Govt Admits: We Censor Websites
In March, polliter.com exposed that the Australian Government was actively censoring twitter and social media to prevent and identify 'dissidents'; people voicing opposition to the scandalous corruption and mismanagement of the Labor government. In subsequent articles we revealed that not only was this going on in the social media environment, but may extend to other web-sites, and include identifying the names and locations of anti-government citizens.
Now, the main-stream media is slowly catching up, revealing that the Australian Securities and Investment Commission (ASIC), the Australian equivalent of the US Securities and Exchange Commission, has been using a hidden legislative feature to force ISPs to filter web-sites from Australian internet users. This only came to light when 1,200 'innocent and unrelated' websites were caught in the snare, including a University website, because the ASIC order blocked a complete hosting service IP address, and not just the 'targeted' websites.
Otherwise, Australians would never have known, or been told, that their internet activity was being monitored, controlled and filtered by the Government.
Peter Black, a senior lecturer of internet law at the Queensland University of Technology, said that ASIC appeared to be using section 313 of the Telecommunications Act 'to effectively introduce some form of [internet] filter'; such as the federal government's abandoned mandatory web filter through the back door. More worrying, ASIC may not be alone in invoking the well-hidden Section 313 of the Telecommunications Act.
The Government's muddled and, quite frankly, deeply disturbed Communications Minister, Senator Stephen Conroy, advised his department was 'working with enforcement agencies to ensure that section 313 requests are properly targeted in future' but 'websites that breach Australian law can be blocked'.
But it is only the Department issuing the cease and desist order to block websites that determines if a 'breach of law' has occurred. No judge, no judicial oversight is involved; and there is no right of appeal.
There is no list of websites blocked under Section 313.
Every Federal, State and Local government department, tens of thousands of them, have the right to invoke Section 313 sanctions: and we, the Australian people, have no access to what is being blocked or why. And we have no right to appeal these shut-downs.
Actions like these and the censorship and monitoring of social media raises a very ugly spectre in Australian society, previously unheard of: that our own government sees expression of the democratic rights of its citizens as a threat.
Polliter.com itself has come under fire, and for a period of time in April our web-site was also taken down: but only by extensive coverage in the United States and reports to the Australian Federal Police did it miraculously 'reappear'.
The government should be in no doubt that polliter.com will continue to fight censorship, we will continue to argue the case for democracy, and we will expose unlawful content filtering and manipulation by anyone, least of all a corrupt government.
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