites

The Australian Communications Consumer Action Network (ACCAN) has hit out at the revelation that the Australian Securities and Investments Commission (ASIC) accidentally blocked 250,000 legitimate websites.

ASIC told a Senate Estimates hearing on Tuesday that the recent blocking of Melbourne Free University was the first time it was aware that innocent websites had been blocked.

Following a review by the government agency into its previous use of section 313 requests, it found around 250,000 websites were incorrectly blocked in March this year when it tried to block one IP address.

ACCAN says it has “serious concerns” about transparency issues around the use of section 313 of the Telco Act to block websites.

“There may be consumer benefit in a fraudulent or criminal website being blocked, but consumers ultimately lose out when hundreds of thousands of legitimate websites are inadvertently wiped off the net,” Teresa Corbin, ACCAN CEO, said in a statement.

“This could be disastrous for a small business operator who suddenly finds that their website is blocked with no notification.

“Blocking hundreds of thousands of sites when you intend to target a single offender raises questions of incompetence and is akin to using a sledgehammer to crack a nut.”

Corbin said the practice could lead to consumers being unable to access legitimate websites, such as online banking and communications tools.

ACCAN said requests to block websites under section 313 should have a reasonable ground that the site is engaging in criminal activity, an oversight body where requests are reported to, website owners to be informed of a site being blocked and why, information for consumers visiting a blocked site and an avenue for redress.

“Blocking is an extreme measure that should only be used to target international websites that are outside the jurisdiction of local law enforcement,” Corbin said.

The Department of Broadband, Communications and the Digital Economy is currently looking into improving transparency around the use of section 313 of the Telecommunications Act.

Follow Stephanie McDonald on Twitter: @stephmcdonald0

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Tags Teresa CorbinAustralian Securities and Investments Commission (ASIC)Australian Communications Consumer Action Network (ACCAN)

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