Australian government agency blacklists a dentist office website?

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Sydney (Australia) – It was reported last Friday that over the past several weeks, Wikileaks.org has been publishing what it claims to be a blacklist of banned websites ready to be targeted by the Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA). While the Australian government denies the list is actually theirs, a dentist office which appears on the list confirmed it was contacted by ACMA. Wikileaks claims to be a whistleblower organization.

The ACMA maintains this blacklist to help Internet filter programs weed out undesirable websites. However, a proposed national program would utilize the list to block all access nation-wide to the websites by anyone using any of Australia’s ISPs. The inclusion of a dentist office website has sparked a new round of debates over whether or not innocent businesses could be caught in the mix, resulting in a loss of business when they are not doing anything wrong and should not have been blacklisted.

The dentist office website, for example, was hacked over a year ago and temporarily defaced with redirects which sent traffic to an adult website. As a result of the hack, the website reportedly remains on the list.

While it’s alleged the official blacklist contains only those sites promoting child pornography, sexual violence and other such forms, the ACMA has refused to make the list’s actual contents public. This has led to calls of censorship against the government. In addition, activists point out that such illegal materials could be sent over P2P networks which completely bypass the filter.

Wikileaks has accused Australia of “acting like a democratic backwater,” saying “Australian democracy must not be permitted to sleep with this loaded gun.”

According to AP, Australia’s government and the ACMA have not taken this lightly. They reportedly “slammed the publication of the Wikileaks list as irresponsible and denied it was the same as the official blacklist.”

Both the ACMA and Stephen Conroy (the communications minister) independently have acknowledged the official blacklist and Wikileaks’ version published contained sites common to both lists. Conroy states, however, that several addresses on the published list have never appeared on “the official blacklist”. And the ACMA has said Wikileaks list contains 2,400 Internet addresses, whereas the official list only contains around 1,000.

The concern now is whether or not certain websites, such as those which have been hacked, are then being tracked or monitored afterwards by the Australian government or ACMA. If so, then around 1,400 Australian businesses could be the target of continued government surveillance when they were mere victims of a crime.

The ACMA is investigating the list’s publication and is even considering handing the case over to the Australian Federal Police. It seems unlikely such an action would be considered were the list not genuine, especially when its contents are allegedly websites maintained on a partially unpublished list by the Australian government.

See the original AP article republished on MSNBC.

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