News that the Federal Government’s financial regulator, ASIC, has started forcing Australian ISPs to block websites it suspects of providing fraudulent financial opportunities has set off warning bells for Pirate Party Australia.
The Party has long been a critic of the imposition of filtering regimes on Australian Internet users, taking particular objection to the lack of oversight and competency involved. The ASIC incident has proven to be no exception: 1,200 websites were wrongly and inadvertently blocked as a result of a single request. The IP address used by the fraudulent site was shared with several others, including the independent learning organisation Melbourne Free University.
ASIC’s order to block the website relied upon section 313 of the Telecommunications Act to justify the block, appearing to be the second time ASIC has attempted to have a website blocked.
“It is an inappropriate and reckless reaction by ASIC, an authority that should not even have the powers to order mass censorship, to censor an IP address that has multiple websites associated with it. The flawed legislation that is being abused by our technologically illiterate enforcement agencies needs to be amended,” commented Brendan Molloy, lead candidate for the Senate in NSW.
“Surely, if the block was legitimate, they could get a court order and publish the reason behind the blocking. This use of section 313 is questionable at best: the Act does not grant any Government agency the power to simply order a website to be blocked. Taking into account the potential financial damage experienced by operators of legal websites hosted at the same address, the lack of oversight, and the possibility of future abuse by this agency and others, censorship like this is wholly irresponsible.”
Mr Molloy has submitted a request under the Freedom of Information Act for documents relating to the blocking of the IP address in question, as well as any other blocking requests made by ASIC. The request may be tracked at https://www.righttoknow.org.au/request/ip_address_blocking and will include any information released as a result of the request.
The Party’s position on Internet censorship can be found here: https://pirateparty.org.au/wiki/Platform#Censorship