Monday, March 30, 2009

A Blacklist for Websites Backfires in Australia

By Belinda Luscombe Friday, Mar. 27, 2009

It must have seemed like a good idea at the time. If you want to reduce citizens' exposure to dangerous and illegal activities online, why not gather up all the URLs for sites that promote such acts — child pornography, extreme violence, weapon-making and so on — and have Internet Service Providers (ISPs) simply block them? Wouldn't that make the internet safer for families and children?

Actually no, as the Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA) is finding out the hard way. The ACMA, Canberra's equivalent of the U.S. Federal Communications Commission, put together such a list and sent it to more than a dozen companies. It was part of a trial program to develop software that would allow Australian ISPs to block the sites. But to ACMA's evident surprise, at least one person who received the list handed it over to Wikileaks, an online clearinghouse for anonymous submissions of sensitive material. The ACMA "blacklist", as it became known, was promptly posted online, becoming a handy compendium of internet depravity in one convenient package — courtesy of the Australian government. After it was posted, a surge in traffic caused Wikileaks to crash temporarily. (See the 10 most interesting finds on Google Earth.)

"It's the most ill-conceived pile of stupidity by the biggest bunch of cretins that I've ever seen in my life, " says Ross Wheeler, CEO of, a regional ISP, referring to the web-filtering plan. "Every ISP that I know of has either publicly or privately said it's technically and practically impossible." The leak was further black icing on the cake. Among its more than 1,000 entries were URLs for child porn, rape and bestiality sites as well as online gambling (some forms of which are illegal in Australia) and gay and straight pornography. But many sites appeared to have been blacklisted almost at random....article here

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