ACMA's blacklist a bigot's battleground

Darren Pauli

I was never really worried about the government's fabled Internet porn filters, amid all the hoo-ha.

But the recent disinter of the remiss procedures taken by the communications watchdog for arbitrating what online content Australians will and will not be able to visit has been sobering. If the privacy advocates are right — ACMA, I'm still waiting for confirmation whenever you're ready — then Australia's clean-feed Internet will be determined by one lone bureaucrat.

But claims that the Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA), the fierce protector of the Internet blacklists that frame the content filters, will bend to the whim of any rampant moral crusader wanting to silence dissenting opinion is a presage of things to come.

This week's news that the same government agency will whack any news outlet that dares mention the abortion*blank*.com site, banned by the watchdog after an apparent appeal by a liberal crusader, with an $11,000 fine left myself and most others agog.

Turns out this bloke, a Whirlpool forum member, was trying to give ACMA the pip and test just how stringent the ACMA procedures are for mediating the blacklist.

Pretty damn slack, it seems.

Now the watchdog has banned the infamous Wikileaks site after it committed the same reproachable offense and publish the link to the banned Web site. Clever users have taken the fight closer to ACMA's turf and listed the page on the agency's Wikipedia page (currently in editoral lockdown) to see if the lone blacklist watchman has the gall to ban the page.

I'll concede that Greens' Scott Ludlam was right when he said it's early days and the government can't make head nor tail of how the whole thing will work — funny they seem to use that excuse for a lot of policy — and this rubbish will likely be ironed out, but what about all those now banned Web sites that we didn't hear about?

They may not be removed and, because the nature of blacklists demand secrecy, we may never know.

I expect we'll hear of some changes to the way these blacklists are managed, if the filters don't come a cropper first.

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