ACMA's website blacklist leaking seen as a disappointing move

2300 URLs of objectionable material made available through Wikileak, thanks to poor implementation policies that gave too many people access to the list

The reputed leaking of a secretive Internet filter blacklist held by the communications watchdog ACMA to Wikileaks has been seen as both disappointing and inevitable by industry.

The list sent to Wikileaks contains more than 2300 banned URLs with multiple legitimate businesses and websites blocked, including two bus companies, online poker sites, multiple Wikipedia entries, Google and Yahoo group pages, a dental surgery and a tour operator. The vast majority of sites, however, fit the description of the target sites the blacklist aims to block.

The Minister for Broadband, Communications and the Digital Economy, Senator Stephen Conroy, released a statement condemning the leak and claimed it was not the official list as that list contained considerably less URLs.

Netspace regulatory and carrier affairs manager, Matthew Phillips, said that it was disappointing that somebody would break the law to publish a list, but it was an inevitable consequence of the government’s chosen delivery method.

“We identified it as a risk that the list would be published when we were asked to participate in the trial,” Phillips said. “The risk is in making the lists available to ISPs – the Government should be looking to firm up security around that if it wants to deliver the filter through the ISPs.”

Market Clarity associate consultant, Richard Chirgwin, agreed that given the number of people the list had to be made available to, it was only a matter of timebefore it would be leaked.

"Being published might make the Government act with more urgency around the filter, but it still has the challenge of convincing the Senate to okay the legislation," Chirqwin said. "I don’t expect the leak to have any impact beyond the political involvement."

Unwired manager of corporate and regulatory affairs, David Havyatt, heavily criticised the motivations behind leaking the list.

"If anyone thought this would weaken the Government’s resolve, they’re wrong," he said. "If anything it will spur on the process of getting the filter in place – the people that leaked the list are working against their own purpose."

The extent of the list, despite there being some 1000 URLs more than the Government had stated, came as no surprise.

"If I look at the ACMA published complaints statistics, it works out at around 30-100 sites per month since 2006. Taking that into consideration, I wouldn’t have been surprised if there were even more on the list," Chirgwin said.

In February, six ISPs were announced as being on board with the filter.

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Matthew Sainsbury
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