Australia Threatens $11,000 Fines For Unapproved Linking
Be glad if you’re not running a website, blog, or forum in Australia right now. If you linked to the wrong website, a site on the Australian Communications and Media Authority’s secret blacklist, they can fine you $11,000 ($7,262 US) per day that link stays live.
Advanced in the name of combating child pornography, the ACMA’s secret blacklist is said to contain 1,370 websites, over 500 of which are considered legal adult content. The Sidney Morning Herald reports the government is considering expanding the list include over 10,000 sites. The ACMA won’t release the list of currently banned sites, especially if it goes through with a nationwide content filter.
The ACMA has been caught out at least twice, however, for including websites on whim and request. Wikileaks, which is becoming an important force in international governmental accountability, joined that website-non-grata list after publishing a list of sites banned by Denmark. Even the press release about Denmark’s banned website list was placed on Australia’s “Prohibited Online Content” list.
This was done after a mole lodged a complaint with the ACMA about Wikileaks. The agency’s letter of acceptance was published at the Wikileaks site as well.
As this news spreads, it has been reported that the ACMA has modified its complaints handling process after embarrassment over threatening Whirlpool forums with an $11,000 compliance. A forum member posted a link to a US-based anti-abortion site which posted pictures of aborted fetuses. The site joined the blacklist after someone complained to the ACMA.
One imagines the logic behind not releasing a blacklist is to not encourage or enable visitation to illegal content. However, as the ACMA is proving, those in charge of censoring the Australian Web have become drunk with undesirable content power and have gone about adding innocent and legal sites to the list. Further, it’s hard to imagine the justification for steep fines for linking to sites the government hasn’t revealed are illegal.