Australia’s de-facto net filter has zero regulation

A couple of weeks back, Australia’s Securities and Investment Commission (ASIC) made a mistake: by trying to take down a Website promoting an investment scam, it accidentally blocked 1,200 sites using the same IP address as the scammer.

ASIC was able to attempt the take down thanks to a Section 313 Notice, a legislative instrument that instructs telcos and ISPs to block sites that break Australian laws.

It has now emerged that there is little or no oversight or transparency in how such notices are issued, who’s allowed to request one or when they’re permitted to make such requests. That means, as a Senate Estimates hearing was told, that nobody really knows exactly how many agencies might have the right to use the notices to, as Greens Senator Scott Ludlam put it, knock a site off the Internet.

A Section 313 notice refers to this section of the Telecommunications Act. The act requires carriers to try and prevent their networks being used to commit offenses, and requires them to assist an undefined list of officers and authorities of the Commonwealth, states and territories in preventing crimes using their networks.

Unfortunately, when the legislation was framed, the legislators had in mind telephones and fax machines, not the Internet. Its application to the Internet was the brainchild of Senator Stephen Conroy, as a way to implement the Interpol worst of the worst Internet blacklist (which mainly concerns child pornography) without having to pass new legislation — via redwolf.newsvine.com

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