The Australian Communications and Media Authority has threatened to fine a data hosting company up to $11,000 per day for inadvertently revealing a website on the Government’s secret “blacklist” of banned websites.
Last week ACMA sent an “interim link-deletion notice” to data hosting firm Bulletproof Networks, after one of Bulletproof’s clients published a link to an anti-abortion site on the ACMA blacklist.
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The link was posted on the forums of Whirlpool.net.au, one of the most popular forums in Australia that focuses on internet-related topics and has around 276,000 users.
The ACMA told Bulletproof it had one day to remove the link.
“Bulletproof must comply with the interim link-deletion notice as soon as practicable, and in any event by 6pm on the next business day,” ACMA said.
Bulletproof spokesman Lorenzo Modesto said the company complied with the notice and promptly asked Whirlpool to remove the link.
“The first thing we said was that we could put them in contact with the customer in question, because we’re a data hosting provider, but ACMA said they needed to speak with us.”
Modesto said the group was surprised to receive the notice, and that if ACMA had dealt with Whirlpool directly it would simplify the process.
“Our take on it was ‘we’re not responsible for the content’ but obviously we work with any request.
“It seems like the relevant rules and legislation have been written in this way, and as a business content provider we’ll comply. But if ACMA spoke with Whirlpool it’d take a whole cycle of communication out of the process.”
But ironically a notice from ACMA may have been the basis for the release of the banned website link.
On 5 January an internet user known as “Foad” lodged a complaint with the authority regarding material on the anti-abortion website.
As the blacklist’s main purpose is to block sites affiliated with child-pornography, Foad says he lodged the complaint to show how the blacklist may inadvertently block politically-based sites.
The user received a reply from ACMA saying that it was “satisfied that the internet content is hosted outside Australia”, and publishes “potentially prohibited content” and had placed the site on its blacklist.
Foad published ACMA’s reply, which contained the link to the website, on the Whirlpool forums. It is this post that triggered last week’s call for Bulletproof to remove the link.
The “blacklist” of around 1000 sites is being used as the basis of the Government’s ISP-level filtering trial.