BigPond addresses Idol problem

Telstra's Internet service provider BigPond has turned self-appointed content cop after accidentally steering millions of unwitting Australian teenagers to the tribute site of a gay porn star.

According to statements issued by BigPond, a "human error" caused the URL for the Web site of the winner of talent quest Australian Idol, Casey Donovan (www.caseydonovan.com.au) to be substituted with the URL of the dead gay porn icon Mr Casey Donovan (www.caseydonovan.com).

The incorrect URL was advertised Monday in Sydney's Daily Telegraph and Melbourne's Herald Sun newspapers.

Mr Donovan's site, which has been running for a number of years, features a naked frontal picture of the erstwhile adult star. A government source looking into the matter described an aspect of the picture of Mr Donovan as "frighteningly large".

The same source added that "heads will roll" over the incident.

Having alerted every second teenager in Australia to the errant link to Mr Donovan's adult site, BigPond set about redirecting subscriber requests from Mr Donovan's site back to the site of Australia's latest pop sensation at around 2pm on Monday (November 22 2004).

BigPond spokesman Craig Middleton said the emergency redirection of BigPond subscribers had been done to protect young teenage minds from "inappropriate or potentially offensive material".

"We are a family-friendly company," Middleton said, adding that adult BigPond subscribers could still access the Mr Donovan's adult site after being redirected.

BigPond also took the unusual step of formally complaining to the Australian Broadcasting Authority (ABA) about the mess it created. The complaint is based on the adult nature of content on Mr Donovan's site - even though it is only R-rated and hosted overseas.

An ABA spokesman confirmed BigPond lodged a formal complaint with the ABA on the basis Mr Donovan's site may contain X-rated material or material that would be denied classification by the Office of Film and Literature Classification.

The ABA spokesman said Mr Donovan's site was still being assessed, but cautioned that issuing a take-down notice could prove difficult as BigPond was not actually a broadcaster - quite apart from the fact that is was BigPond that provided the link to Mr Donovan's site in error.

BigPond's Middleton said the ISP made the complaint to the ABA so as to "leave no stone unturned" in a bid to protect the interests of Australian teenagers.

Middleton said BigPond would not seek an estimate to find out how much traffic went through its servers to Mr Donovan's site and that no BigPond staff were being sacked over the incident.

"But we're still feeling the pain," Middleton said.

ISP customers not connected to BigPond were still able to access Mr Donovan's site at time of press without benevolent re-direction.

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Julian Bajkowski

Computerworld
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