Wednesday, 25 February 2009

A hole in Conroy's censorship net?

The Federal Minister for Broadband, Communications and the Digital Economy, Senator Stephen Conroy, attended a Senate estimates committee hearing last Monday 23 February 2009.

Quite rightly much has been made of his continuing refusal to rule out censoring legal but 'unwanted' content if the Rudd Government's national mandatory ISP-level Internet filtering scheme is implemented.

However, there is another little gem in Monday's transcript of the Standing Committee on Environment, Communications and the Arts: Estimates which indicates that Conroy's proposed vastly expanded blacklist may be vulnerable at the outset:

Senator MINCHINI do not mean any criticism by this, because I think it is beyond your control, but there is another issue that I want to raise with you. It has been drawn to my attention that primarily because in answering this complaint by email you obviously referred to the site in question, which is understandable, the complainant, as I understand it, made the address of that site widely available via the publication of your email. Are you concerned that that is a significant flaw in your very worthy and, I think, comprehensive endeavours to ensure that the blacklist itself is not published or made available more widely than is absolutely necessary?
Ms O'LoughlinThat is a difficult question. In general, we were disappointed that that was distributed further, but we do not have the capacity to stop a complainant from making their complaint public.
Senator MINCHINBut do you acknowledge that this is potentially a major hole in the security of the contents of the blacklist?
Ms O'LoughlinIn many respects, our main concern is the totality of the blacklist. That is something that we are distributing and we can make sure that there are appropriate security provisions in place for it. I think it is difficult for us then to take a step further and require complainants to keep their complaints to themselves. They know the consequences of the listing. We are disappointed by it, but it is difficult for us to do much more than encourage people not to distribute those things much further.
Senator ConroyJust to clarify: this is the existing blacklist under the existing law that was in place for most of the period of the former government. It is the existing blacklist and the existing law that we are having a discussion about.
Senator MINCHINYes, I accept that, Minister. I also accept that, if there is a loophole here, it has existed for some time, but perhaps it is just now being exploited. So is not an offence in any way, under any law or regulation, for anybody to publish a site, a page or whatever it is that has been blacklisted as a result of a complaint made.

It is evident that Senator Conroy will have to broaden his censorship net to make it unlawful for correspondence with the Australian Communications and Media Authority to be published, if he doesn't want any part of his precious blacklist to be leaked.
It appears likely that that he is be considering this option.

There is no end to the stupidity flowing from the Rudd-Conroy Great Firewall of Australia.

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