Interpol filter scope creep:
ASIC ordering unilateral website blocks



news The Federal Government has confirmed its financial regulator has started requiring Australian Internet service providers to block websites suspected of providing fraudulent financial opportunities, in a move which appears to also open the door for other government agencies to unilaterally block sites they deem questionable in their own portfolios.

The news came tonight in a statement issued by the office of Communications Minister Stephen Conroy, following a controversial event in April which saw some 1,200 websites wrongfully blocked by several of Australia’s major Internet service providers.

On April 12, Melbourne publication the Melbourne Times Weekly reported that more than 1,200 websites, including one belonging to independent learning organisation Melbourne Free University, might have been blocked by “the Australian Government”. At the time, Melbourne Free University was reportedly told by its ISP, Exetel, that the IP address hosting its website had been blocked by Australian authorities. The block lasted from April 4 until April 12.

Subsequently, the US-based Electronic Frontier Foundation issued a media release linking the issue to the Labor Federal Government’s various Internet filtering initiatives, especially the voluntary filtering scheme currently implemented by a number of major ISPs including Telstra, Optus and Vodafone.

In November last year, Communications Minister Stephen Conroy formally dumped the Government’s highly controversial mandatory Internet filtering scheme, instead throwing his support behind a much more limited scheme which sees Australian ISPs voluntarily implementing a much more limited filter which Telstra, Optus and one or two other ISPs had already implemented. Vodafone has also implemented the filter, and the process is also believed to be under way at other ISPs such as iiNet.

The ‘voluntary’ filter only blocks a set of sites which international policing agency Interpol has verified contain “worst of the worst” child pornography — not the wider Refused Classification category of content which Conroy’s original filter had dealt with. The instrument through which the ISPs are blocking the Interpol list of sites is Section 313 of the Telecommunications Act. Under the Act, the Australian Federal Police is allowed to issue notices to telcos asking for reasonable assistance in upholding the law. It is believed the AFP has issued such notices to Telstra and Optus to ask them to filter the Interpol blacklist of sites.

The use of the Section 313 notices in this manner is believed to be the first occasion when the legislation has been interpreted to allow the Australian Federal Police to request ISPs to block website addresses. Some ISPs have questioned the legality of the use of the legislation in this manner, with some — such as one ISP believed to be major telco TPG — going so far as to refuse to follow the AFP’s requests to block websites.

Over the past week, a number of different Federal Government involved in Internet regulation, including the Attorney-General’s Department, the Australian Federal Police and the Australian Communications and Media Authority have denied involvement in the April block. However, tonight Senator Conroy’s office revealed that the incident that resulted in Melbourne Free University and more than a thousand other sites being blocked originated from a different source — financial regulator the Australian Securities and Investment Commission.

On 22 March this year, ASIC issued a media release warning consumers about the activities of a cold-calling investment scam using the name ‘Global Capital Wealth’, which ASIC said was operating several fraudulent websites — and In its release on that date, ASIC stated: “ASIC has already blocked access to these websites.”

The regulator today did not immediately respond to a request for comment clarifying that statement, but Conroy’s office tonight confirmed the agency had, as the Australian Federal Police has previously for the limited Interpol filter, issued a notice under Section 313 of the Telecommunications Act for “an IP address that was linked to a fraud website” — presumably the websites belonging to the group describing itself as Global Capital Wealth.

“ASIC believed that the website in question was operating in breach of Australian law, specifically section 911a of the Corporations Act 2001,” Conroy’s office said. “Under Section 313 of the Telecommunications Act, websites that breach Australian law can be blocked.”
“Melbourne Free University’s website was hosted at the same IP address as the fraud website, and was unintentionally blocked. Once ASIC were made aware of what had happened, they lifted the original blocking request. The government is working with enforcement agencies to ensure that Section 313 requests are properly targeted in future.”

Anomalies in the website block occurred, according to Conroy’s office, because of the differing nature of the methods which the two agencies — ASIC and the AFP — have used in their Section 313 notices. Users who attempt to access websites blocked under the AFP’s limited child abuse filtering scheme are directed to a website notifying them that the site has been blocked and how they can, if necessary, appeal such a block. However, ASIC’s process merely blocked the websites suspecting of hosted fraudulent material, leaving users such as Melbourne Free University’s users in the dark as to what had happened. In addition, the AFP process uses actual website addresses — whereas the ASIC process uses IP addresses.

ASIC’s user of Section 313 of the Telecommunications Act in this manner appears to be the first known occasion that the agency — or any other agency than the AFP — has done so, and appears to open the door that any Federal Government department or agency could request Australian ISPs to block websites which are believed to contain illegal material.

However, some segments of Australia’s technical and legal communities have long harboured concerns about using the legislation in this manner.

In contrast with Labor’s previous mandatory Internet filtering policy (which was to have been administered by the Australian Communications and Media Authority and which was dumped last year) there is currently no known civilian oversight of the Section 313 notifications scheme, no method of appeal and no way of ascertaining whether and why sites have been blocked under the legislation.

There is no mechanism in place to ensure that owners of web sites who have those sites blocked by Section 313 notices — deliberately or inadvertently, as happened with the Melbourne Free University case — are notified of the reason their sites have been blocked.

Furthermore, Section 313 of the Telecommunications Act does not specifically deal with certain breaches of the law. In fact, it only requires that ISPs give government officers and authorities (such as police) reasonable assistance in upholding the law. Because of this, there appears to be nothing to stop the Australian Federal Police, ASIC or any other agency from issuing much wider notices under the Act to ISPs, requesting they block categories of content which may be technically illegal in Australia but not blocked yet.

A number of sites which were on the borderlines of legality — such as sites espousing a change of legislation regarding euthanasia, for example — were believed to be included as part of the blacklist associated with the Federal Government’s much wider mandatory filtering policy. It is not clear what safeguards exist to prevent the Section 313 notification scheme to include such extra categories of content.

Because of this, the usage of Section 313 of the Telecommunications Act which ASIC applied in March appears to represent something of a “back door” for Australian authorities to request web sites be blocked from viewing by Australians — but with no oversight of the process, no appeals mechanism, and no transparency to the public or interaction with the formal justice system.

Long-time readers of Delimiter will note that I have for several years been warning that if the Australian Federal Police started using Section 313 of the Telecommunications Act to block child abuse websites, that there would be nothing to stop that newly re-interpreted legislation from being used by the AFP or other agencies to block whatever other websites they felt like on the day.

In fact, I remember getting into a very loud and angry argument with then-Internet Industry Association chief executive Peter Coroneos — who helped develop the Interpol filter/AFP process — about the potential for scope creep once Section 313 of the Act started to be used in this manner. I hope Coroneos will now admit that he helped open Pandora’s Box for Government Internet filtering.

It is very easy to foresee that other Federal Government agencies would like to follow the example set by ASIC and quietly use Section 313 notices to block other sites on the borderlines of legality. The Department of Health and Aging may like to block pro-euthanasia sites, for example, or sites promoting illegal drug use. The Australian Taxation Office may like to block sites promoting methods of tax evasion. The Department of Defence may like to block sites which expose details of Australian military misconduct. And so on. The list is endless, and I am sure that there are at least a couple of agencies closely examining what ASIC has done here, with a view to potentially doing the same in their own portfolios in future. Hell, the ASIC case may just be the tip of an existing iceberg; the example where someone actually got caught, because of a false positive.

The questions about the lack of transparency and oversight involved in such a process should be obvious to all concerned. It is very close to a universally accepted truth that the Australian public does not want government authorities to be able to unilaterally order websites blocked to Australian view without (at least) oversight of that process and a robust appeals process.

There are also questions here about how such a process may interplay with the existing courts system. I would ask, for example, whether ASIC has actually concluded a legal case against the individuals behind the ‘Global Capital Wealth’ sites which it ordered blocked in March. If it has not, one wonders whether it is exceeding its authority in ordering those sites offline. The evidence collected by the regulator, may, after all, not support its case that the sites are fraudulent. Where is the line? We’ve seen law enforcement authorities come unstuck in their accusations before, after all. That’s why Australia has a courts system — so that the claims of law enforcement can be tested, and not just taken for granted.

Let me finish this article by noting how disappointed I am in the personal integrity of all of the government public servants who enabled or abetted this situation to come about. In the course of my investigations into this matter over the past week, I contacted three of the key Federal Government departments and agencies concerned with Internet regulation — the ACMA, the Attorney-General’s Department, and the AFP.

In each case, each agency explicitly denied responsibility for the action which led to Melbourne Free University being unfairly blocked in April. However, in each case, each agency implicitly had knowledge of what had happened, but was unwilling to comment further on the issue. ASIC’s action has also completely blindsided Australia’s telcos, most of whom, having just gotten used to the Interpol filter, are right now wondering what the hell is happening and why they’re now being told by the financial regulator to filter a whole new category of content.

Eventually, Communications Minister Stephen Conroy came clean on the issue — most likely because I signalled I was determined to get to the bottom of the matter, and would pursue it through Freedom of Information requests if necessary, as I have done with previous government Internet filtering efforts.

However, coming clean on this kind of issue — unilateral government censorship of Australia’s Internet access, behind closed doors and with zero public transparency — is a little like owning up to being a serial philanderer. It lets people know what type of person you are, but it doesn’t solve the problem, and it won’t stop people feeling cheated.

The Australian public overwhelmingly rejected the Labor Federal Government’s previous attempt at a universal Internet filter. Now that filter is back: But it’s on questionable legal ground, it’s being done behind closed doors by anonymous public servants (remind you of the data retention process?), it’s already resulting in massive false positives and there’s no notification or appeals mechanism. Wonderful. But then again, don’t we trust the Government? Don’t we?


  1. And next they will be demanding ISP’s hand out the details of people swearing on the internet so the state police (in victoria at least) can fine them..

    Yes, certainly the scope creep of section 313 (TELECOMMUNICATIONS ACT 1997) is massive and section 314 does nothing to rain in this seeming unlimited power.

    Its bloody scarey.

      • and everyone was sooo scared about the AFP… seems the AFP are like church choir, compared to asic and their stasi approach, indeed 313 needs immediate changes.

        Hats off to TPG for refusing this request, seems someone in TPG has a brain, unlike hel$tra , aapt, and sloptu$

  2. And Optus (my ISP) has been blocking IP addresses (see threads in WP) for years without explanation just like this incidence.

    So the question raises its head “Has the government been doing this for years?”

    • I can answer that. tl;dr: Labor trapped the Liberals into de-facto support for the Internet Filter.

      In 90s, there was a wave of concern of new technologies allowing access to prohibited material. Including the Internet. The Coalition under Howard tried to pass many laws but was held back by Labor until 1999 they managed to implement the current law that includes S313.

      So there you have it, Abbott and Turnbull may very well have voted for this law. If they’re smart, they will refuse to talk about it until there’s a lot of pressure.

      Here’s a good source:

      • Considering Turnbull wasn’t in parliament then, I highly doubt he would have voted for it…

  3. I hope you can also get a comment out of Turnbull/Abott as to what they plan to do about this when elected.

    • +1

      Yes, please get onto the Coalition about this Renai. Also, please try to get something out of Brandis about data retention. We know what the government is doing and/or considering doing. I think it is vitally important we know what the opposition is considering doing.

  4. Just a few questions of Senator Conroy you might like to ask Renai.

    Please explain why Sec 7 of Telecommunications (Interception and Access) Act 1979 does not apply to ASIC in this case.?

    Did they have a warrant for the blocking of the Melbourne Free University web site?

    Was the interception warrant so broad that it included perfectly legal web sites?

    What is the AG’s Department going to do to ensure that this never happens again?

    • Umm why is interception laws relevant to domain blocking? They aren’t sniffing your packets, just modifying DNS/Blocking access.

      • In this particular case they aren’t modifying DNS; but (in atleast one example) asking ISPs to enter false BGP routes.

      • Because DNS blocking intercepts the request that has been made to the DNS server.

        “Telecommunications not to be intercepted

        (1) A person shall not:
        (a) intercept;
        (b) authorize, suffer or permit another person to intercept; or
        (c) do any act or thing that will enable him or her or another person to intercept;
        a communication passing over a telecommunications system.”

        There are a number of exemptions that are listed later but from what I can gather in all cases a warrant has to be obtained.

        This is one of the reasons that I think that the interpretation being given to Sec 313 is dubious.

        • This wasn’t DNS blocking.

          Did you read the article?

          What they did was ask ISPs to stop communicating with 1 IP address on the internet.

          There was no interception. There was no intermediary. There was no listening in. There was no redirection to an alternative location. It was black holed. IE communications go in to ISP routing point. ISP routing point drops packets because it doesn’t transmit it on.

          • It could be argued that black holing is intercepting.

            The packet doesn’t reach the target, much like shooting down a missile, with an interceptor…

  5. This is exactly why filters shouldn’t exist. Even for originally noble reasons. Once you open the door, it’s almost impossible to close it. AFP. ASIC. The list will go on. For all the reasons we were told it’d never be used for.

    • That is naive in the extreme. Filtering is a vital part of the Internet. Without filtering you would be receiving 10,000 spam emails a day. Every ISP and corporate network maintains block lists, it is completely normal, valid and crucial for normal, reliable operation.

      What isn’t normal is allowing idiots with no technical understanding to dictate IP blocks. Under normal circumstances you do not block IPs. It is usually ineffective anyway – unlike with DNS, an IP isn’t legally registered to anyone, it is merely assigned and can be changed in minutes. If you block a domain that is far harder to alter. IPs can also be responsible for more content than is held on one site.

      You don’t need to stop filtering, you need proper analysis to be done by qualified people, you need better legislation that can actually cope with this quite complex area and you need to make damned

      • You take my comment to the extreme point. I’m referring to this specific instance and the way it’s occurred.

        I’ve not, nor would I ever expect standard routing rules to be abolished. I intended the statement to a government sponsored filter system. It appears this event has potentially leveraged a loop-hole in existing legislation

    • That is naive in the extreme. Filtering is a vital part of the Internet. Without filtering you would be receiving 10,000 spam emails a day. Every ISP and corporate network maintains block lists, it is completely normal, valid and crucial for normal, reliable operation.

      What isn’t normal is allowing idiots with no technical understanding to dictate IP blocks. Under normal circumstances you do not block IPs. It is usually ineffective anyway – unlike with DNS, an IP isn’t legally registered to anyone, it is merely assigned and can be changed in minutes. If you block a domain that is far harder to alter. IPs can also be responsible for more content than is held on one site.

      You don’t need to stop filtering, you need proper analysis to be done by qualified people, you need better legislation that can actually cope with this quite complex area and you need to make dawned sure the sites you are blocking are both illegal and exposure to their content carries a real and substantial risk to public safety.

      And then you need appeals processes and oversight. This system of secretiveness, avoidance, denial and silence is unbelievably scary in a purportedly democratic nation.

      • I disagree. Due to the dynamic and virtually free access to many, all of the governments can’t stop bits of information without a whitelist.

        You want a lot of bureaucracy but I’ll condense it down how it’ll suck. Now, I’m sure you hate child pornography. Lets go with this. The government / AFP / Interpol decides a website domain is bad. So they restrict users access to it. How they can do it is two-fold (Unless you can add):

        1) They can say it’s bad. No one can question. Unfortunately, some domain owners may get a big scary warning when registering domain names.

        2) So you want evidence/justice process. They’ll store evidence of child abuse. Ok, that’s it, just a CD of evidence. Now consider that there’s millions of domains. This means millions of CDs of child abuse. The government would be having the largest possession of child porn in the world.

        I don’t know about you, but I don’t trust the government to keep this material out of the hands of pedos. Imagine a leak of all the sources and materials. Nor do I want them to interfere with the Internet without a process. So overall, I believe either you can support potential pedos or you support rash justice with the filter.

        I want filters banned and resources re-directed to going to the source of the material to destroy it. Bonus: Actually stop child abuse.

  6. Hmm, wouldn’t it be wonderful if thier sites were taken down due to violation of our rights?

    • YES!!!

      Illeagal activity on the internet doesn’t cease being illegal once it has been blocked. Surely the resources of ASIC and the AFP would be far better spent shutting down illegal sites and prosecuting their creators, than blocking them.

  7. Don’t worry, if we have data retention brought in I’m sure there will be more care and competence involved.

    • I’m guessing your being sarcastic. If they can’t keep parliaments network safe, then I doubt they can keep anything else safe

      • Indeed I was. It was a pretty scary thought before this, this is just more proof that filtering and data retention are bad ideas. More so the lack of transparency with what is going on. We shouldn’t find these things out from government mistakes.

  8. Keep up the good work! Scares the stuffing out of me, coming soon site blocks due to legal threats, defamation, piratebay, political speach (they did just raise the bar on the cost to register a new political party…

  9. When people got a hold of the Aussie blacklist shortly after it was implemented, it revealed not only child pornography was being blocked, but also the websites of some pro-life groups. So this doesn’t suprise me at all.

    While I stand firmly on the pro-choice side, blocking the propaganda of pro-life sites does not represent democracy, and right from the start clearly demonstrated that the mandatory filtering was going to get used pretty much however the government wanted to.

    They don’t want people to know that they’ve blocked the pro-life sites of course, but I think they believe people will be ok with this because blocking scam sites actually sounds like a nice thing to do, so they’re ok with publishing the fact.

  10. Four Corners 10/5/2010

    QUENTIN MCDERMOTT: Can you guarantee that the scope of the content covered by the mandatory filter will not be widened by a future Labor government?


    QUENTIN MCDERMOTT: Absolutely?


    We’re making it very clear. This is our policy. Refused classification only.

    If a majority of the Parliament in the future want to try and broaden the classification, well then Australians should stand up and say just a minute and I’ll be one of them.


    …I would not be comfortable to moving to a system that is more likely to accidentally block material, does not meet Australia’s laws in terms of Australia’s legal definition of child abuse, and does not have appeal mechanisms …

    Senator Conroy, Senate Environment and Communications Committee hearing transcript, 18 Oct 2011

    • I am comfortable, because this WASN’T THE FILTER. It wasn’t even the watered down “involuntary” filter!

      The article even said so!

    • I remember when this was first being debated, Family First Senator Steve Fielding immediately moved to expand the filter to anything his party found objectionable. He mentioned at the time, even if he didn’t manage to get his way now, someone later could always have it changed to widen the scope.


  11. Who agencies can issue Section 313 notices?
    Do you have a link to the statement by Conroy?

  12. I hadn’t heard of this event apart from in your recent articles Renai, but I’m very pleased that you investigated the cause. Thanks.


    I think people would be surprised at the powers of non-police government agencies: I’m reminded of some odd examples like local councils accessing phone records to chase up unpaid fines:

    On a technical level I’m curious on a few points of how did this played out..

    Was the content hosted in Australia (in which case a direct take down notice on the host might have been a better path).

    Did ASIC fling a few of these 313 notices at wimp telcos Telstra&Optus, who immediately rolled over? Does that imply incomplete blocking against users of ISPs with stronger principles?

    • No, the site was in the U.S., which again surprises me, given the close working relationship between AU and US LEA’s, I possibly could understand it if they requested a host block, if it was in RU for instance, but not a country we deal with daily.

      There is no excuse for power tripping abuse of 313 requests.

  13. Australians, if this article is true, then your federal government has discarded the last vestiges of the rule of law, and is an outlaw state.

  14. Great work Renai.

    It’s an absolute outrage that companies and citizens going about their lawful business can be collateral damage caused by incompetent government departments like this.

  15. I too wonder how long it will take until our Communist masters block all sites with links to pirated materials, bypassing DRM sites, civil liberties and conservative sites, Christian sites (remember all Communists are atheists who love Muslims), sites criticising their beloved Islam, sites criticizing or questioning environmentalism, pro-free market sites… What disgusts me is that Australians cannot be bothered to resist this incessant erosion of their civil liberties – the only people who protest are welfare queens who want more big government and redistribution of wealth (in the old days this was called theft). The Liberals aren’t our friends either – they will do whatever Obama & the MAFIAA tells them to, under the guise of saving innocent women and children and making Australia safer/securing our borders/protecting against terrorism. Enemies of freedom aways employ much rhetoric. ““Those who desire to give up freedom in order to gain security will not have, nor do they deserve, either one.” Benjamin Franklin. Remember it was the Libs who took away our guns – totalitarians also seek to disarm civilians.

    What we need is a bill of rights like they have in Ameritopia, to stop all these totalitarian statists taking away our liberties. The best government is the government that governs least.

    • Wow what a vitriolic hate filled rant. Talk about your unqualified statements of opinion, mate you are off the scale!

      Renai, isn’t this precisely the sort of comment you want to discourage on Delimiter?

      • I believe it was left because it is so over the top ridiculous, only a complete loon would ever actually agree with it.

        The Communists are atheists who love muslims line actually made me chuckle at the insanity of the statement.

  16. I am not really sure how you can claim “scope creep” when TELECOMMUNICATIONS ACT 1997 – SECT 313 clearly states:

    “A carriage service intermediary must do the intermediary’s best to prevent telecommunications networks and facilities from being used in, or in relation to, the commission of offences against the laws of the Commonwealth or of the States and Territories. ”

    And as ASIC has general administration of the CORPORATIONS ACT – under which they can act (and it is their duty to act) against/prosecute on the basis of

    Chapter 7 (ss. 760A – 1101J)

    Chapter 7—Financial services and markets
    Part 7.10—Market misconduct and other prohibited conduct relating to financial products and financial services

    … they are doing their job to shut down these operations by using the Telecommunications Act (because they can’t raid and padlock online offices).

    So slam them for screwing up and catching some legitimate operators as collateral damage – but to drag out the old black helicopter boogieman of “Internet Censorship” is simply incorrect.

    I hope you aren’t trying to make it really difficult to protect the life savings of pensioners (see, I can do it, too). With enough circumstantial evidence these alleged scammers need to be treated as guilty until they can prove themselves innocent, and let them sue the regulators afterward if they are innocent, because in the meantime they can ruin lots of lives and the money will never be found and returned to its rightful owners.

    • Silly me. I thought one of the things that separated Australia from those totalitarian states we send soldiers to fight against was that whole “innocent until proven guilty” thing. I guess I was wrong…

      • True; when a gunman runs around shooting people; unless a court has convicted them, we can’t arrest him and impinge on his rights in any way.

        • There are laws governing the powers to arrest. “someone” can’t just rock up in black vans without identifying the agency they are from chuck you in the back because there might be someone carrying out criminal activities in the apartment block you live.

          • The laws in regards to the deprivation of ones liberty as in arrests were specific , however, freedoms and liberties on a personal basis regarding other matters such as Internet, corporate fraud or just fraud were altered in the past 30 years in particular where sales people were concerned.
            This does not mean that no one will try to do the wrong thing as it was often said in legal training I had
            “You are only a criminal if you get caught”,. There are plenty of people that will try to get away with activities they know are wrong or illegal. Where these activities harm others physically was the focal point of the Australian Constitution. However, financial and other damages have had more impact in recent years.
            The thing that always gets me is the unfairness and the us and them factor that is not ,officially supposed to exist. Large corporations get away with murder and get a slap on the wrist. Fines and penalties with hardly anyone going to jail. Yet individuals are pursued and jailed as a principle. The difference in between those nasty third world countries and Australia is still notable. However, this line is getting thinner. The removal of your right to silence if arrested should have had people up in arms and outraged.
            The problem with a lot of laws is that the Politicians often wait for opportunities t,o enact laws based on some circumstances and then make them across board or wide ranging to be effective for all. Not specific.
            With the current control over the ISP’s and the capabilities to monitor and trace IP addresses it should have been possible to pin point the targets. However, it may have been a mistake or in the too hard and too much time basket. So they just threw a net and caught what ever was in the area.
            Oddly enough recently I had an individual here selling Solar Panels and he was pushing the system with an Wi Fi connection installed to the control unit so we can see the effectiveness of the Solar Panels on our PC?
            I asked if this was safe as we have enough SPY ware on the computers and the network.
            He advised well you can go up and remove it!
            These days we can be traced within metres of our location with older mobile phones, smart GPS phones offer constant tracking? So they can sell us more products? A better more personalised service?
            Yeah right. These things are being used as RFI or micro chips. Snowden exposed some of the NSA’s capabilities.
            Now it seems that we are being treated as enemies of the state by default! The problem is that we the people have allowed these laws and this circumstance to get out of hand in a lot of ways. Why?
            We have not taken action when we had the opportunities after some of the midnight session laws were being passed. Yes. it may have been required for some offences. However, we have had laws to enable and en power the Police to act on a lot of these issues, yet, we just allowed more of the laws to be passed as we were either not aware, did not care, or agreed with the penalties for the few that were involved.
            How do you establish a One World Government?
            Why would some Americans ask when did the USA become Russia?
            Is Australia a mini USA?
            Where do you draw the line in between personal liberties and freedoms and crime and punishable offences?
            Is Society and the way we are heading responsible for the individuals that try and scam the unaware and feeble or is this part of human nature?
            Is this an isolated localised scenario or is there a lot more involved in a much bigger scale?
            Are the efforts of the agencies simple mask operations for public confidence targeting smaller and easier offenders while the big boys are allowed to remain untouchable?
            So many questions.
            Recently I saw an You Tube Video called Thrive “What on earth will it take?
            Interesting indeed, however, I did look into some of these aspects with a bit more detail and it is wise to keep an open mind and research and question any such information.

          • ” past 30 years in particular where sales people were concerned.”

            Lots of laws have changed in recent years too for sales people.

            Just look at the fact since early 2000ish you cant legally make your own ethernet patch leads or wire your home for cat5/6, *if* that can have internet access, if it wont, then you can legally do it, why? its simple, the take off of this thing called the internet, that a lot of people are wanting, had some greedy bastards rubbing their hands together thinking of more ways to get rich quick, pressuring the LNP govt of the day to help them by removing the previous digital data exemption, that allowed us to do it ourselves.

            I mean, how dare you or I think of spending 30 bucks to wire up our home for ethernet, when we can get some jackass who doesnt care about your home as much as you do, to do it for several hundred bucks more.

            no wonder this is one of the most expensive countries in the western democratic world, its not always the unions fault, its govts caving into business ripoffs.

    • It is not so much what they did, as how they did it.

      Before they requested those sites be blocked. Did they have proof of guilt (Easy to check if you can access the site). Was there a court approved order to bring them down?

      Then they did it wrong. 1st they blocked it in an incorrect manner causing multiple other sites to be caught. Which is probably infringing on that law themselves.

      2nd there was no notification of the takedown at the blocked sites. A simple matter to have it point to a federal action page with contact details for the agency that blocked it.

      Finally, the greatest issue for me is that it took extra work by someone like Renai to identify the failure. This is simply unacceptable. The Telco’s were not allowed to say who blocked what, so when people started questioning why a perfectly legitimate site was being blocked, they were unable to get the information required, so that they could act to reinstate.

      You want to block something, you better bloody be able to tell me why, and stand under public scrutiny, else I will not believe you.

      It is not the act of blocking, but the way they did it that I object to.

    • and section 313 must be read in with 314, and the key wording in that is “reasonable” assistance
      it is UN-reasonable to impede 1199 websites, simply to deny access to one.

      s313 requests are that, requests, if the SP advises they consider this request unreasonable, it is the requesting agencies choice to accept the refusal on grounds it is unreasonable, or, to taker it to the federal court, to have the request amended into an order.

    • I’m actually pretty right wing about things like this. “A fool and his money are soon parted”, anyone that doesn’t do due diligence when forking out their life savings deserves what they get. A company/organisation going about their lawful business should NEVER be interfered with by government while they are acting within the law.

  17. @Guest shouldn’t we also be looking at Sec7 of the Telecommunications (Interception and Access) Act 1979

    As the Melbourne Free University site was apparently not engaged in any illegal act the action to deny access to the site appears to be illegal.

    I don’t have any objection to the shutting down of an illegal site but I do object most strongly to blocking access to legal sites while doing that.

    Blocking access to legal sites is illegal as set out in Sec 7 quoted above and it is not acceptable for a law enforcement body of any type to perform an illegal act against innocent people.

    There is no accepted level of “collateral damage” in law enforcement because our law is based on the premise that everyone is innocent until proven guilty in a court of law. No law enforcement agency has the right to declare a person guilty of an offence and they most certainly don’t have the right to harm an innocent uninvolved person or organisation in enforcing the law against a criminal.

    • There are always caveats.

      Lets pretend that the internet is like a series of roads. There is a block of shops selling their wares. One of those shops decides that instead of selling things; they are going to shoot every customer that walks in.

      The police; learn this; and close off both ends of the street, and evacuate all of the potential customers.

      The police have effectively – by their law enforcement action – denied the neighbors of the bad-acting shop from doing business, despite the fact that they did no wrong.

      I know that the circumstances are slightly different, and that lives and injury were not immediately at stake, but there are circumstances that the law CAN punish innocent people, in the course of enforcing the law on an actual suspect.

      • (I am just trying to point out that absolute statements like “law enforcement cannot harm innocents, when trying to enforce the law” is not strictly an absolute.)

        • You are wrong, our laws are based on the principle that “It is better that ten guilty persons escape than that one innocent suffer”

          Would you like to volunteer to be the scapegoat? Thought not..

    • No, you misunderstand what is meant by the term ‘interception’. That act doesn’t cover this stuff at all.

      • No I don’t misunderstand.

        There has to be interception of the original connection request for the Block to take effect. If I had tried to access the Melbourne Free University site while the block was in place then it is clear that as I couldn’t access the site then my request had been intercepted and the request black holed or whatever.

        There is no definition of “intercept” that I can see in the Telecommunications (Interception and Access) Act 1979 so the generally accepted definition would apply.

        • The definition of “interception” is given in Section 6.

          IANAL but IMHO interception is not occurring here.

          In the unlikely event that what has happened meets the definition of “interception” then Section 7(2)(a)(ii) may provide an adequate exemption.

          • The definition in Sec 6 is ” interception of a communication passing over a telecommunications system consists of listening to or recording, by any means, such a communication in its passage over that telecommunications system without the knowledge of the person making the communication.” The operative phrase is “by any means” The data being transmitted has to be “listened to” for the system to know that the data is to be black holed. Whether a Court would hold the definition as totally inclusive or determine that the passage of time requires it to be seen as only partially inclusive and that a wider meaning should apply is an interesting thought..

            Sec 7(2)(a)(ii) states “Subsection (1) does not apply to or in relation to: (a) an act or thing done by an employee of a carrier in the course of his or her duties for or in connection with: (ii) the operation or maintenance of a telecommunications system;” How the interference in the request for connection to a particular site on an ongoing basis could be seen as ” the operation or maintenance of a telecommunications system” I can’t fathom. I would hate to be trying to use that as a defence even though IANAL either.

          • By your definition of “listened to” every IP packet is always “listened to” by the ISP and hence “intercepted”. A router within the ISP can’t route without examining the IP address. I don’t think that’s what is intended by “listened to”. By analogy with what this legislation would have meant in the days before the internet, it should mean that a human being becomes aware of the contents or that it is rendered in some way for a human being (in either case as the contents pass through the system, rather than being recorded for later revealing, which would violate the other condition in the text).

  18. Why does it have to be outright censorship/blocking of sites? Why not a roadblock warning a site is believed to be guilty of X, and take extra caution? Because it will take a little more work to implement?

  19. Can people stop talking filter for like 30 seconds?

    The EFF has done a HUGE disservice to the whole debate conflating the 2 issues.

    This was not the interpol filter. It was not the filter system. The filter system is a censorship system, where a section 313 notice is issued to request ongoing participation in a scheme where a 3rd party provides you domain names and you block them.

    The only commonalities between these 2 systems; is that they used section 313 notices. That’s it.

    I actually find the current notice from ASIC to be better in principal than the AFP notices. Here’s why.

    The ASIC notice; was intended to target ongoing criminal activity, by disrupting that criminal activity. (stopping people getting scammed).
    The AFP system; is intended to target ongoing criminal activity, by pretending to disrupt that activity. It doesn’t stop people getting Child porn, it just makes them change their DNS server to and then go back to watching child porn. They don’t even use or intend to use the attempts-to-access the illegal material for future law enforcement.

    Problems with this current block:
    What the real problem with this section 313 notice; is that the people employing the section 313 notice don’t understand how the internet works. (primarily shared hosting). It is a genuine accident that 1199 other sites got toasted by the block, and it should never have been done, but it is MUCH closer to how the internet should be policed.

    Which brings us to the root problem. Secrecy. It should never have been a secret. ASIC should have spelled out precisely how it chose to block the websites. And is yet another test that the interpol filter fails (and by its nature; can’t ever pass because publishing the list would do more harm than just not having a list).

    • I agree that the ASIC intended action is better than the Interpol filter but ignorance has never been acceptable as an excuse for breaking the law. ASIC has the ability to get the right information so they tackle the problem in the right way.yet it would seem that they have chosen to do the fastest easiest thing in their opinion to fix the problem.

      Did ASIC approach the Web Host and identify the problem and ask for the site to be taken down, or the law enforcement agency in the Host’s country before resorting to this? Were they aware of the damage to innocent parties that could occur?

      Secrecy is becoming an issue particularly with our Federal Government Agencies and it is a culture which, in my opinion at least, needs to be weeded out.

      • This is a comment I can agree with.

        And to clarify, I don’t think blocking websites with section 313 notices for an unspecified length of time is an appropriate use of section 313 notices.

        Temporary blocking on the other hand is reasonable. (The digital equivalent of closing a road).

        The problem is, of course you have to attempt to minimize your impact on innocent third parties. And everyone can see there is a law enforcement action when they block a road (the cop cars everywhere), but when you issue a secret blackhole-IP address notice no one knows why.

        The only road-blocking equivalent to this I could see would be to set all the traffic lights to be permanently red, and put up barriers for pedestrian entry.

        • For me, the issue was not the blocking, it was the seeming lack of process that allows this sort of thing to be done properly.

          At no point should the site simply have been “blocked” it should have been redirected to an appropriately languaged advisement site. Stating that this site is currently under investigation for Blah please contact blah for more information.

          Also WHY are the Telco’s being prevented from stating who has blocked access? If it is for a real reason, as you state, why prevent people from knowing? Why doe the particular branch that requested the block need to be censored?

          The only reasons I can think of is that it is an ongoing case, at which point why is it being blocked at all. OR they don’t want people to know so that there is no recourse for comment. Which I am vehemently against.

    • What you seem to have missed is that the interpretation of s313 was created for use with the Interpol filter – if the IIA hadn’t proposed this novel interpretation of decade old legislation, ASIC is unlikely to have ever done what they did.

    • If you want to be protected by filter run by morons with no oversight be my guest, but do not suggest everyone is so dumb they require a nanny state.

    • With respect, Peter, I don’t think we’ve ever conflated the blacklist with what’s going on here — although the very fact that in failing to implement mandatory censorship, the government’s decision to lean so heavily on an expansive interpretation of Section 313 meant this kind of overbroad interpretation was bound to happen eventually. If you say that the government can censor without having specific legislation under a blanket and ill-defined regime, then the government *will* censor — and not just one part of the government either.

      Our main work in this was to pin down that this was a BGP blackhole, and actually work to differentiate it from the usual DNS filters (see ). We also suggested it was ASIC early on, which was based on conversations on AusNog.

      danny – EFF

    • A court decides whats illegal, not ASIC. ASIC can decide to take someone conducting alleged illegal activities to court, but they don’t get to decide if it’s illegal or not. They (ASIC) have a very bad record of actually winning court cases in this regard, so their claim should be suspect from the start.

      This is why society has checks and balances built in (the “four pillars of society” – Executive, legislature, independent judiciary and free media), any system like the one ASIC used that ignores that, is fundamentally flawed.

    • @PeterA

      “This was not the interpol filter. It was not the filter system. The filter system is a censorship system, where a section 313 notice is issued to request ongoing participation in a scheme where a 3rd party provides you domain names and you block them.”

      This is a misleading statement.

      From a legal perspective, once Senator Conroy gave up on introducing new legislation for a specific internet censorship mechanism, there is only one internet censorship mechanism. It is Section 313.

      It can be used by the AFP. It can be used by ASIC. It can be used by any employee of any government department, Commonwealth or state.

      It can be used for any of the many purposes listed in Section 313.

      Nothing in Section 313 tells the ISP *how* to carry out the request e.g. what technology to use, and the government may not have the authority to dictate this.

      Nothing in Section 313 limits *what* the government can request e.g. the type of interference that the government can request (as long as the request is reasonably necessary for one of the stated purposes).

  20. @guest1 and @Bob.H – it’s no good to admonish policing/regulatory agencies with “innocent until proven guilty”. They’re obliged to proceed on the basis of suspicion, otherwise they’d be paralysed. The law isn’t like some magician’s cloak that can be thrown at every situation – it has to be administered, by real people. Thankfully, in Australia, that gets done with integrity and common sense, by and large. And if they do stuff up, as here, we have our shiny freedom fighters ready to pounce.

    • They didn’t proceed on the basis of suspicion – that would involve going to a court with their evidence and getting an order to block the sites. Instead they proceeded on the basis of assumption.

  21. Nice work on following this up Renai,

    Now we need to ensure that this legislation is tightened up to either define better the allowables or remove this possibility from happening in the future.

  22. Section 313 Telecommunications act 1997

    (3) A carrier or carriage service provider must, in connection with:

    (a) the operation by the carrier or provider of telecommunications networks or facilities; or

    (b) the supply by the carrier or provider of carriage services;

    GIVE OFFICERS AND AUTHORITIES of the States and Territories such help as is reasonably necessary for the following purposes:

    (c) enforcing the criminal law and laws imposing pecuniary penalties;

    (ca) assisting the enforcement of the criminal laws in force in a foreign country;

    (d) protecting the public revenue;

    (e) safeguarding national security.

    So someone who works at Centrelink, who is by definition an officer of the commonwealth, now has the authority to issue a section 313 notice and get websites blocked……interesting

  23. This sort of action should require a court order, and should only affect the sites named in that order. Collateral damage must be minimised.

    Optimally, the owners and operators of the sites involved should be arrested and tried, rather than simply removing their websites. Use current laws to apprehend and punish criminals. If this involves multiple countries, then cooperation between those states’ law enforcement agencies should be encouraged.

  24. To everyone saying the site was hosted in USA therefore US Police should have taken the site down you seem to be forgetting that Citizens of that Country have a Right to Free Speech, the US Police would have needed to have gone to Court first.

  25. its called due process – something the U.S has rights for in these matters, where Australians do not
    so what if it takes an extra few days to get that warrant to shut it down, at least you have proved its actions. unlike here where you have clueless twits making decisions, that are perhaps outside the scope of their authority, something, a few pollies are now calling for investigations into.

  26. This sounds very much like the same talk in the USA about gun control:


    Seriously, stop with the fear-mongering. If you have concrete evidence to support something, then that’s one thing. But stirring up the masses over what you deem is a possibility makes you no better than the next conspiracy theorist.

    We live in Australia. Our politics are piss-weak. Our freedoms are excessive. I have a feeling that as soon as the Govt decides to do something that really causes issues, we’ll be able to stand up and have a voice – regardless of what you think might happen behind our backs.

    And at the end of the day, just like our gun control laws, sometimes the govt has to make a hard decision for what is best for the country – by limiting an excess. And like gun control it might just make Australia a better country.

    These are things worth thinking about. But lets not go overboard with fear-mongering what-ifs.

    • What are you talking about? This example proves that other government agencies are arbitrarily blocking websites, without notice or judicial oversight, and in such a way that unrelated legitimate organisations are affected. This isn’t a theoretical construct, it’s reality.

    • Here´s a what if for you: what if you actually read the article? What if you noted that over one thousand legal websites were censored? What if you showed at least equal concern for the legal website owners as you do for gun control laws? What if you didn´t mention gun control laws at all in a discussion that clearly has nothing to do with it?

    • What “fear mongering”?

      This is being done totally outside the due process of the judicial system with no review options or right of appeal, regardless of if you were the “target” or not.

      Any random “government official” can ask for the block, and no one is allowed to tell you who requested it or why.

      It not about fear mongering, it’s about fixing a profoundly broken system…

      • Any random “government official”?

        Are you sure this wasn’t done by an “authorised officer” (as defined)?


        • Pretty well anyone in a government position is “an authorised officer”, they have to be to perform their function in the public service.

          Try some of these one:

          Victoria can now do something about all those Myki sites and stories, heck, even a ticket collector could make it happen

          Don’t like that unsightly cow stabbing video? No worries, a Dept of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry Authorised Officer can “disappear” it for you!!

          There’s loads more:

          • Nothing in the legislation requires the government employee to be in any way “authorised” or for the government employee’s portfolio area to be relevant.

            The only real impediment to a complete government free-for-all is that the request has to be “reasonably necessary”.

            That is only an impediment to the extent that time-poor ISP employees have the time to query what is going on – and assumes that the process from government to ISP network equipment is not automated.

          • Why would an ISP employee query a relevant authority in their field of authority? I doubt the authority provides the specific reason for what they consider a breech, it’d be more along the lines of “Remove for breeching the Corporations Act 2001, kthxgbye” (though hopefully more wordy and a bit more specific about the actual target).

            Especially as any employee doing so could be seen as not giving “officers and authorities of the Commonwealth and of the States and Territories such help as is reasonably necessary” and then be in breech of “TELECOMMUNICATIONS ACT 1997 – SECT 313” themselves.


            The law needs to be changed so it’s the judiciary that orders it, not the government.

          • I think we are really in agreement.

            When the government has a unilateral right to declare something “blocked” and no affected party has a right to challenge that, it is a sad state for a democracy.

            However let’s say that the financial services company involved here were peddling their wares via Facebook and ASIC issued a request under Section 313 for all ISPs to block Facebook … you don’t think that an ISP employee might push back?

            I disagree that the ISP would then find itself guilty of breaching Section 313. The government does not have the power to interpret Section 313 unilaterally. Its interpretation can always be challenged in court and a court can decide whether the request falls within the (wide) bounds set by Section 313.

          • Yeah, we both agree it’s a “forest”, even if we disagree about what the “trees” are that make it up ;o)

            I can think of plenty of scenarios where an employee wouldn’t question directives from his employers (I doubt the tech would have the ASIC directive sent directly to him), it’d be more likely to arrive via an official letter and filter down through legal, supervisors, etc.

            As to the ISP deciding if they breech the section or not, that’s almost as big a can of worms as what ASIC did. Theres also the cost of refusing to consider, how many ISP’s would be willing to incur legal costs of fighting it verses loosing a customer or two?

            But at the end of the day, the system shouldn’t require an ISP or a sysadmin questioning anything anyway, the checks should all be done prior to them/him getting anything sent to them.

    • @Dave

      One reason that people are legitimately afraid is that in November last year Senator Conroy said that Section 313 would only be used for blocking child porn (while not mentioning Section 313 explicitly). Now a mere 6 months later we can see that the scope has already expanded to dodgy investments.

      If anyone wants to equate child porn with dodgy investments then this author is going to disagree, to misquote the dishonourable Senator.

  27. Next move will be to introduce much more insidious “hate speech” laws that label any attack on government authorities as “hate speech”, then the internet filter for all sites that oppose the government in any way will just naturally, quietly, in the background and under the radar fall into place by combining the laws for an obvious outcome. It was ALWAYS their plan. Make no mistake!

    A liar is not a liar because she lies, but because her motives are a lie.

    • I read that the Internet Child Protection act was very open and broad in its powers. Can’t recall which MP opposed some of the changes and kept blocking it? However, the Internet and Media in general are already controlled by the Government, they are still looking at tighter control and more powers. Google reported that last year they had a 42% Increase by Democratic Governments to take down websites and reveal the owners details. These were not porn or stupid sites. The sites were blog sites and Political or conspiracy type sites and I dare say even some alternate medical web sites. Basically offering news and information not available through main stream media or information channels. Some requests were directed against You tube type video clips to be removed and taken down? This and some changes and the attitude our politicians have should concern every citizen as it can lead to major problems.
      The problem is that some of these sites and videos have proof and facts to back the information with.
      That in it self is a concern as it appears our elected ministers are opposed to truth and facts and try to conceal it and block the public from learning the truth. This can only mean that they are covering up or hiding for something.
      Data mining and Spy software is used by ISP’s to monitor customers Internet usage, I would not be surprised if they monitor emails as well. The capability to cross reference personal member details from account holders with other data bases and pin point this to the holders I P Address Mobile Telephone number or any other account we have.
      From personal experience, I can attest to the fact that some Government Digital Data departments were all working from one building with at least five government departments in the same building with only a aluminium glass door to separate them.

      What is supposed to protect individuals from abusive actions and cross referencing or sharing personal details? The Privacy regulations and the employees ethical standards.
      Private company data bases information is open for sale by some companies offering the information service for as low as $9.99 to $25. (USA) Australia has different Privacy laws from state to state and if you can not obtain something in NSW you may be able to get it from Victoria as an example.
      The CIA has been reportedly in an agreement with Facebook and keeps Facebook members details like DOB, Name, Pictures, comments globally.
      I have read the other day that the Liberal Government wanted to abolish the Privacy commissioners Office and place its task to the ombudsman’s office. They had a reported staff level of 5 people?
      That in it self tells me that this Government and our Politicians care very little about Privacy and is raises concern about what they think about the peoples freedoms. Transparency and accountability?? When the Labour Federal Government made the Child Protection act they moved the details to an US Server to hide it from the Australian Public. Obviously they had fears regarding the public back lash. So much for honesty and transparency.
      If ASIC or any other Agency needs to close, restrict or fine owners of websites that try to deceive and rob people by fraud or misleading conduct I have no problems with that.

      However, it should be done in a legal and open way. Warnings, notices and subpoenas or legal documents. Just like the people or companies have to do it. To give them powers that do not require a due process and a process that can be challenged in a legitimate way is dead wrong.
      How can a Government claim it is “democratic” and complain about countries like China if they are Hippocratic and do not follow the legal process they expect every one else to abide by.
      This is open to abuse and corruption.
      The concern I have is a trend that I have noticed, it appears that monetary issues are strictly controlled but health issues often pass under the bridge in particular if large corporations are involved. People die due to major stuff ups and it often takes class action from victims and their families to get companies to be fined with the CEO’s and those responsible escaping any serious punishment.
      Self regulation, corruption and privatisation within our own Government appears to be the problem Followed by a culture of denial and cover ups.
      Any business or individual that has been effected by stuff ups or lost profits and time trying to fix the issue brought on by ASIC or any Government or Private business should have the right to get compensation.

  28. When I said “a liar”, you understand I am speaking of THE liar (ie. the prime sinister).

    • You mean for the “lie” she told about a “carbon tax”?

      In an election-eve interview with The Australian, the Prime Minister revealed she would view victory tomorrow as a mandate for a carbon price, provided the community was ready for this step.

      “I don’t rule out the possibility of legislating a Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme, a market-based mechanism,” she said of the next parliament. “I rule out a carbon tax.”

      Hmm…ok, I guess she didn’t actually lie then, a trading scheme and tax are not the same thing and she got in with the understanding that she would actually be introducing a trading scheme anyway….

      • When the government “fixes” the price of a trading scheme significantly above the market value in all other trading schemes, how is it not a tax?

        • Any initial price of something needs to be set at something, yes? They are locked in to linking to an international trading scheme eventually, so are you suggesting they also manipulate international pricing of carbon?

          And seeing as JH himself was considering an EMT, the latest “OMG, A Big New Tax” from the Libs is a bit rich as well…

  29. This is a very interesting way that Australia is handling the profanity on the interwebs….

  30. Didn’t Conroy explicitly say only URLs would be blocked – NEVER entire IP addresses?! I am 100% certain he did!

    So he LIED (again!).

    • All governments push for it (Abbott will as well). It’s to appease the christian right and a couple of other groups. They’re small enough to not win power themselves, but have enough members to make a difference if it goes to the wire.

  31. Good article, thanks for posting. Doesn’t morale me wanna move home any time soon.

  32. dude the department of education and DET proxy is bullshit like the only thing they should block is porno as then students dont have acess to pornography. also students should be able to play games on there new laptops like as soon as my older brother got home with his new laptop he went straight on the internet to go on facebook and its blocked we should be able to have our free time when we get home at home we control the way we use our internet not DET and the department of Education and plus when we get our lpatops we can do whatever we want with them its our property… now to all those pissed off kids that have laptops and cant go on blocked webs at home i salute you i respect you So Now we RISE UP TO THE DET AND THE DEPARTMENT OF EDUCATION! WE RISE TO END BLOCKED SITES! WE RISE TO DO WHAT WE WANT WITH OUR LAPTOPS! THEY ARE OUR PROPERTY! NOT THE DETS! PLEASE FELLOW ANGRY PISSED OFF STUDENTS GO FORTH! VOTE AND PROTEST OF HOW WE TAKE BACK OUR PRECIOUS INTERNET! AS FOR US ALL WE MISS THE OLD TIMES WHEN WE COULD GO ON ANYTHING EXCEPT PORN NOW THESE WORDS HAS COME FORM a Very local supporter and if DET or the DE read this you can kiss my fucking skanky fucking protestful sorry ASS!

  33. and also when i said porn i mean block porn and unblock everything else

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