Last Updated: Wednesday, 30 July 2014, 07:59 GMT

Internet Enemies - Countries under surveillance: Australia

Publisher Reporters Without Borders
Publication Date 12 March 2009
Cite as Reporters Without Borders, Internet Enemies - Countries under surveillance: Australia, 12 March 2009, available at: http://www.refworld.org/docid/4a38f982c.html [accessed 30 July 2014]
DisclaimerThis is not a UNHCR publication. UNHCR is not responsible for, nor does it necessarily endorse, its content. Any views expressed are solely those of the author or publisher and do not necessarily reflect those of UNHCR, the United Nations or its Member States.

A draft law has been under discussion since 2006 that would force all service providers to filter private Internet connections in each home to remove all "inappropriate" content, in the name of the struggle against child pornography, defamation and authorship rights. Communications Minister, Stephen Conroy, confirmed in January 2008 that the law was still planned and that service providers would have to carry out tests before the end of June 2009. However, several points remain unclear as to how the law would be applied. The law does not say who would decide that websites were "inappropriate". It will not be users who will draw attention to content to be banned. This list is to remain secret. Neither does the law say how the lists will be drawn up of the websites to be blocked, that remain secret, or how a website could be taken off or added to this list.

The draft law was proposed against a background in which anti-terror legislation already allows serious inroads into confidentiality of private correspondence. Since 2001, the law has allowed the Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA) to intercept any suspicious email and to carry out independent investigations, including in the absence of any prior judicial authorisation.

Australia is one of the democracies operating a strict filtering policy. In 1999, an amendment was put to the Broadcasting Services Act, creating the ACMA, responsible for regulating Internet content. This independent agency has the power to close websites that are the subject of complaints by citizens. Even if it cannot purge the Internet of all "sensitive" content, it can none the less initiate an investigation into the content of websites, without judicial permission. To date authority has blocked 1,300 sites and is targeting some 10,000 others.

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