AU Censorship of Wikileaks

AU Censorship of Wikileaks

ACMA, the Australian Communications and Media Authority has added Wikileaks to its list of banned sites according to a couple of sources (Age, Wikipedia, Whirlpool).  I’m sorry, but I can’t provide a link to Wikileaks – apparently it’s illegal.

The site (it may just be a particular URL – I can’t find the announcement on the ACMA site (apparently it’s a secret list available only to IIA members?) ) was added in response to the appearance on Wikileaks of the list of URLs banned by the Danish government.

Is this just a mistake? It is hard to understand how a list of URLs would meet the definition of prohibited content (or potential prohibited content) under Schedule 7 of the Broadcasting Services Act.  The relevant definition is below.  I can’t see how a list of URLs will be RC or X18+/R18+ [1] – this excludes (a) and (b) of the definition.  The list is on Wikileaks, so it is not being provided for profit – excluding (c), and it’s not being provided through a premium mobile service – excluding (d).

Update: apparently there are provisions elsewhere which catch certain categories of indirections, so even if the URLs are not prohibited content a URL directing to the content may be caught.   That still doesn’t answer whether  a bare list (ie not linked) would be caught.

Prohibited content is:

20 Prohibited content
Content other than eligible electronic publications
(1) For the purposes of this Schedule, content (other than content that consists of an eligible electronic publication) is prohibited content if:
(a) the content has been classified RC or X 18+ by the Classification Board; or
(b) both:

(i) the content has been classified R 18+ by the Classification Board; and
(ii) access to the content is not subject to a restricted access system; or

(c) all of the following conditions are satisfied:

(i) the content has been classified MA 15+ by the Classification Board;
(ii) access to the content is not subject to a restricted access system;
(iii) the content does not consist of text and/or one or more still visual images;
(iv) access to the content is provided by means of a content service (other than a news service or a current affairsbservice) that is operated for profit or as part of a profit-making enterprise;
(v) the content service is provided on payment of a fee (whether periodical or otherwise);
(vi) the content service is not an ancillary subscription television content service; or

(d) all of the following conditions are satisfied:

(i) the content has been classified MA 15+ by the Classification Board;
(ii) access to the content is not subject to a restricted access system;
(iii) access to the content is provided by means of a mobile premium service.


The National Classification Code is here.

To be classified “RC” a “publication” must “(a) describe, depict, express or otherwise deal with” various matters “in such a way that they offend against the standards of morality, decency and propriety generally accepted by reasonable adults to the extent that they should not be classified;” or “(b) describe or depict in a way that is likely to cause offence to a reasonable adult, a person who is, or appears to be, a child under 18 (whether the person is engaged in sexual activity or not); or (c) promote, incite or instruct in matters of crime or violence“.

The X18+/R18+ references are to sexually explicit material (Category 1 and Category 2 in the Code), so unless the list of urls is some form of ASCII art it is hard to see how this would be caught either.

10 Responses to “AU Censorship of Wikileaks”

  1. 1 agentk 18 March 2009 at 2:10 pm

    Australian government’s approach to Internet control is starting to make me regret coming to Australia. It is appalling!

    Is there anything we can do to express our discontent with Senator Conroy? (And make a difference)

  2. 2 etbe 18 March 2009 at 2:29 pm

    The wikileaks article cited by Bruce Schneier at the above URL was supposedly written by someone who worked in the child-porn industry. In the article they advocate allowing young children to be photographed if the parents permit it. They do not in any way advocate child-rape.

    Some people might regard that any suggestion that the laws regarding children and sex be changed as an “offence against the standards of morality”.

    More intelligent people realise that laws need to be continually reviewed, and that people who care about children need to consider all the issues. Reading information from primary sources is also a good idea, having a debate where no-one who is involved actually knows what they are talking about seems like a waste of time.

    PS Bruce makes no reference to any of the controversial issues raised by the article he cites. So there is no risk in citing Bruce’s article.

  3. 3 tardis42 18 March 2009 at 10:44 pm

    @etbe – that isn’t the wikileaks page which was censored.

    The page isn’t (as far as can be determided) illegal – prohibited/potentially prohibited does NOT mean illegal, and ACMA can’t make that determination anyway.

    The original leak can be found on the whirlpool broadband forums at

    Yes that was me. :-)

  4. 4 brendanscott 18 March 2009 at 11:02 pm

    In their response to you they have said that the “content” is prohibited content or potential prohibited content. [I haven’t seen the content, so really I have no idea, but] it is very difficult for me to see how a list of urls (and that is how the content being banned has been described) could fit within the meaning of “prohibited content” or “potential prohibited content”.

  5. 5 G Thompson 19 March 2009 at 1:07 pm

    The whole thing has become a bit of a moot point now since the “secret” Australian List has now been leaked via WikiLeaks too.

    (Note: I have a comment on there as well)

    As for the penalties towards content providers first we need to know what a content provider is. A the moment ACMA state that anyone can be a a content provider (or more specifically a link service) since a Link Service “includes links on websites that provide access to other websites that contain prohibited or potentially prohibited content.”

    The penalties for breaching these (and looks like mens rae does not come into it) is up to 100 penalty points per day per breach.

    To my brief look at case’s there has been no challenges to what makes a content provider and more importantly what constitutes ACMA’s use of the phrase “potential”, also due to the secretive nature (not to mention political CYA methodology) of the list of links themselves and ACMA (well maybe not now) no one can with any certainty state whether something is legal or not, and have you seen some of the civil penalty provisions in that Act too? WOW!!!!

  6. 6 donna 19 March 2009 at 6:11 pm

    … and then there’s the chilling effect.

    A blogger on the LA planet posted an image of the alleged acma blacklist. It’s been pulled now, and pulled from the cache of some aggregators that re-publish planet LA.

  7. 7 John C 20 March 2009 at 10:08 am

    Ban the page that links to the page that links to the page that links to… Just unplug the Internet – it’s the only way to be sure!

  8. 8 griffithinsider 20 April 2011 at 9:00 pm

    I’m writing a thesis on Public Trust in WikiLeaks, the Media and the Government and need to know what your opinions are. The online survey is multiple choice and will take approximately 10 minutes to complete. Please follow the link: Would be great if you would encourage others to do the survey also.

  1. 1 AU Blacklist Leaked « Brendan Scott’s Weblog Trackback on 19 March 2009 at 3:37 pm
  2. 2 This is completely nuts « The Musings of Chris Samuel Trackback on 19 March 2009 at 9:22 pm

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