‘Embarrassed’ ACMA forced to change ways

Link to prohibited Web site causes ACMA to rethink its complaints handling process.

The Australian communications watchdog has modified its complaints handling process following the forced removal of a link to a prohibited Web site.

The decision comes after a threat by the Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA) to fine Web host Bulletproof Networks up to $11,000 a day for having a link to a banned anti-abortion Web site on Whirlpool.

In early January a Whirlpool community member known as ‘Foad’ lodged a complaint with ACMA about "offensive content" on an anti-abortion site, to which the authority later replied, deeming it prohibited content.

Unknown to ACMA, the complaint was only made after an argument on one of Whirlpool’s forums about whether the ACMA blacklist solely contained child sexual abuse material, and the complainant was only seeking a reaction.

ACMA’s response mistakenly contained the link to the prohibited site, which surged across Internet communities, with some still continuing to display it today.

ACMA is angry because they got caught out in Senate estimates a couple of weeks ago when they were questioned about it, said Electronic Frontier Foundation spokesperson Geordie Guy.

“ACMA did not seek the classification board’s opinion on the matter because apparently they’ve banned similar Web content before, and they were kind of annoyed that the complaint was generally just to see how they’d react not that someone was genuinely morally outraged by the content.

ACMA has stated in Senate estimates that they won’t rule out taking action against that person. But obviously the first thing they’ve done is issue a notice to Whirlpool, or rather Whirlpool’s host.”

In a statement, an ACMA spokesperson said the regulator has modified its replies to complainants to omit the URLs of prohibited content.

"ACMA must advise complainants of the outcomes of their complaints and ACMA's usual practice has been to include the relevant URLs in those responses," the spokesperson said. This measure was taken so complainants could see the action ACMA had taken.

Guy warns that Web hosts are going to have to become content police as ACMA start curtailing people’s freedoms like this.

It's terrible when ACMA starts throwing its weight around and really putting pressure like this on ISPs, who end up being responsible for everything that goes on [their networks], said Guy.

“Particularly when it’s our view that they’re doing so out of embarrassment because they got caught,” said Guy.

“There are people out there who believe that ACMA is needed to protect us from morally outrageous stuff but there’s very few people out there who believe that it’s okay to cover up the fact that you are doing that.”

According to ACMA, there are only a handful of instances from the 6000 investigations completed since January 1, 2000, where a complainant has published its response.

ACMA has not received any other complaints about links to the content concerned.

Join the newsletter!

Or

Sign up to gain exclusive access to email subscriptions, event invitations, competitions, giveaways, and much more.

Membership is free, and your security and privacy remain protected. View our privacy policy before signing up.

Error: Please check your email address.

Tags ACMA

Keep up with the latest tech news, reviews and previews by subscribing to the Good Gear Guide newsletter.

Kathryn Edwards

Computerworld
Show Comments

Cool Tech

Toys for Boys

Family Friendly

Stocking Stuffer

SmartLens - Clip on Phone Camera Lens Set of 3

Learn more >

Christmas Gift Guide

Click for more ›

Brand Post

Most Popular Reviews

Latest Articles

Resources

PCW Evaluation Team

Aysha Strobbe

Microsoft Office 365/HP Spectre x360

Microsoft Office continues to make a student’s life that little bit easier by offering reliable, easy to use, time-saving functionality, while continuing to develop new features that further enhance what is already a formidable collection of applications

Michael Hargreaves

Microsoft Office 365/Dell XPS 15 2-in-1

I’d recommend a Dell XPS 15 2-in-1 and the new Windows 10 to anyone who needs to get serious work done (before you kick back on your couch with your favourite Netflix show.)

Maryellen Rose George

Brother PT-P750W

It’s useful for office tasks as well as pragmatic labelling of equipment and storage – just don’t get too excited and label everything in sight!

Cathy Giles

Brother MFC-L8900CDW

The Brother MFC-L8900CDW is an absolute stand out. I struggle to fault it.

Luke Hill

MSI GT75 TITAN

I need power and lots of it. As a Front End Web developer anything less just won’t cut it which is why the MSI GT75 is an outstanding laptop for me. It’s a sleek and futuristic looking, high quality, beast that has a touch of sci-fi flare about it.

Emily Tyson

MSI GE63 Raider

If you’re looking to invest in your next work horse laptop for work or home use, you can’t go wrong with the MSI GE63.

Featured Content

Product Launch Showcase

Don’t have an account? Sign up here

Don't have an account? Sign up now

Forgot password?