AUSTRALIA TO BLOCK WEB
Posted By: threecats
Date: Thursday, 20 September 2007, 9:32 p.m.
Karen Dearne | September 20, 2007
THE Federal Police commissioner will have the power to block and ban websites believed to be crime or terrorism related under an internet censorship amendment bill introduced into Parliament today.
Communications Minister Senator Helen Coonan proposes to include terrorism and cyber-crime sites on ACMA’s hit list
The bombshell web ban bill was tabled in the Senate at 9:58am, without prior notice.
Communications Minister Senator Helen Coonan proposes to expand the “black list” of internet addresses (URLs) currently maintained by the Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA) to include terrorism and cyber-crime sites.
At present, ACMA has the power to act against websites containing pornography or offensive content.
Under the proposed amendment, Federal Police will inform ACMA of websites to be blocked, and the agency must then notify the relevant internet service providers. ISPs will be required to “take reasonable steps” to prevent users accessing the website or content.
Australian Privacy Foundation chair Roger Clarke expressed disbelief that “the government of any country in the free world could table a Bill of this kind”.
“Without warning, the Government, through Senator Coonan, is proposing to provide Federal Police with powers to censor the internet,” Dr Clarke said.
“Even worse, ISPs throughout the country are to be the vehicle for censorship, by being required to block internet content.”
Greens Senator Kerry Nettle said the Bill would give the Police Commissioner “enormous power over what political content Australians can look at” on the web.
“This gives the Commissioner sweeping powers which could potentially be applied to millions of websites,” she said. “The Government has dropped the Bill into the Senate on the eve of an election with virtually no explanation.”
Senator Nettle said environmental organisations such as Greenpeace had been accused of crime or terrorism-related actions. “Will the Police Commissioner call for Greenpeace’s website to be shut down?”
The requirement to filter or block content would impose another enormous burden on local ISPs at a time when the IT industry faced growing costs related to other national security legislation, she said.
Meanwhile, Senator Coonan today extended the Government’s $189 million NetAlert – Protecting Australian Families Online program to agencies such as Medicare, Centrelink, Child Support and the Tax Office.