Current Affairs

Australian government to ‘block’ gay websites

Emma Cullingford March 20, 2009
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A blacklist of banned websites drawn up by the Australian government includes gay sites.

The government is proposing a law that requires internet service providers to filter and block inappropriate content, such as that related to terrorism and abusive images of children. It has drawn up a list of sites to be blacklisted.

However, webpages such as gay and straight porn sites, YouTube links and certain Wikipedia entries have been included in its scope.

The blacklist of about 2,395 banned sites was obtained by Wikileaks, a website which allows anonymous whistleblowers to leak official documents.

Wikileaks plans to publish the list on its website, having previously revealed the blacklists from Denmark, Norway and Thailand.

The Sydney Morning Herald also gained access to the list and stated about half of the banned websites are not associated with child pornography.

The sites include online poker portals, YouTube links, gay and straight porn sites, Wikipedia entries, euthanasia pages and the homepages of private companies and medical practitioners.

The founder of Wikileaks, Julian Assange, told the newspaper that secret censorship systems were “invariably corrupted.”

He pointed to the example of more than 1,200 sites criticising the Thai royal family which were on the Thailand censorship list, originally created to prevent child pornography.

Mr Assange obtained the blacklist after ACMA added Wikileaks to its blacklist following the site’s decision to publish the Danish blacklist.

The Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA) is investigating the leak of the blacklist and considering a range of actions including possible criminal prosecution.

Senator Stephen Conroy, the communications minister, told the Sydney Morning Herald the leak and publication of the blacklist would be “grossly irresponsible” and undermine efforts to improve cyber safety.

Senator Conroy said: “Under existing laws the ACMA blacklist includes URLs relating to child sexual abuse, rape, incest, bestiality, sexual violence and detailed instruction in crime. No one interested in cyber safety would condone the leaking of this list.”

The blacklist is provided to makers of internet filtering software that parents are able to install on their PCs. However, if the government proceeds with its proposed internet filtering scheme, sites on the blacklist will be blocked for all Australians.

Related topics: Australia

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