The leaking of a supposed list of websites blacklisted by the Rudd Government highlights problems with its approach to cyber safety, Senator Simon Birmingham said today.
Senator Birmingham is Deputy Chair of the Senate Standing Committee on Environment, Communications and the Arts and through the Estimates process has regularly questioned the Government on its plans.
“The leaking of what is claimed to be ACMA’s blacklist of thousands of banned websites is a very serious matter and any wrongdoing must be fully investigated,” Senator Birmingham said today.
“However, the appearance of this list on a foreign website simply confirms fears that the Rudd Government’s plans for compulsory internet filtering would actually increase the number of people who have access to such lists and thereby heighten the risk that details of these sites actually become more accessible.
“That’s without even getting into the arguments of whether all of the sites listed actually contain illegal content, or are simply considered in bad taste or are not suitable for children in particular.
“While there is a huge amount of inappropriate content on the internet, especially for children, the sheer size and scope of the internet means that finding websites as horrific as these is usually akin to finding a needle in a haystack. However, it becomes easy when their web addresses have been neatly laid out in a government document.
“Sadly, some people will always seek to glorify or promote information that is banned. A government ban gives them the incentive to publish and promote such lists and is likely to result in them being more readily known about and therefore more easily accessed around the world.
“The danger of pursuing the Rudd Government’s mandatory filtering regime is that the blacklist must be supplied to hundreds of service providers across the country, creating a huge risk that it will be leaked in this very way from time to time.
“Curiously, the whole website on which the list has been posted appears to have become unavailable since news of the posting broke today, not just the relevant page. The Rudd Government should come clean on whether it has taken steps to make this website unavailable and, if so, explain on why it has disabled access to a site that encourages more open government.
“More broadly, today’s developments suggest the Rudd Government could do with a rethink of its approach to cyber safety and return to a policy of empowering families rather than becoming the ultimate censorship cops.”