Australia: Censorship & Surveillance



A spoof site of Australian Prime Minister John Howard was shut down due to presure from the government. The closure is reportedly due to a phone complaint from the PM’s office to the Melbourne IT Ltd (http://www.melbourneit.com.au/) the domain registrar for the website johnhowardpm.org. The compaint contended that the parody website was a “phishing” site, something usually associent with identity theft schemes or other scams.

Now, ICANN has a dispute policy that should be followed in cases such as this. While similar to the borat.kz case mentioned by Reporters Without Borders this case is different because ICANN regulates the .org domain. In this case the registrar appears to have violated the ICANN rules. The changes were made to the domain name without 1) consent from the owner, 2) receipt of an order from a court… or 3) receipt of a decision of an Administrative Panel…

The web host was not the target, but rather just the domain registrar. The website was hosted on Yahoo and is still accessible if you access the the original site by directly connecting to the IP (216.39.58.47) on Yahoo’s host and manually feeding in the HTTP HOST header johnhowardpm.org.

As if censorship was not enough Australia has now passed a new surveillance law. MEAA/IFEX explains:

New laws, passed by the Senate yesterday, give law enforcement agencies power to intercept phone calls, emails and text messages of innocent people. This extreme surveillance law poses a severe threat to press freedom – journalists can assume their conversations with sources will be intercepted at any time, says Australia’s media union.

Spies, police and other security agencies will be able to use B-party warrants to tap phones belonging to a suspect’s family, friends, colleagues and lawyer. Other agencies, such as the Australian Tax Office, Customs, and the Australian Securities and Investment Commission (ASIC), will have the power to access stored communications such as email and SMS.

Groups such as Electronic Frontiers Australia have been monitoring the growing body of censorship laws in Australia. The Labor Party is promising to bring in national filtering if elected — to protect children of course, not to silence critics. Of course, as we have seen in the past, filtering is subject to mission creep:

Regardless of the initial reason for implementing Internet filtering, there is increasing pressure to expand its use once the filtering infrastructure is in place.

It’s not *only* happening in China folks.

One comment.

  1. […] And on the Australian side of things, as reported on Internet Censorship Explorer, the Australian government shut down a spoof website, and one of the political parties, the Labor party, wants to implement internet filtering. For the kids, of course, the same reason that SecureComputing put BoingBoing in their nudity category. Of course, add the two items together, and you’ve got a problem. A bad problem. […]

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